Today I served on a jury for a theft case. Along with 11 other men and women, we found the accused man to be guilty of three charges. I’ve never served jury duty before, despite my having been a registered voter for the last 24 years.
Before going to the courthouse the first morning, I struggled to picture a jury of my peers. I considered the folks I see at the bank, in Walmart or at the doctor’s office, and wondered what kind of people I would see selected. Would they wear pajamas, thinking that was appropriate outerwear? Would everyone wear their Sunday best? Would they all be looking for a good reason to be dismissed?
I’m thrilled to report that the whole experience was much more intelligent and thoughtful that I had first expected. Adults were attentive, cell phones were off, and the room was quiet. The irony of the entire experience was just how foolish the crime was in comparison to the seriousness of the trial and our deliberations. The weight of determining a person’s innocence (or, in this case, guilt) was not lost on my group.
The jury was comprised of hard working people: a 20-something with spiked hair and two part-time jobs, a techy-techy guy with a great sense of humor but who exuded the most professional appearance and demeanor of any of us, a 70-year old grandmother, and our foreman. He was a salesman who earned the title because he had the dubious distinction of having served on a criminal jury previously.
Our group laughed about our pets and hamburgers and silly excuses for getting out of jury duty. But when we deliberated, we were specific and thoughtful. When it was time to walk back in the courtroom, we were silent and serious. We knew how to have fun, but also how to be adults.
All of this past week’s experiences helped round out my thoughts about “adulting.” Adulting is a word our culture has recently invented. We’ve taken a term to indicate age and maturity and turned it into a verb.
I believe my generation has coined this term for one reason. We are rapidly approaching (ok, maybe I’m already there) middle age, and we find ourselves slightly shocked at the very adult situations we find ourselves handling.
As a child, I remember thinking that when I was a grown up, I wouldn’t do anything I didn’t’ want to. Boy, was I wrong.
In the last year, I’ve helped manage my father’s healthcare, my mother-in-law’s move to assisted living, helped a dear friend plan her husband’s funeral, and attended a memorial service for an infant. One of my college student workers needed help to prepare his taxes and I counseled another who is changing majors. I pay bills, clean up messes and get the car serviced. I go to work, practically every day.
It sounds like I’m not having a very good run of things. But, the truth is I’ve never been happier in my life. The very adult circumstances I find myself in are tempered by the joy of facing challenges head-on, and using the support system that 42 years of relationships has created. There’s confidence in realizing that I can handle these adult issues while still having fun. I eat the foods I like, have a glass of wine when I want, and laugh with friends and family.
Adulting, to me, means I’ve finally gotten my “stuff” together and, when you really look at it, it’s pretty good stuff. I’ve heard people use the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys” to distance themselves from the chaos of adult life. While I agree there are times for boundaries, it’s also important to acknowledge the chaos of your life, take ownership for it and find the joy and reward from managing the challenges.
So, this fun phrase is more my style: “I don’t have ducks. They are not in a row. I have squirrels and they are at a rave.” Yes, that’s my life – full, chaotic, challenging and a bit scattered. But it’s my adult life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
While sitting in a jury room, filled with thoughtful people all debating the chaos of the accused man’s current life, I had the slap in the head realization that this is adulting, putting aside your regular life to determine facts in a sobering case. The difference was so obvious to me – 12 people who had their “stuff” together, and one man on trial who so sadly didn’t. He is in his mid-thirties. Around his age, I was just starting to accept who I was, what I believed, acknowledge my mistakes, and plan where I wanted to go with my life. I hope he takes advantage of the time he’s serving to figure himself out. I’m not naïve enough to think incarceration is a time of deep reflection, but I can pray for him and hope he figures out his future. Because adulting is rewarding and better than I ever imagined it to be.