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I assume that no one is ever as surprised by the direction of time as I am. Most people realized early on "Oh, it goes forward? Got it," and that was all they needed. But I'm an idiot (something I've tried to make clear on this blog and even clearer in person), so I'm still constantly surprised by basic laws that govern this universe. As a result, time, in general, and how it relates to aging, specifically, is always shocking to me. At some point, I fell ass-backwards into something resembling adulthood, and I have no idea how or when it happened.

But I do know that it did happen, based solely on context clues. Because I'm incapable of understanding that I'm getting older simply by looking at my age, I have to draw conclusions based on actual, physical, adult-like things that I end up doing all the time. Things like ...

4
Doing Literally Anything Involving Stocks

I'm going to admit something to the ladies reading this blog that will either be very attractive or make absolutely no impact, depending on how old they are:

I own shares of stock.

I have various amounts of money in various markets and funds and things. I made these decisions based on the information provided to me by my financial adviser. Also? I have a financial adviser (ladies ... or, rather, ladies born sometime before 1985). I met with my financial adviser, and now I own stock. A bunch of different stocks. I just own 'em, right up. Like, they're mine, and I can do whatever I want with them. Sell them. Not sell them. And so forth.

Granted, I still don't actually know anything about stocks -- when my financial adviser sent me a statement of some kind, I asked him if he wanted me to keep it in my portfolio and inadvertently revealed that I thought a "portfolio" was a "briefcase" and that, further, I believed that I had one in my possession -- but I have stocks, and can do stuff to them, and having a thing is better than understanding it, always.

The first time I stepped back and realized that I was having a conversation on the phone with someone about what to do with shares of stock, I thought, "Surely I'm making an elaborate prank call; stock discussions are only for Monopoly Men, and Dads. This can't be me having this conversation; I'm just a boy covered in mustard stains." But it was me, and the mustard stains were actually mustard vinaigrette stains I'd acquired at a fancy restaurant that serves gourmet hot pretzels as an appetizer. I just adulted the shit out of that situation.

Nothing makes me feel more like someone's dad than having shares of stock, paying attention to the stock market and discussing it with my coworkers. "Did you watch the stock show last night? Boy, losers sure did beat out the winners on 'the big board,'" I'll say, which is a thing I heard on the news in 1998 and have since been waiting for an opportunity to say. It's exciting. Even when I'm saying, "Damn, the stock is higher today than yesterday; I should have held out before selling," I smile the whole time, because wouldja listen to this guy? Who is he, a Rockefeller?

When you get older, you find out what a brokerage account is, and what mutual funds are, and how investing money and having a 401(k) is a slightly better fiduciary plan than my old one (hiding money from myself and then being surprised by it later).

I knew investing in my gas tank was a good idea!

3
Being Too Old For This Shit

Literally any shit. Any time you make the decision not to do something you used to like, you're too old for that shit.

It might sound like a contradiction, but being "too old for this shit" isn't about age, it's about attitude. You haven't outgrown a stupid activity, you've outgrown the idea that trying every stupid activity is important. A friend will come to me and try to get me to do some stupid thing ("Let's stay up all night!" "Let's try to hit up every bar in town one every hour, starting at 1pm!" "LET'S START A SKA BAND!"), and it doesn't take a second for me to laugh it off with an "Oh, no, I'm far too old for that shit."

Pictured: The ska band I'll never have to even pretend to want to form now that I'm officially too old for that shit.

I didn't reach an age where I thought staying up all night for no reason was stupid; it was always stupid, and I always knew that. But I'd do it in college because doing everything and anything that people put in front of you is one of the ways you can learn about yourself.

And I should make an important distinction here: Whenever I back out of an event because I'm "too old for that shit," I do not miss it. I'm not begrudgingly saying "I want to, but damn, I'm just too old." It's not like I was a 14-year-old getting bummed out that he's too old to trick-or-treat; I was too old for "some shit" and just thrilled about it. Because at some point in your life (college), you have to do everything that's pitched to you, because you're still at a point where you want to experience everything, and you never want to say no, and you want all of your peers to know that you're exciting and interesting and open-minded. And it is great to live life that way, but there's also something freeing about reaching the age where you don't need to say yes to everything.

I still try new things a lot, but I don't have to, and I'm comfortable with that. And it's amazing.

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2
Noticing That Teenagers Make You Nervous

I was a mostly good teenager. Sure, I was dumb, and sometimes kind of a shithead, but I was never running around town breaking or ruining anything, and I was certainly never terrorizing old people. I'd just hang out in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven with my other shithead friends, because that was on the list of things that we, as teenage shitheads, could afford to do.

This is the rest of that list.

Occasionally, we'd see an adult heading to the 7-Eleven and they'd very pointedly avoid going anywhere near us. Or sometimes they'd tense up and move really slowly, and shoot us one of those looks that says, "Please don't hurt me, I just need to go in and buy some paper towels and then I'll be on my way." It was very frustrating for my friends and I, who were usually just sitting around talking about comics and movies. There's no reason to be scared. We've given no indication that we're dangerous, or even mean. We're just maybe a little bit loud, and we find your hasty assumptions of our characters to be insulting, I'd think. "Don't judge us man," I'd probably say.

Well, now it's the future, I'm a little bit older, and teenagers make me very uncomfortable.

"Jesus, that one looks like he's high on Pokemons!"

I don't know why it happened. I remember being a teenager, surrounded by other teenagers and knowing that the only teenagers I had to look out for were the ones who specifically made it clear that they didn't like me. And I remember being slightly older than a teenager; old enough that I didn't want to hang around with them, but still young enough that I wasn't above punching one if it gave me any shit. And now I'm here, at this age, where, if I see a group of teenagers hanging around outside, laughing and being loud, I instantly think, "Ooohhh, they're up to no good." I never stop and consider what they might do to me, I just tense up and try to make myself look as inconspicuous and un-looking-for-trouble as possible.

"Just take my money and leave me alone you monsters!"

I'll never know why I suddenly started seeing teenagers as angry, restless, violent people with crazy hormones they couldn't process or manage. I mean, that's what they are, but that never used to terrify me. Until I got older, that is.

1
Defiantly Eating Something Ridiculous for Dinner

The "defiance" here is very important. Eating something absurd for dinner (or any meal) is an action that can happen at any age; it's the intention that makes the difference. In high school, I would eat a meal that consisted entirely of french fries because I was an idiot. In college, I would eat a meal that consisted of Top Ramen noodles and steak sauce because I was poor. Last week, I ate a meal that consisted of bacon-wrapped buffalo shrimp and candy bars because I am a goddamned adult. If I make some terrible meal of junk food, it's not because I'm out of options, or money, and it's not because I don't understand anything about nutrition. It's because I decided that I wanted it, and no one in Dan O'Brien's America would ever think about stopping me.

Above: Dan O'Brien's America.

Getting older and stumbling into adulthood isn't just about responsibilities and maintaining your precious sleep schedule; it's also about doing whatever the hell you want (assuming "whatever the hell you want to do" isn't "abandon my family and murder all the people"). Sometimes I just take fun trips on a whim with my friends, because we all have jobs that pay us real money, and that's literally the only thing you need to rent a cabin for a weekend, or go skiing, or head to Vegas. I'm getting a dog soon because I looked around my apartment and was like "No dog? That's stupid." If I want to spend a Saturday sitting on my computer in my underwear, I probably wouldn't do that, but only because I already did that on Wednesday because my grown-up job lets me work from home if I want. I prefer crunchy peanut butter, but we always had smooth in my house growing up because I was in the minority in my preference, and the O'Brien household is nothing if not utilitarian in our grocery shopping. I'm the only one who does the grocery shopping for me now, so not only do I have crunchy peanut butter, but every single thing in my kitchen is a piece of food that I love. Wrap your heads around that, teenagers. Drink it in. I open up my refrigerator and I never lose. I had corndogs for breakfast, Cheez-its for dinner, and fuck you for lunch.

And if anyone sees me doing this, because I am an adult who pays his own bills, they legally have to just nod and say, "Yeah, that's Dan, he's doing his thing, that's fine. In the eyes of the law, he can vote and rent a car and be tried as an adult, so I'm forced to assume he's got his shit together. Why would I stop him? I got my own thing going on, we're all cool here."

Adulting is so rad.


Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and his stock portfolio is yielding sweeping dividends (ladies born before 1985).

For more from Dan, check out If The 'Space Invaders' Movie is Faithful to the Game and The First Talking Sex Robot: A (Terrified) User Review.

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