Help me become a grownup.
December 10, 2011 4:57 PM   Subscribe

So, I've been joking for a while that I need, like, boot camp for how to be an adult. Help me find something? Maybe like Upward Bound for grownups meets finishing school plus...something?

I stumbled upon Turnaround House. I like the idea of it, except that it is associated with, or approved by Byron Katie, famous for The Work. My past is littered with all kinds of awful trauma and I am not willing to say, much less attempt to believe that I was raped as a child because of any sort of need or failing of my own, it seems that this would be required in that program.

Also, the program costs $20,000, which I just don't have. I mean, shit. I don't have twenty spare dollars, which is part of why I think I need this. I'm smart. I have "so much potential." Medication is helpful, but I have trouble with basic skills. Several years of intense PTSD focused therapy have helped tremendously, but again, it's a skills problem that I face. Forming healthy habits, routines, etc. Knowing how to do things. I am not a domestic person. Every time I sweep a fucking floor, someone tells me I'm doing it wrong. Cheryl Mendelsohn's book about keeping house was supposed to be awesome for that, except I just sit and read the book instead of, well, cleaning house.

My remaining family (I'm unmarried, 30, female, hopefully a college graduate in a few weeks,, maybe not.) is baffled by me. They don't understand depression. They don't understand ADHD, despite actually having many members of the family also diagnosed. I'm expected to just "buck up" and....haven't been able to figure out how to do that. My parents are not around any longer, so what's left is an aunt and her daughter. In my home of origin there was never clean laundry, rarely food, lots of violence and yelling and often absent parents. I've never been truly cared for, so it's hard for me to believe that I'm worthy of that. I discuss that in therapy. I can say it until I'm blue in the face. But I think believing it is going to require a reshaping type of experience.

I don't use alcohol or drugs, though sometimes I wish I did because then maybe I wouldn't care about my difficulty.

I used to write poetry, but I quit about a decade ago. I do some other crafty things, and many of my friends believe that I could make a living with that, but I just can't get/stay organized enough to be productive and/or promote myself. I'd love to have a career in public speaking (I've mentioned this in a previous, non-sock puppet question before) but again, it's the getting focused, getting organized and following through.

So. I feel like a month (or better longer, I'm sure) with adults who are good at being compassionate guides toward responsibility would do me some good. Has anybody heard of such a thing that isn't culty or downright damaging? How do folks like me pay for these kinds of improvements?
posted by tulip-socks to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
It's not a specific program but, have you spent any time volunteering (Bonus, it's free)? Volunteering will not only help others, but you'll be around people who may 'have it together' and at the same time help others 'get it together' and I think a big part of how you feel about yourself (in my experience) is who you surround yourself with. It can really help structure your life and give you perspective, and there are a ton of opportunities to volunteer this time of year. It's also a fantastic way to network, and could even get you into a non-profit in a public speaking role.

And don't worry about the sweeping. I still don't know the 'right' way to sweep. I know you didn't say it outright but a lot of what you've said I could have written, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you may be somewhat of a perfectionist? "It's the getting focused, getting organized and following through" is really the hard part because we want to get that 'getting focused' part just right... and never get to the next step (or maybe you stall on getting organized). Is it possible that a big part of you not getting things done or following through is because you're worried that you didn't start off 'perfect'? Even the best novels have been through the editing department :)
posted by one4themoment at 6:30 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I thought of Gould Farm but it is expensive -- 295 dollars per day. They offer financial aid.

If you are a Christian there are many Christian working farms/commune type things.

Do you have a job right now? If not, consider joining a cleaning crew. It is a honest day's work and can teach you to clean efficiently. I have a very dear friend that lived in near squalor for a long while in adulthood and as a child lived in a clean home but her mother did everything for her. After she worked as a maid in a hotel she became a very good at keeping her own house.

I have been diagnosed with ADD too. I grew up in chaotic and abusive household. After a lot of time, trial and error, I have learned to manage my life and keep my house mostly clean. I was going to list some tips but that is not your question. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 6:51 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is sort out of left field, but everyone I've known who's WWOOFed was kind, interesting, and wonderful. They learned responsibility, self-reliance, and really benefited from doing a hard day's manual labor.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:04 PM on December 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

I really don't want to minimize your problems, but I'm pretty sure most people feel like basketcases all the time. Of course you should strive to do better, but don't think you're abnormal just because you can't focus and keep the house clean. And of the people you know who do keep the house clean, most probably have other issues. Of course it's great to strive for self improvement, but don't think that you're "broken" and need a twenty thousand dollar repair just because you had a rotten childhood.
posted by miyabo at 7:30 PM on December 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

The Stirling Institute runs weekend events for (separately) women and men. I did the man's weekend and it transformed my life in ways which seems aligned with what you're looking for. It's quite expensive but it was the best thousand dollars I have ever spent, and I think my happiness of the last decade is thanks to the weekend. There's a women's weekend in February.

I've read negative comments about the institute and the weekends, but I know half a dozen guys whose lives were totally turned round from failure to positive self-driven success by the experience.

Memail for more if you want.
posted by anadem at 7:35 PM on December 10, 2011

I realize that your question isn't just about housekeeping, but I've heard dozens of people rave about Flylady as a way to help them get their lives in order. Basically, you get emails multiple times a day telling you to take care of particular tasks or engage in specific self- and home-care activities. The emails are really cloying and schmaltzy, but the method apparently works wonders for people who are trying to figure out how to take control of their surroundings. Plus, it's totally free, and you can do it by yourself at home.
posted by decathecting at 8:08 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

While I don't think it'd be the fixit you (and I!) are looking for, it might be a good thing to do as a break between finishing College, and, whatever you do next...

I also came in to suggest WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms - food and board in exchange for work). If you find the right placement, you'll be working with others on a variety of practical tasks, and on the best ones, there'll be a regular routine, which, might just be a good experience as a contrast with your childhood.
That the cooking, cleaning, and eating etc all happen at set times of day, and it gets easier the more you repeat it, until you don't have to think of it. Just showing part of your brain how a functioning adult 'household' can work.

The other suggestion, would be volunteering at say, a meditation center or Buddhist monastery. I guess that does sound religious, but the more mainstream buddhist traditions actually leave it very up to you what you believe in. They just teach meditation techniques. And, the routine of cleaning, cooking etc, is very structured, and they'll show you how to do things. (And it went ding ding ding! on adults who are good at being compassionate guides toward responsibility would do me some good).
I know there are also 10 day Vipassana meditation courses, that you only pay a donation for afterwards. A Goenka Vipassana retreat, didn't really work for me, and isn't what you are looking for here, unless you really feel like meditating 12 hours a day, with no people interaction, with food etc provided - it is really tough. But, if that was something you were wanting to do, on subsequent sessions you can volunteer to do a working retreat, and do cooking, cleaning etc when not meditating. Main reason I suggested it is because I know it's free/cheap.

Personally, if you've got a bit of time, doing a bit of WWoOFing for a while, sounds like it might be a nice idea. Check it out, and make sure you're with a good host.
posted by Elysum at 8:17 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to the School of Life.
posted by quadog at 12:17 AM on December 11, 2011

Mr. Stirling's "philosophy", for careful reading.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:50 AM on December 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

I like the getting a job with a cleaning crew or on a farm. Even a part time job where you are taught to do something and then given responsibilities to go with it.

You could volunteer with an organization that enhances the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. I'm thinking something like L'arche, where you could simply go into a house and do crafts with these adults, or you could help them with household chores (they can even teach you how to do domestic things if they've been doing them for years). It's a symbiotic relationship, really, because you're doing something that enhances their life while they share compassion, jokes, and (in my experience) an overwhelming positive attitude.

memail me if you want to know more, I don't have much experience within L'arche but I have worked in a similar area in the past. I'm also diagnosed with ADHD, 22, and only half feel like I have my life together, so I relate to your post.
posted by sarae at 6:04 AM on December 11, 2011

WWOOFing can be tricky, since it's dealing with real people who vary. Here's an anecdote: a friend went to work on a family farm and ended up being pressed into babysitting (along with a full day of farmwork) and getting sexually harassed by the father — and she didn't really have the confidence/skills to assertively ask them to stop being lame or immediately find transportation out of there. Happily after a month a couple friends were traveling nearby and she asked them to pick her up and take her home. (I've tried to convince her to send an anonymous complaint about the farm, but she didn't want to.) I've also had another friend who liked WWOOFing and used it to help her travel on her own while she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. It's just something where, depending on your preferences, you may want a less-isolated and more-structured environment.
posted by dreamyshade at 6:29 AM on December 11, 2011

I have been working on a similar project (with slightly different motivation). A summary is in a blog post from last January here. It isn't easy. I wish you luck but I am afraid I don't have any specific experience regarding Turnaround House. I sort of agree with a couple of the people upthread who were inclined to look at that specific tack as overkill.

Caution: some people have been outright hostile towards my own project.
posted by bukvich at 8:21 AM on December 11, 2011

I am not a domestic person.

Then don't be a domestic person. Seriously, it's not for everyone. Your time is precious, you've weathered a lot, and you've worked really hard to be a healthy, self-aware person. Rather than looking to develop a whole skill set that may not even intrinsically appeal to you, play to your strengths. Your handicrafts are such that friends think you could go into business? See if one of them would trade housekeeping tasks for a custom project. Lots of people drop their laundry off at the 'mat for washing, or maybe you need a "laundry buddy" to spend time while you both get the chore done. Try checklists, but automate tasks like bill-paying and outsource what you can.

It sounds like your remaining family is less than supportive of you - people can certainly love you without understanding you in the slightest, but maybe you might consider spending less time with them, especially if you're anxious about finishing school and already prone depression.

Please be gentle with yourself. There are plenty of things you can do that others can't - this world is full of infinite variety. Please don't shortchange yourself and your abilities.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:53 PM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, anyone who criticizes your floor-sweeping should take a flying leap.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:54 PM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

It doesn't specifically address housecleaning skills, but I found Outward Bound to be an amazing experience in terms of building confidence and self-awareness, as well as learning how to cooperate and work together in a group. The basic philosophy is that you're presented with a series of challenges and that you learn that you actually can accomplish things you never thought you could. I did a 3-week course in my mid-twenties (a scholarship covered about half the cost) and it was absolutely life-changing.
posted by bendy at 5:24 PM on December 11, 2011

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