Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Definition of Responsible

Dictionary.com defines the word responsible as "having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable; capable of rational thought or action."

I will tell you something people. Being a responsible adult is TOUGH. You have to go to work, you have to pay bills, you have to keep a schedule, it gets pretty terrifying. But something I am also realizing these days is that being responsible isn't just about paying my bills on time or not going out crazy the night before a long day at work, it's about accepting the fact that I am responsible for my actions as well.

I know it seems an obvious epiphany. In first grade all my teachers said "Worry about yourself," or "You're only responsible for you," but I am just now realizing all that those sayings entail.  It used to mean not tattling on the kid copying off my homework (which was almost invariably correct by the way) but now I see more and more that it is about taking responsibility for my actions on a larger scale in life.

For instance, I recently sought the help of my parents to get a hold of credit card debt.  The debt was increasing, and I wasn't holding myself accountable for my spending habits. I would pay a decent amount, then see something I wanted or have an emergency and I would simply swipe. Eventually I realized that the amount I was paying back to the credit card people was actually hindering me from putting away money for savings, and sometimes even day-to-day expenses. So I had to go to my parents, all 25 years of me, and have them co-sign the various paperwork that will now ensure a lower payment and essentially make me debt-free by 30 with the exception of student loans (can't put a price on education people). It was hard, even embarrassing. But I realized that until I took responsibility for my actions, I would never be able to live the life and invest in the future I imagined for myself.

A consistent theme for myself and in recent stories I have heard from friends is that of placing blame.  Placing blame sounds like "I wouldn't have done this if.." "If only I knew who..." "If he/she hadn't said that.." "If I hadn't been in such a bad way..." "But I really needed to..." etc. I have concocted excuse after excuse so no matter what anyone says, I can get out of accepting responsibility. I have seen countless people come up with INSANE lies, scenarios, and schemes to avoid negative consequences resulting from their own actions. It is exhausting!

We always live in fear of the moment. What if someone finds out? What if they know? What will everyone say? The fact of the matter is, if you do something wrong there will be consequences. They will not typically be pleasant, but I guarantee you if you take responsibility you will see that everything will still be alright and if anything, life will be easier once you let it go. If there's one thing we have learned from celebrity scandals it is that haters gonna hate until the next juicy bite comes along. It is easy to blame someone or something for why we acted a certain way. But no matter what the contributing factors, only you can decide how to proceed.

It is not always what you do either. Other people are going to wrong you as well along the way. Many people have done unsavory things to me in recent times and I will say it would feel so good just to blast them out of the water with my genius revenge tactics. But at the end of the day, I am far from perfect. You can hold people accountable without making them feel like garbage or becoming a villain yourself.

As I navigate the ever-perilous mid-twenties I am coming to the conclusion that rather than worrying about who might find out what I did I should try to do things I don't mind people knowing about. If I am stressing about a purchase before I even get in line, I probably shouldn't buy it. If I am contemplating brilliant revenge techniques I should remember all the times I was treated with grace by those I have wronged. And when I do mess up I should acknowledge my fault, apologize, and realize the world will go on turning. The truth is we are never too old to mess up, but we are old enough to know how to handle it in order to grow up. We are capable of being the best people we can be and accountable for the times when we fail. Ultimately, being responsible means taking the good with the bad, learning from it, and striving to do right consistently in the future, even if that means taking your friend's advice and only instagramming your cats 28 times a week instead of 100. But who's keeping track? Happy Tuesday!