A lot of growing up happens during transitional periods in life.
When children go to kindergarten, they don’t just learn their ABC’s. They also learn how to interact with others, function outside the home, and steer clear of jerks on the playground because they’re toxic and no one needs a toxic jerk in their life. Many college freshmen learn about the “freshman 15” (in my case I think I rounded up to an even 20) and that part of living away from Mom and Dad is learning to take good care of your body. Also extra-long sheets are a thing. Who knew? Graduations, moves, and new jobs all teach important lessons; help you grow.
Sometimes, however, “growing up” is an understatement. This is the story of how a transitional period took me from a fresh, green lad in his early twenties to a senior citizen in about two months.
It all started three months ago when I graduated with my master’s degree. For many reasons, I opted to stay in Boston for a while before applying for doctoral programs. And because food, housing, utilities, student loans, and general existence in this day and age are expensive, my first priority was to find a job.
Turns out that can take a while.
Let’s just say unemployment doesn’t suit me. After eighteen years of school during which my time was filled with class, practice, rehearsal, and social events (you’re talking to a 2013 Homecoming King nominee – still not sure how that happened), a sudden period of nothingness hit me hard. After a few days of sleeping in and binge-watching every period drama the combined forces of Netflix, Hulu, and HBO could provide (I want to take this moment to thank publicly those folks who unwittingly logged into their accounts on my computer), I was at my wit’s end.
More out of boredom than anything else, I started going to bed obscenely early. And when you’re all caught up on sleep, going to bed early means waking up early. My days of lounging in bed on my phone for an hour after waking up were gone with the honeymoon phase of my unemployment, so I started incorporating morning walks around the pond near my house into my routine. You see an interesting crowd when you leave your house between 6:45 and 7:30; mostly parents with their babies who don’t sleep through the night, senior citizens, and ducks. And now me.
When your morning walk is finished by 8:00, you’ve still got a solid 13 hours of day to fill (9:00pm is a socially acceptable time to go to bed). But that’s great, right? I’d spent the last eighteen years wishing I had more free time. Now that I finally had it, I decided to start doing all the things you say you’ll do when you have time but that you never actually do.
To start, I hit the gym.
Since I no longer had to limit my time at the gym to an hour between classes, I decided to expand my workout routine (if you want an idea of how this went, see my last blog post). Now I had time to run, climb the stairs, and try my hand at every single weight machine. I went hard during this workout, and it honestly felt pretty great.
Until the next day.
Everything. Hurt. My knees hurt from running, climbing the stairs, and walking two miles to and from the gym (because why take the train when you’ve got all the time in the world and none of the money?). Muscles I didn’t even know I had were screaming in pain.
Needless to say, I didn’t go back to the gym the next day. Instead I decided to get some work done around the house. This was going to be the day I did it all: laundry, dishes, dusting, and vacuuming (I’m not going to lie, I consulted spellcheck, Google, Siri, and Merriam-Webster to make sure I was spelling that right – what word has two u’s in a row?). There was no stopping me.
Until it was time to move the couch.
If all went according to plan, I was going to move the couch and find my missing sunglasses, two pairs of headphones, the rogue popcorn of six movie nights, and at least enough change to pay off my student loans. My reflection gleamed in a squeaky-clean floor as I squatted down and slipped my hands under one side of the sofa, ready to show off my Herculean strength to any neighbor that might be looking through the open window.
Turns out couches are heavy. Some are heavier than others. The couch in my living room is the heavyweight champion of household furniture. The next day, my aches and pains from the gym were accompanied by the sort of low back pain that only poor weightlifting technique can bring. After my early morning walk, I flopped onto the couch with the kind of moan one might associate with wounded soldiers on a battlefield.
A quick digression: I’m a singer. Much of my success relies on dutiful upkeep of my voice. One obstacle that’s always stood between me and pristine vocal health is allergies. Vacuuming, dusting, and taking morning walks (or really doing anything outside) in Boston during the summer are all activities that cause my allergies to flare up. Luckily, I have my methods for keeping them in check.
One anti-allergy solution is hot tea. I don’t actually know if it does anything at all to clear the allergens from your system, but it feels like it does and the placebo effect is absolutely real. Besides, who doesn’t feel classy while sipping on a mug of Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or chamomile.
I also take an allergy pill once a day. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s become a regular part of my routine: Wake up, shower, brush teeth, breakfast, allergy pill, school, etc. My routine, however, ended with graduation. Now I might wait until after breakfast to shower. I might brush my teeth before or after my morning walk. And I might take my allergy pill at any point throughout the day.
My problem on this particular day was that I couldn’t remember whether or not I had already taken my pill.
By now, you can probably put together the pieces of the “Sully turns into a senior citizen” puzzle: I had taken my 6:45am walk, I was settled on the couch lamenting my body’s various aches (including back pain), I was sipping a hot cup of decaf tea in the middle of the summer, and I was trying to remember whether or not I had taken my medicine.
Going to college, graduating, moving to Boston, and completing grad school are only some of the transitional periods that have helped define me as an individual. These phases have enabled me determine what I value, how I find comfort, what I can’t live without, and how I overcome obstacles. Each of these experiences has represented a certain coming of age.
It’s just that enough age came during this particular experience that I was tempted to search for some senior discounts and start collecting my social security.