Adulting

There’s an inevitability to age. Like taxes. One day you wake up feeling a niggle in your back. You blame the bed initially. It’s become too soft. The couch has suddenly become too soft too, for, when you sit on it for four hours straight, your lower back’s beginning to seek attention. There’s new body aches and creaky morning boot up sequence. You dismiss it for a while - that’s the beauty with age. 

Then it hits you - you’re just getting older. 

When you’re young, your body is in the background. It’s there to do its job and you carry on in the merry discovery of life - a bit like riding in a Shinkansen. It’s easy to forget that you’re rolling at several hundreds of kilometers an hour. But grow older and that train becomes a local Yeswantpur passenger. You’re in unreserved and are feeling every moment of the journey.  

A consequence of living as a couple with no kids, both earning, with medium-to-low ambitions on career is that we’ve pretty much resisted adulting all our lives. But, even if you resist adulting in other aspects - definitions of how to live and where to live - it’s impossible to behave as if your body hasn’t moved on past mid thirties. 

So, welcome to adulting. It’s the part where as you get older, you proactively make life more painful / miserable so that you minimize long-term pain / misery. Sounds convoluted? That’s what most of adulting is. 

Anyhoo, we are doing the following as part of our adulting experiment:

Having a cook 🍚

In the first 4 years of living in Bangalore we pretended that our love for cooking ‘one-dish-every-third-day’ would somehow put home cooked food on the table every day. The delusion evaporated as the frequency of our cooking came down. Then the most magical thing called Venture Capital happened. They poured in millions of dollars and from that dollar dump emerged the solution to our food problem - Swiggy. Just like that, we could now get our food delivered home without having to call up restaurants, repeat orders or go out and search for places to eat. It felt like we’d come out of the tunnel in Shawshank Redemption. 

Some stats from the trailing 12 months, us and Swiggy: 

  • We have placed 200 orders - translates to an incredible frequency of roughly 17 orders every month. 🚚

  • About 15% of it is breakfast, 40% lunch and 45% is dinner. 

  • Combined, we’ve ordered from not more than 15 different restaurants on Swiggy. This means that we’re creatures of habit and often seek out the same things again and again. This wasn’t the equivalent of “eating out” decision people make but “we need food to survive” decision.   

One evening, when we had placed perhaps the 170th order of the year, we sat down and evaluated our food habits and concluded that we need to bring in some “adult-like” behavior here. We assumed that our addiction to “one-click-food” was probably bad (there was no evidence for this, though. For instance, our body weights have tracked the same for years). But more importantly, our middle class brains were shocked by our “Swiggy budget”. At an average meal of Rs 400, this tracked to Rs 80k every year. In my head, that translated into a brand new phone. (agreed that we would anyway need to spend at least 20% of this to cook at home). 

In any case, we hired a cook. Suganthi aunty hails from Andra pradesh and cooks delicious South Indian fare with a liberal love for spices.    

The first thing I notice is that the utilization of Fridge is now consistently at 70% whereas earlier it stayed anywhere between 20 - 30%. The second thing I notice is the food. I mean, having a hot meal waiting for you is better than “one click ordering”. The third thing is the economics - having a cook is cheaper (even if marginally) than ordering on Swiggy. 

So, I’ll say that’s a win for adulting - a 4/5. 

Avoiding sugar in drinks 👅

Siddhārtha reflected on his materialistic lifestyle and concluded that he would renounce everything and start a religion (unintended consequence?). I reflected on my hedonistic lifestyle and concluded that I would not eat sugar for 30 days.  

Why? Adulting strikes again. I realized that I was enjoying life too much - eating what I want, seeing what I want, doing what I want - that I felt guilty. So, I wanted some restrictions to build the muscle of not getting what I want to have. Too much hedonism can make you feel shitty - like a day you sat on the couch all day watching TV. 

I’ve been told for a while now that sugar is bad. It’s addictive. Plus, both of us have the weight of family history warning us about impending diabetes. So, no sugar for 30 days, I said. Nitya joined me in this journey into the wilderness of adulting. 

In 4 days, we changed the rule: No sugar only on weekdays. Weekends were cheat days. It took just 4 days to break us - we are pathetic adults. But I am glad to report that this regimen is running for 4 weeks now and still hasn’t gone off the rails like things tend to do. 

Yet another reason to desperately wait for the weekend these days. 

I can only hope that all this sacrifice will pay off by helping us out in the long run. From what I’ve seen, life also tends to be random. I’ve seen chain smokers live up to 90 and people who trek every week have sudden heart attacks. So, it also makes me wonder what is the right level of joy deprivation that makes sense. After all, the one life we have is to enjoy it and is there a point to it if we cut out all sources of joy and fun from it? 

These questions don’t keep me up at night but they certainly enter my head everyday as I drink the less-than-perfect, sugarless filter coffee. 

Running 🏃‍♂️

I try to run. Let me start from the beginning - I am not built for running. I am more comfortable with a puzzle, a book, some kind of futile creative work, or even putting words on screen which I am subjecting you all to right now. When I run, my lungs feel like Vietnam in the 60s, my calf muscles wake up from a deep slumber and I breathe like failing hydraulic brakes on a garbage lorry that makes people around look at me with worry. 

Then things got a little better. I could run for a bit - several hundred meters before taking a much needed break to re-oxygenize myself. Then it got better some more.  I could run a kilometer or a bit more. If you are expecting this to be some inspirational story about how, over time, I conquered running and it became the centre of my life, you are in for a terrible disappointment. The story pretty much ends here. I run at best a km or two continuously. Sometimes, I take breaks and make that three. 

Every time I run, it makes me wonder though - why do people do this. Why are they in a hurry to go nowhere. Early man ran from being prey or to catch his prey. In the medieval era, you probably ran because they were out to separate your head from the body. There’s no reason to run now. Our minds have created a brief moment in civilization where there is order, comfort and no existential threat (if you ignore the whole planet boiling away for a second). Yet, people run in circles like a hamster on a treadmill, perhaps physically simulating what they do with their lives.

I too continue to bravely lace up my shoes and attempt to go running every once in a while. My reasons are the following:

  1. It’s a perfect solo time to listen to music, podcasts, etc. When I discover a fun new podcast (have you listened to Conan O’Brien needs a friend), I run more. 🎧

  2. I think better on my feet, especially in the cool-down period post running. Ideas run in my head on steroids during this time. 🧠

  3. While I do not enjoy the running itself, I invariably get a chemical high after it which lasts me about 30 minutes or so, but still. 😀

  4. I feel like I am doing something to sweat bad things out of my body. 😓

  5. It trains me for more fun things like trekking in nature, walking around 15 kilometers everyday across cities in new countries - all of these are fun, fun, fun. 🥾

Running is also adulting. Forcing yourself to go in circles around the same place while your lungs burn in the homam of discipline is the perfect adult thing to do. 

Workouts

About a month back, Nitya discovered this new program called DareBee. It coincided with the time I murmured about how my back feels sore nowadays after slouching on the couch for four hours binging on Netflix. 

As it turns out, there are a lot of muscles in your body (anywhere from 650 to 840 different muscles). It also transpired, after a couple of days of “beginner level” exercises, that I was putting many of these muscles to use for the first time. Everyday was like a #TodayILearned that there is a new muscle in a part of my body and it is crying in pain. Twisting your body like a contortionist or even merely repeating an innocuous thing like lifting your arms hundreds of times suddenly exposed how unfit I was.  

Everyday I spend 20 minutes in this bubble of pain and humiliation. Bending your body in so many ways has a way of taking out any and all ego you have about your own physicality. Also, it’s good to do things you completely and utterly suck at to respect those who excel at it. Then there’s the pain - sweet, murderous pain. 

Pain in a limited way is a great tool to bring back discipline. These workouts, so far, are doing a good job of subtracting some of the hedonistic guilt I’ve been feeling to the extent that subjecting myself to this pain every morning somehow feels enjoyable. Makes me feel better to take on things.

The question is - how long and far can I keep up with all of this adulting business. Life also throws more adulting into our lap. For instance, we had a teenager stay with us for a week testing our ability to be responsible adults. And there are areas where our parents would desperately want us to behave like 'adults’ (their version of it) but we continue to refuse. These are stories for another day.

Life is fun,

Tyag

P.S. There is more to this adulting story. Watch out for future iterations on “how to be an adult who can take care of a teenager?” and “Why we will never be treated as adults by our parents?”