When you’re a small child, adults are fucking awesome. Sure, they might be the Enforcers of Rules (and let’s be honest, Rules suck) but they’re all grown-up and sophisticated and they have the answers to everything. They get to leave the house by themselves, and be in charge of what they do in every moment of every day. It’s kind of magical. It’s a level of life that you desperately can’t wait to unlock.
Some weird teenagey shit happens, you blink, and all of a sudden you ARE an adult, and yeah, it’s pretty cool for about.. three and a half minutes. But then you’re like “…..wait. Shouldn’t I have had some formal training first? What are stocks? How do I soft-boil an egg?”
One of the fun parts of early-adulthood years is discovering things that you should probably know how to do, but have absolutely no clue. And sure, you could ask another adult for help, but you’d rather swim around in your ocean of incompetence than let anyone in on the secret that you have no idea what the fuck you’re doing. A prime example of this is when I was on my first ever nursing placement in an aged care home. We were helping the residents with their meals, and I was asked if I could make some cups of tea.
“Sera, can you make Andrew and Betty some tea? One white with two, one black with equal. Not too hot though. But not cold. But definitely not too hot.”
So I smile and nod and walk over to the tea making table, and I try my hardest to make it look like I am not having a mild anxiety attack, because this is the moment where I realise I’ve never made a cup of tea in my life, and I don’t know how a fucking tea bag works.
I don’t know the process, I don’t know how long to leave the tea bag in for – do I even take it out at all? – I don’t know if I’m supposed to dunk the tea bag or swirl it around, I THINK I’ve seen someone squeeze theirs, how do I squeeze a tea bag without burning myself? How hot is too hot? Is there a difference between a young person’s idea of “too hot” and a 90 year old gentleman with Parkinson’s idea of “too hot”? Am I going to be held personally responsible for burnt tastebuds? Is the water to milk ratio the same as coffee? What the fuck is equal? What happens if my preceptor (the person assessing my ability to nurse the elderly) walks in while I’m staring at a tea bag in confusion like it’s a fucking time turner from another dimension? How am I allowed to be in charge of myself?
While I grabbed some mugs, I quickly sorted through my options. Faking a seizure was on the top of my list, but I wasn’t entirely confident that my acting skills were sufficient enough. I thought about excusing myself to use the bathroom so I could whip out the google machine on my phone, but apparently nurses don’t have time to pee. I COULD alert the Real Nurse that I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing, but I’d actually rather die. So I fumbled around and did some weird half-dunk-half-swirl motion, somehow managed to tangle my teabag string into unsolvable knots, threw the asshole teabags into the bin with disgust, and shamefully presented to these wonderful elderly residents, with all their knowledge and wordly wisdom, what was the most pitiful attempt at a cup of tea that the universe has ever witnessed. These guys have done their time. They’ve worked hard, they’ve built their lives, they’ve raised children, they’ve endured suffering and loss and ageing and frailty, they’ve lost a good portion of their independence, some of them have lost the ability to mobilize, and I can’t even offer them a cup of tea that doesn’t taste like Satan took a shit in it.
Luckily, I’ve come a long way since then, and just last week I received my first ever tea compliment. It only took me 4 years and 387,000 terrifying, soul-sucking tea-making attempts. So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel wildly incompetent, don’t worry. You’ll master the art of tea, and then you’ll discover that you don’t technically know how to turn a lawnmower on, and the cycle will repeat. Welcome to Adulthood! Feel free to share your failed-adulting experiences with me so that I don’t have to cry myself to sleep.