Mordechai Soskil

Trouble #Adulting? Try Being an Adult

Now that I’m a grandfather, it becomes more socially acceptable for me to go full-curmudgeon. And I shall use this new status to unleash a rant I’ve been saving up for just the right occasion.

#Adulting? Adulting is a non-word that young men and women are using to help celebrate their small daily successes and to bemoan their daily frustrations. Did you go to sleep on time? Good job #adulting! Did you buy a new coffee table? Wow, #adulting at its finest! Did you have to drive around the block to find an ATM that won’t charge you fees? Aw shucks this #adulting is hard. You have to call a doctor and make your own appointment? How in the world are you supposed to be #adulting that hard if you never learned about that in high school?

Are you freaking kidding me?

I saw one person on Twitter comment rather sardonically, “I’m so glad that we learned about parallelograms in school and not taxes. It comes in handy every year during parallelogram season.” Believe it or not there are schools that are actually buying into this silliness and having #Adulting days where they teach kids how about taxes and laundry and how to change a tire. (I wouldn’t have believed this either if it weren’t for this.) Baruch Hashem! How did people ever learn to do laundry without learning it in school! (And in case my CPA is reading this – yes, I am aware that I don’t know how to do my taxes. I don’t need to know. That’s why I pay you. I have talents but understanding what numbers are telling me is not one of them. And forms are hard. Stop making fun. I have a form-filling-out disability.)

One the one hand, I’m okay with people celebrating the little success. I know that every time I load a dishwasher without being asked (yes, it has happened), I think I deserve a parade. (Not a large one. Just a small marching band and one of those big balloons from Thanksgiving.) And yet, I’m not sure that you need to announce on Twitter that you’re doing a great job at being a responsible adult because you remembered to buy toilet paper before you ran out. That’s sort of base-line for being a functional human being, not a special level of achievement, you narcissistic, over-sensitive muffin head.

So how did we old folks learn to change tires and cook eggs and do laundry back in the day? Well some of us were unspoiled, latchkey kids (look it up, snowflake) who had to do stuff or we would’ve died of starvation. Some stuff (like laundry), our parents taught us to do so that we could have clean clothes and they didn’t have to do it. Some stuff (changing a tire), we learned on our own. My first flat tire was the day I got my license. My dad’s car’s tire blew on the Cross Island Expressway. It was 1991 so there were no cell phones so there was no way to call for help. So I figured it out and changed the tire.

And that represents aspects of the problems these whippersnappers have today. Their well-intentioned parents doted on them and took care of things for them, never gave them a chance to try and fail, and are at their beck and call EVEN STILL to jump in and help in a moment. They are quick to call for help rather than suffer the try-fail-try something else-succeed system that has been in place since the dawn of Man. That’s why these youngins think that cooking dinner for themselves at 24 years old is a great achievement and why they think returning a toaster to Target is an overwhelming, anxiety-inducing quest.

And now, like all curmudgeons who recall the halcyon days of yore, I shall tell you how to fix it, dear millennial. Stop tweeting and just do it. You will learn how to do these things by doing them. And once you try and fail and then try and succeed with things that matter you will actually have something to be proud of.

In this week’s Torah reading Aharon and his sons begin an inauguration process to become the kohanim, the priests, who will serve in the Mishkan. The process is complicated, and really only interesting if you understand how each of the sacrifices here has some exception to a rule. Since about 30% of my readership is my mom (Hi, mom!) and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t follow that stuff, I shall leave it for a different forum. But there are some things we can glean from this parsha and one of them is this message for our #adulting friends.

Aharon is wearing the beautiful new clothes made with a combination of gold and precious colored threads. His chest-plate has 12 precious stones such as diamond, ruby, onyx and sapphire on it. And his sons, though wearing only white garments, carry themselves in these new clothes like angels. These five people present themselves to Moshe as he begins the sacrificial service that will be the inauguration ceremony. And then at the culmination of the process, Aharon shpritzes them with blood from the sacrifices and some of the anointing oil. Right on their new clothes!

Many years ago a friend of mine (Rabbi Yosef Perlman, if memory serves me) said that the message is that if you are going to get started, and you are going to learn, you have to get dirty.

Certainly Moshe’s sprinkling on them had some lofty purpose and help seal their status as the chosen family from among the chosen people. But it certainly also had a practical result. They got started. They were in it. Once your new tunic has some blood on it, you have nothing left to worry about. Just role your sleeves up and get kohaining.

And that I think is the lesson for those of you suffering from #adulting problems. No one is going to prepare you for all of life’s vicissitudes. You just have to be an adult. Let me tell you something; no one prepares you to ride in an ambulance with your 10-year-old daughter to a burn unit. And no one prepares you to see your 18-year-old son suffering with nerve pain. And no one prepares you to see a parent fading away into the shadow of dementia. You just do it. And once you start conquering those problems on your own, you won’t need to tell everyone you found just the right color hand towels.

My blessing to you all is that you feel confident facing new challenges, that you grow from the failures and the successes, and that you never have to change a tire on the Cross Island.

About the Author
Rabbi Mordechai Soskil has been teaching Torah for more than 20 years. Currently he is the Director of Judaic Studies at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. He is also the author of a highly regarded book on faith and hashkafa titled "Questions Obnoxious Jewish Teenagers Ask." He and his wife Allison have 6 children. And a blessedly expanding herd of grandchildren.
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