After much thought, I have determined the thing I hate most about adulthood: the paperwork. It is neverending and inescapable. It is like death and taxes: a certainty. It is like this scene in “The 12 Tasks of Asterix,” in which the intrepid Asterix and Obelix almost go insane trying to obtain permit A38 from a government office. (Spoiler: in a sweet twist of justice, it is the government officials who go insane instead.)
Since my entire office was almost buried recently under all the mail, I have resolved to be better about paperwork. It’s a sort of 12-step program I’ve invented for myself that only involves 6 steps, really, which are (1) admit the mail is a problem, (2) open all mail immediately, (3) shred as much as possible, (4) give as much as possible to my husband, (5) file the few things worth filing, and (6) stack everything else in my nifty silver mail holder to be dealt with at some future date that will definitely arrive before I get buried again. Depending on the contents of the mail, sometimes there is an additional step, which is to have a beer, obviously a departure from your typical 12-step program.
You’d think that there would be less actual paper involved in paperwork these days, what with the fact that most bills are payable online, many stores now send their coupons and reminders of sales this way, etc, but honestly all that has done is encourage me to create a separate email address that is devoted entirely to communications I don’t want to read because they are mind numbing and frequent. If they go to this particular email address, it’s great because I often forget it exists for weeks at a time. Then eventually I go and glance through everything for a couple of minutes and move on with my day, back to whatever is the most pressing matter at hand, like staring into space while trying to write an essay or listening to Sia’s “Chandelier” on repeat while proofreading or trying to stop the head-butt war my sons are having in the next room.
Recently, I read an interesting article about procrastination that suggests that it can become a serious problem for people who are depressed, angry, or otherwise bored with large aspects of their lives. I am not typically any of those things, unless paperwork is involved, and then I am always simultaneously angry and bored. (Depression doesn’t set in unless the piles of mail start to tower over my head.) Do you know how exhausting it is to be angry and bored at the same time? It is oddly tiring, maybe because your brain doesn’t know whether to tell you to punch something or fall asleep. It’s the fight or flight response’s much less useful cousin, fight or pass out.
Anyway, adulthood has its perks, but overall, it involves entirely too much drudgery. When I pictured being older as a child, I don’t know what I was really expecting – other than the freedom to always eat dessert first – but I do know that none of my grown-up life was supposed to be wasted on dealing with receipts and meal-plans and balancing a checkbook. That stuff, I thought, was for suckers who had forgotten how to have fun. Of course now I know that we are all those suckers, unless we want our lives to be a tangled mess, and we plan our ways to party around all that responsibility (that sounds FUN, amirite?). Sometimes, it’s difficult though, and to that end, my husband and I have decided we need a wife. Or I should say, a “wife”: gender is irrelevant, we just want someone to handle all of the shit we don’t want to do without being formally paid for it. Literary legend has it that Vera Nabokov was the ultimate example of this, doing everything for good old Vladimir so that he could be free of the mundane details of life and spend all of his time being inspired by the beauty of words and schoolgirls and pumping out the pages. Traditionally, this has been the domain of the wife because all details of running a household, caring for kids, and all of the supporting of the husband while he did what he wanted or needed to do had to come from someone without as much social power. If you like doing that sort of thing, my hat is off to you, as they say, because I know how much work it really takes and what a pain in the ass it is – though I’ll admit, there is a kind of zen state you can reach from getting everything organized and pretty, in your home and on your calendar and in all of your various accounts. It’s just that for me, that sense of accomplishment is short-lived because whatever it is I did gets undone by my kids, or checked off and then reentered on life’s constantly updating to-do list. I’d like a somewhat more permanent sense of accomplishment, like the feeling I get when I write a story and am convinced it’s really good for 24 hours, before I read it again and decide it’s actually pretty awful.
Paperwork makes me feel like I’m bad at life because it just keeps coming. No matter how many times I deal with it, there is always more stealthily accumulating around my ankles. It’s quicksand. And I know this doesn’t just happen to me. So let’s mount a defense all together, shall we? Let’s make a rope of shredded bills and credit card applications and pull ourselves out of the swamp. I figure we can enjoy at least a week of fun and freedom before the tide of junk engulfs us again.