Adulting. The very (non-)word fills some with dread.

I am a fairly independent person. I live with a flatmate and she’s very independent too. We live our separate lives in the same space. We have separate meals, we clean separate areas (and share some of the common responsibilities), have separate shelves in the fridge and freezer, and so on. But I wasn’t always like this.

Back in what feels like another lifetime I was in a long term relationship that lasted 11 years. My ex, from this point onwards referred to as “Andy” (which is not his real name), was very much the breadwinner for most of the relationship. I started out somewhat strong, at least once I landed a secretary position in finance. I would Do Stuff, I would earn my own money, we would have both separate and the same hobbies. But all that changed when my brain decided to go to war with myself.

The initial incident was fast, sudden and sharp. One day I was at work. The next day I was not because I couldn’t get out of bed. Same thing the next, and the next. And before I knew it, I was full time disabled. That’s when it started creeping up on me. My anxiety slowly but surely got worse, and I developed bad agoraphobia (fear of large open spaces, such as streets, town squares, etc). I couldn’t use the phone anymore because I was scared stiff of talking to people. I didn’t have the energy to do much around the house. And so, slowly, I became a total codependent wreck.

Note that I’m not saying that all codependent people are wrecks or that all wrecks are codependent. I’m just saying I was both.

I won’t talk too much about the end of the relationship, at least not right now. But I found myself, the codependent wreck, forced to be independent and look after myself. I had to find somewhere to live. I had to get my details, like my new address, updated everywhere on my own. I had to do my own food shopping and cooking, and did I mention the agoraphobia?!

Over the next 5 years I slowly but steadily found the independence I had lost. However, in the middle of that period – November 2018 – my Mum passed away. That is the single worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I was, again, a total wreck, this time for 9 months. I don’t remember much of that period of time, but I apparently managed to feed myself and otherwise do what was necessary for survival. I felt alone, in a way I’d never felt before. Mum had always been there, like a safety net, ready to catch me if I needed it. And now I’d lost my last remaining parent. I felt like an orphan. At the funeral, we walked out to the open grave, a deep hole in the ground. I saw it and I felt like I was 5 years old again. “They’re going to put my Mummy in that hole. I’ll never see her again.”

It’s still hard. The grief hits when I least expect it. But at least I feel like an adult again now.

So, being an orphan, even at age 34 was so hard. It taught me independence in a whole new way. I no longer have a safety net behind me, or a Mum I can call up when I have a bad day or when I just want to talk to someone. I have to figure things out on my own.

Back to adulting.

Today I adulted. I put my name on a utility bill, and more will come. It’s kind of scary, even though it shouldn’t be at all. I’ve had bills this entire time. My phone bill, my domain name bill, my business coaching bill. But for some reason it’s bigger and scarier when it’s utility bills.

I’ve also been dealing with some legalese (the legal jargon in legal documents) for important projects I’m involved with. I think I’ve done well! 10 years ago I wouldn’t have known where to start. Now I’m confident enough to look things up and deal with them, and ask others if there’s anything that doesn’t make sense. And I genuinely do believe confidence has something to do with it. Once you’re able to stand up straight (or gay, or queer, or…) and look people in the eyes and ask them a question, you’re much more able to handle things that get thrown at you (metaphorically speaking, mind. Real projectiles will still hurt). Improvise, adapt, overcome, as a former landlord used to say.


So why the Year of the Ox?

It was just something that stuck in my brain when I was figuring out a title for this piece. I went a-googling about the Lunar year and Chinese Astrology year and all kinds of things, even. I was born in the Year of the Rat, with the element of Wood (which dates me a bit too accurately, I suppose!), and a lot of the descriptions of a Wood Rat are uncomfortably correct.

And apparently I’m very compatible with Oxen so there is that.

What are your thoughts on adulting, independence and codependence? Have you ever experienced something similar? Let me know in the comments.

And remember: Be Proud. Be You.