How to Adult

We’ve all heard it before, “Oh, when I was your age, I was concerned about making enough money to support my family.”, or “I got married at 25 and had my firstborn by 27”, and dozens of phrases along those lines, incessantly harped by adults who seemed to all have had it all figured out in their twenties while we’re cafe-hopping looking for the best avocado toast in town, posting on social media about said avocado toast and telling our friends about the guy that we’re sort-of-seeing-but-not-really-because-neither-of-us-want-to-be-tied-down-because-of-reasons-and-it’s-like-super-complicated. Great, we get it, millennials are privileged and coddled and there’s this giant chasm between our twenty-something selves and those of the last decade or two; but are we all overgrown children playing adult dress-up?

Amidst my quarter-life-crisis that’s really been going on for a lot longer than I thought it would, I turned to “real adults” for advice- when did they figure out how to well, adult? 4 years of higher education and I don’t know how taxes or the financial market work, I have to Google how to do certain types of laundry, I’m not sure how the next 5 years of my life is going to go. My mother told me she felt like an adult as soon as she graduated from high school, a result of having parents who really weren't too concerned with what each individual child was doing because they had too many. She got a job instead of a degree, met my father, they married by the time she was in her mid-twenties. My father was the same, neither of them were preoccupied with notions of finding their “purpose” like so many of us are today, they were doing the “adult” thing by being practical, and that meant having a good enough job, marrying a good enough partner, life purposes and fulfillment and everything else came afterwards. 

My counselor, after an episode of me telling her how I feel so overwhelmed by the notion of graduating and not being able to properly “adult” laughed and asked, “But do you feel like a child?” I thought about it a while and answered no, to which she replied “Then are you not an adult?” 

I think about her question often, and I think my fear of not truly being able to be an adult stems from the prospect that is so ingrained into us born after the 90s that we could “do everything, be anything”, and our incessant quest for perfection - keeping up with the Jones’ on social media, every Instagram post a silent and subtle 1-up against someone else’s. I didn't feel like an adult because Susan from high school just got engaged, because Karen just got that dream job in some shiny high-rise building in Marunouchi, and I’m here writing articles on “adulting”. We are a lot more concerned with chasing our dreams, building our careers and finding the most perfect partners than any of our parents did, and we want to do it all before we hit the big 3 0 because an adult is successful and has all these things figured out.

But being an adult doesn't mean you have to get hitched and pop out an infant or two before your biological clock stops ticking (it still is ticking, but hey it’s okay to not want children). Just because your mum got married at 25 doesn't mean you should start freaking out that you’ll die alone because you’re now 25, in college, and can’t even imagine being married right now (omg, me). Despite appearances, our parents probably didn't have much more of a clue of what the hell they were doing when they were in their twenties, because I’ve suspected for a while now that my parents certainly didn't. 

So just because you look at and tag your friends in memes on Facebook 3 times a day, the number of your stuffed animals outnumber your friends (definitely not me), and you still nearly set the kitchen on fire every time you attempt to cook, doesn't mean you’re any less of an adult. Because really, there are no conditions to being an adult, you can’t be good or bad at it because it’s not a job. You could be childish as hell, or you could have your game plan for the next 10 years plotted out in minute detail, or you could have no plan at all. What matters is that we continue growing and making the best of our twenties as can and should, because hey, we’re all adults now

Cover image source: