What is “adulting” anyway?

What is “adulting” anyway?

If you are close to my age, or know anyone who is close to my age, you’ve probably enountered the word “adulting”. Every time I pour myself a glass of wine and actually cook myself dinner (which, by the way, is not as frequent as it should be), I will praise myself for “adulting”, and, most likely, take a picture to document the momentous occasion. After all, did I really cook for myself if nobody sees the proof on social media? 

If people were to take my example of “adulting” and try to base their definition from there, “adulting” might come to mean something like “doing the bare minimum for survival” (minus, of course, pouring the glass of wine, which is not necessarily necessary for survival). From my observations, however, most people use the word “adulting” to describe activities that they do that specifically mark that they are no longer in school, that they are of age, are working full time jobs, and (in most cases) no longer living with their parents. 

“Adulting” is a hard term to pin down, because it can look a little bit different for everyone. One definition, according to Urban Dictionary, describes adulting as “Being a responsible adult. Used by immature 20-somethings who are proud of themselves for paying a bill.” 

Why is “adulting” such a “thing” for my generation? I once spoke to a group of ladies, older than myself (I’m guessing all between 45-65 years old), about my idea of creating a podcast that would address the many issues facing my generation when it came to “adulting”. A response that I received from one of the ladies I spoke to was simply: “I think this is a great idea. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with your generation. My generation…we just did it.” 

For me, my transition into “adulting” was not something I “just did”. At first, being a “real adult” as all I wanted for myself. I rushed into leasing my first apartment, living alone for the first time, because I wanted to prove I was independent. I rushed into my first job thinking that it was something I was passionate about, when in retrospect I took the first opportunity I got because I was so afraid of being unemployed and looking like a failure. All of these decisions caught up with me eventually, when I realized that so quickly everything about my world had changed; that I didn’t feel passion for almost anything I was doing; and that sometimes I felt cripplingly lonely. 

The decisions that I made didn’t make me feel like more of an adult. Quite the contrary; I felt like I had returned to a child-like helplessness. I would cry in my mom’s arms because I didn’t know why I couldn’t feel complete. I would do anything I could to avoid being alone so that I didn’t have to face my inner demons. I would avoid any activity that felt out of my comfort zone. 

If you’re wondering how I got through that, the short answer is, I don’t think I fully have. The long answer is, acceptance. I had to realize that I don’t have to make every decision about my future today, in the next month, or even the next year. I had to accept that what I was going through was temporary, and that with time and a lot of work, things would get better. I learned that so many others were going through exactly what I was going through, and that in many ways, my situation wasn’t unique at all. 

All of this is to say, I don’t think “adulting” matters as much as we think it does. There’s no way to define a certain mold for being an adult; we are all so unique and have such different paths. The secret to “adulting” is that no one actually has it all together; whether or not people are honest about that, is a different story.

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