Adulting and Mental Load

There is a complaint amongst millennials of the tribulations of ‘adulting’ – often mocked, usually somewhat disparaged even by other millennials. But I think there’s some legitimacy to it – adulting is hard.

Right now, I’m trying to sign over the lease to our old apartment (which requires marketing, budgeting, travel, and keeping on top of correspondence both by email and text), help set up our new place (which involves ideas about aesthetics and use of space, decision making, learning the quirks of a new building, communicating with our landlord, unpacking, and remembering what days the garbage and recycling are picked up), set up a dentist appointment, and acquire a local doctor on top of the usual tasks of housekeeping, like cooking and keeping track of whether we have groceries and cleaning and doing laundry.

But this isn’t meant to just be a laundry list of complaints – I don’t actually in any way resent doing this, because I love our new place and other things need to be done. It’s just that I recently read The Secret History of Wonder Woman and have recently started Silent Spring, and the people who were able to produce remarkable works had someone else to do the housekeeping. Because aside from just the time involved in keeping a house, the brain has to keep ticking, too – keeping track of the last of the milk and whether the laundry needs done and whether one has to get back to someone. That’s the fundamental part of adulting that takes a toll. And, outside of the house, I have a job, and am going to graduate school: I’m trying to both learn and produce things that I consider worthwhile and important.

Which is part of the reason I love living in the future. I don’t have to set an alarm on weekdays: my phone does that automatically. I’ve recently started making profligate use of both Instacart and Amazon’s Subscribe and Save: my time grocery shopping can instead be spent on class reading, and I have no need to remember to keep track of how much Ensure we have left for breakfasts, because starting next month it will arrive without me having to think about it. The joys of paying for a problem to go away are now available even on a graduate student’s stipend (well, and Tristan’s paycheck).

My utility payments are automatic, my rent is paid online, and I can order groceries on an app. Next up, when money permits: a goddamn robot vacuum so I don’t have to think about cleaning the floors.

And now, back to the 54 things on my to do list.

Stealing Freedom

Starting in October of last year, I was invited to be part of a heist.

The context for the terminology is that I’m part of an online community that’s mostly some combination of mentally ill LGBT survivors of various things. The community has collectively facilitated a few cross-country moves to get people out of bad situations, and when it’s adults moving away from other controlling adults we tend to refer to it as stealing the person who’s moving away.

What I was invited to was the careful planning of facilitating someone moving away from their parents as soon as they turned 18. There were 20 people in the group chat working on planning and there was specifically a getaway driver, so: planning a heist.

I didn’t talk much about this in public as it was going on, because while the planning was going on, the person involved was still a minor, and we had major privacy and safety concerns. Afterwards, there were other complications. But I was able to get permission from the most involved people to talk about this, and check in about level of detail to share, because Nick is now an adult. Nick is more of an adult than I am, because my adulthood was just assumed, whereas his was adjudicated in a court of law after his parents perjured themselves and used the legal system as a tool for harassment by trying to obtain guardianship over him and get him declared legally incompetent.

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Your Favorite Subject

Imagine there’s this really cool museum. It has a ton of things you love, and is dedicated to your favorite subject. Part of having all that cool stuff is that it’s a little pricey – let’s say $256* a day. But you think it’s worth it. You get to learn so much!
 
Then, even better, the museum decides that, since you’ve already studied a lot and know a fair amount about the subject, they’re going to give you a part time job. It doesn’t pay a lot, but it pays the bills, and means that you can spend more of your time studying, as well as contributing to your favorite subject, maybe making it more accessible to other people or expanding a particular exhibit or teaching people about your favorite subject. 
 
As part of working there, you don’t need to pay $256 a day anymore. Depending how much you already know – how much you can contribute – you pay between $0 and $40 to get in every day. This might mean you won’t have to take out huge loans to be able to study – isn’t that great?
 
So you get to focus on studying and doing your work, and you’re not getting rich, but you’re not distracted by worry about whether you can afford groceries. It’s a pretty decent setup. Of course, you need to make sure that you pay taxes. Which is fine, because you like stuff like roads and clean tap water. Because you don’t make much, you pay $426 in taxes, which is about 3% of what you make in a year^.
But wait! There’s a proposed simplification to the tax code. That entrance fee you haven’t had to pay in full because you work there? It’s been decided that that’s too complicated. So the new tax code is going to treat it like the museum is paying you more money and then charging you normal admission rates. Because that makes sense, or something. Okay, you say. Shit, you think, and dig out your calculator. Under the new tax plan, you’d pay $3647. That’s 24.6% of what you make in a year – because you don’t actually ever see the entrance fee you don’t pay.
Can you afford that? Can you afford to study a subject you care about and try to contribute to everyone else’s understanding and experience of it? Can you afford graduate education?
 
*This is what my tuition costs per day of class. I have a Public Service Scholarship for what I’m working on, and I go to a state university. My tuition is cheap.
^Calculations made using the H&R Block tax calculator and my projected taxes based on no deductions and my actual stipend for this year.

Let’s (not) Play

My friend MahoganyPoet has been doing Let’s Play videos on Youtube. Let’s Play videos are a whole booming genre where you can watch someone else play video games. Which – okay. So video games are basically the only form of storytelling that one can actually be bad at: a Let’s Play lets you take a passive role. That’s why I like them! I didn’t grow up with a video game console, and skills such that I don’t die horribly and/or kill all my teammates aren’t ones I’ve developed (or, really, tried to develop) as an adult. Let’s Play videos can also let other players see how to get past tricky bits or see alternate endings to the one they got, and they let you listen to or watch entertaining people. MP’s official job title is ‘youtube personality.’*

Her first move is to close Skype to minimize noisy interruptions and to make sure the computer’s running cool: the games + Avus4U recording software take a lot of RAM and if the computer heats up too much the game might freeze and crash, losing her place in the game.

Conveniently, this also lets her feed me cheese and fancy crackers.

MP has what she jokingly refers to as the most professional studio setup in the world – a couple monitors, a game controller hooked up to the computer, a freestanding microphone with directional settings and one of those spitguard screen things, and headphones so the game music doesn’t get caught on mic. Her recording software already catches the noise from the game, so a microphone pickup would be out of sync, and probably not as clear.

She plays the game, Child of Light, fullscreen on one of her monitors, while the other one shows what’s being picked up by the recording software.

I’m only able to see about a quarter of the screen from behind her, and moving might get picked up by the mic and would also take me away from the crackers and cheese, so I mostly know what’s going on by what she says, and will pick up the action when I’m watching the video later. She accidentally summoned an ogre, which she hadn’t intended to during this episode, which prompted her to pause, sign off on the video, and then start a new video so she could finish with the ogre and save the fish people.

It’s not quite the same as watching someone play video games directly and snarking at them, which made it difficult to refrain from snarking when sitting directly behind MP and listening to her commentary, but the videos are cool and progress pretty linearly through the story.

Mahogany Poet can be found on Twitter and, of course, on Youtube.

*Seriously, it’s her job: turn off Adblock for Youtube.

Walking Away

Something not a lot of people know about me is that sometimes I get rage-induced nosebleeds. Conditions have to be right: fairly dry weather, and I have to be sitting still so that the spike in my blood pressure is a substantial difference, and I have to be really enraged. But it’s happened, a couple of times. I get headaches, too. More frequently, I’ll burst into tears when I’m really frustrated.

None of these circumstances are great for making an argument, which goes kind of counter to my burning and vicious desire to get the last word.

One of the things I was told when I was bullied as a kid was to just walk away. This was not helpful advice, as kids are, by and large, sociopathic and predatory, and pounce on weakness. Turning your back and trying to ‘be the bigger person’ like adults advised was not a functional solution, and sometimes made things worse.

The good news about kids being awful is that they grow up!

As an adult, arguments that degenerate to shrieking that someone else is a poopy-head . . . are not productive, and for me the stakes no longer involve social ostracism. The stakes different, a lot of the structure of disagreement is different, and usually the premise of the disagreement is different (Russia should be sanctioned for human rights violations vs. “you’re fat”). This means that a lot of the – really maladaptive! – strategies I developed as a kid are no longer functional.

Which brings us around to walking away. Because it’s a more tenable strategy now. I get to consider things like ‘will staying engaged in this conversation yield anything productive?’ and ‘is getting the last word now worth the headache I’ll have in an hour?’

And if the answer is no, I can walk away. I can physically remove myself or say ‘I’m done talking about this right now,’ or  ‘can we please be done with this,’ or block people on social media sites, and I’m not required to engage in things that harm me. Being an adult kicks ass.

University

So I referenced the fact that I’m in university again in my last post.

I’m back at UW-Whitewater, this time majoring in Liberal Studies, and this is my second semester, and the second doing courses entirely online. Doing it all online has required a major reshuffling of my time, which has coincidentally enabled me to work more hours. Time management helps, who knew?

It’s interesting being back in school, especially as an older student: I’m much more inclined to argue with authority. One of my textbooks this semester said something heinously and easily verifiably wrong in a chapter about research, so I ended up putting together a long and well-cited argument about why it was wrong.

As a condensed version: top-level domains are sometimes shorthand for figuring out credibility of information. Sponsored top-level domains are almost always going to be much more trustworthy than generics, so it’s important to know the difference.

First of the year

My new year this year was sadly lacking in both bagpipes and Auld Lang Syne, but I got to spend it with a couple of my favourite people, just hanging out and being silly.

This year, I am living in Wisconsin, trying to get reciprocity for my BC EMR license.

This year, I am working entirely online, trying to keep myself to regular work hours and focus, with mixed success.

This year, I have a completed novella waiting for a cover before it’s published, and a lot of confidence.

I’ve also gotten a lot more comfortable with my fannishness, because fanfiction is fun and relaxing and allows a focus on a specific thing or interaction or theme, which can be communicated more clearly because readers are already familiar with canon.

I’ve knit more things, too, including my first pair of socks. Up for this year: a sweater-dress.