Dear Newly Grown-Ups,
I want to talk today about garbage.
Every living thing produces waste. It is a part of the combustion process that animates life. It is a natural and normal process.
But it is also a process that the body, and in turn the creature, has to clean up after. When the internal clean-up mechanisms fail, the body dies. (Speaking of which, have you signed up on the provincial donor list? Someone will benefit greatly from your kidneys when you can no longer use them.)
Creatures also die when they cannot clean up after themselves. Sanitation is often considered the greatest medical discovery of all time. (Make sure you check out the documentary The Toilet: An Unspoken History – fascinating and fun stuff!) We need to clean up our waste in order to protect ourselves and others.
Of course, when you were a child, it was your parents’ responsibility to take care of cleaning up your waste. This, in and of itself, can be a controversial area, as parents’ throughout time have been instructed and shamed on the best and worst ways to take care of all the waste a child produces. (You yourselves were covered in a combination of environmentally safe and not-so environmentally safe options over the years).
But as a child grows, they must take up the responsibility of caring for their own waste. They must learn to clean themselves and the home they live in. They must learn to pick up after themselves and return their homes to states of cleanliness and orderliness.
Part of that growing-up process also involves learning to clean-up after others.
This is the ultimate goal of mature life – to care for oneself and the people and world around us. Our ultimate journey as adults is to navigate this relationship – the care of oneself in symbiosis with the care of others. There is no wrong or right answer here and I am not even sure that balance between the two is the answer. A newborn needs for us to care for them much more intensely then we need to care for ourselves, but of course, we must care for ourselves enough to be able to serve the infant. There are no answers. There is only journey.
Your journey begins when you look around the space that you share with other people and see that there is waste that needs to be dealt with, even if the people around you have been doing the cleaning up for your entire life. True adulthood begins when you notice and do something about the waste around you – yours and others.
So when the bathroom garbage can is overflowing, or the kitchen garbage smells, or the recycling is stacked in some near-the-end-of-the-game-Jenga-tower, and you see that such a state isn’t acceptable, and you deal with the issue, then you have truly begun your journey. To ignore such a state is to stay within the bounds of childhood.
So please, empty the overflowing garbage; and welcome to adulthood.