When did it become okay to receive kindness and forget to give it?

The standard mantras of well run homes and well behaved children is that they always say please and thank you. They never raise their voice and are always polite. The children are the jewel of every parent, these adults are the symbol of what courteousness should be. Pretty much Colin Firth, the epitome of the perfect gentleman.

I recently stopped hearing from a friend and wondered why. When I confided in another friend they asked me I always always ask how they were. It is a simple question, one that the answer would ordinarily be an easy yes. Then I thought about it, how many friends forget to ask their friends how they were, how their day went. It seems our society has bred a generation of receivers of kindness but not givers of kindness.

I have spent hours in conversation listening to the dramas of other people and not once in that conversation did they bother to ask how my day was. It usually never bothers me until the cynic in me comes out and then I call people out. I probably have also been on the other side of that, spilling out the stresses of my day but forgetting that I was not the only one in the conversation. It’s a natural thing, to ask someone how they are. Sometimes it feels almost robotic, the thing you are supposed to say after the heys and the what’s ups. The natural progression after our response to their how are you. Somehow we find ourselves regurgitating the deluge of our oft horrible days forgetting that horrible days are not exclusive to just us.

We all talk about random acts of kindness and publicise how well we have behaved by acting so randomly. Why should kindness be random? Why can’t kindness be natural and good manners? Would we not be better off if when we say our pleases and thank yous, we also say how are you, excuse me and how I can help you. Why should we wait for some social media game to remind the people in our lives that we care or to take a moment and be courteous or generous with out time, wealth or heart.

Why do we forget to keep in touch with people we call friends and act surprised when they seem distant? When did friendship become work, something that has to follow your schedule. When did we become so busy that our friends don’t even deserve a simple “just checking in”. I remember when conversations with friends could take place with a series of emoticons because all you wanted was to let the other person know you’re thinking of them. I remember when thought was important and all that counted.

When did it become okay to put our friends on to do lists and forget catch ups because it wasn’t in our calendar, when did friendship become an agenda item in the big meeting of life? When did we decide it was better to walk away than stay and understand?

When did it become okay to receive kindness and forget to give it back? When did we start forgetting to ask our friends how they were and how their day was? Why do we always forget to simply ask ‘how are you?’

I hope I can be a better example of a giver of kindness.

How to be a grown up 101 — the ‘DYI’ edition

I should have known my entire universe was going to come crashing down the minute I had to insert the L4 lever into B3. There was no L4, I looked in every single packet that came with my brand new plasma stand, every single one. And so, after 63 minutes of pure agony and frustration I stared at my unfinished work in defeat, I would never find L4 and my plasma stand will remain unassembled.

This is what happens when you grow up, the bright lights of childhood dim with resentment of playgrounds lost, the mischief of youth tries to groan on like a sluggish predator given up on the chase. Schedules become the norm, budgets become exciting activities and old lady pants are not just a thing but a cherished calendar item.

Welcome to the reality of the late 20-something.

My theory of what happens to people in their late 20s comes from years of watching sitcoms that made your 20s when things finally made sense and life became manageable — this is a big fat lie as we have already established. The reality on the other hand shows dramatically different lifestyles and world views from what we have been led to believe. As the assault of being a grown up looms, your inner child suffers and good sense is compressed to sense right now. In the quest to make sense of this growing up thing, this adulthood you find yourself trapped in something comes at the mercy of cruel and malignant being dancing at your every failure. Growing up is not easy they tell me, you have to work hard at life. Why, is what I want to know. What did I ever do to life that I have to keep working hard at it? Who is keeping score? Nobody knows.

The main curse of the 20-somethings is of course the Gwyneth Paltrows of this world, the women in their 20s who as one Buzzfeed writer described seem to have this life thing “sufficiently figured out as to be both enviable and mundane”. You often wonder who these women are, how on earth did they manage to do it and you can’t. Where on God’s green earth did they find the L4 lever that goes into B3 effortlessly, when you searched tirelessly and couldn’t. Who are these women, who are these people? These people that make you feel that while the rest of the works is winning at DIY you are failing at DYI because the instructions are all mixed up for you.

Incase you missed it: I am struggling a bit with this being a 20-something thing and giving adulthood a go. I am pretty sure I have everyone fooled and I am faking adulthood well, so I think. If things I read, watch and listen to are anything to go by, all you need is six things to be good at adulthood.

  • learning to make grown up decision
  • looking like you have it figured out
  • living an enviable lifestyle
  • understanding what is actually happening in the world
  • having a definite sense of style
  • finding yourself and knowing who you are

If all these things are indeed correct then I have failed with a soul-crushing grade of D- or more accurately an F, I am being generous. Somewhere along faking adulthood I seemed to have boxed myself into a corner that says I must be adult at all cost. No room for real play. Going out drinking does not count, if we are being honest that’s the worst inheritance of adulthood. Convincing ourselves it is okay to behave in an ill-mannered way, act with little dignity that even children are mortified and cause our bodies to reject everything it has ingested and possibly harm others because we think we are so invincible that drinking and driving is a contest — no not fun. No, I mean actual fun and play coupled with genuine laughter.

Though I easily allow myself to get lost in an existential crisis over why DIY instructions don’t add up. The ridiculousness of a pinch of something to a recipe (what is a pinch? Or a dash? Are these quantifiable measurements? Really?!?), I think it is safe to say, I am a grown up in my own way.

Everything in my home may not match or be fully assembled, I may still think the purpose of making money is to spend as quick as you can, I have yet to poison myself or set the house of fire. Adult supervision not needed. I feel there is a fine line between playing adult and eventually becoming one.

‘Damn You Instructions’