While not a new term, the word “adulting” keeps popping up in my world, so I thought I would take some time to explore its meaning and more specifically its relevance.
Every time I see the word, I automatically cringe and whisper under my breath, “adulting is over rated”. Maybe I sound cynical, but let’s be honest, no one over the age of 30 wants to be an adult. Yes, being an adult gives you the freedom to make your own choices and decisions, but it also comes with its fair share of responsibility. And that’s what adulting is, right?
Let me take a step back. For those of you who have managed to live peacefully without being exposed to this term, I would like to share its definition with you. Aside from Urban Dictionary, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of sources that actually define this term. Essentially it is the practice of trying to be an adult, or doing adult things. An example that Urban Dictionary gives is holding a 9-5 job. (Does that mean someone who doesn’t have a 9-5 job, technically isn’t an adult? Is that a fair assessment?)
Growing up, I think I was on the fence about wanting to be an adult. My parents were self-employed, which seemed to add a layer of responsibility to our household. When I wasn’t going to school, or working part-time, I had certain “jobs” to complete around the house. We lived in the country, and had a lot of property, so this meant cutting the grass in the summer, or helping out with the gardens. Did I like it? Not at all.. But I did it anyway.
On one hand, I wanted to grow up fast, but on the other, I never really wanted to leave my parents house. I had it made. I could come and go as I pleased with literally only one rule. Which was I had to have the car back in the driveway before my mother left for work the next morning. Yes, that’s right. Stay out as long and as late as you want, so long as that vehicle is in the driveway no later than 7:59 am the next day.
That rarely happened though. I think I was too responsible at that age. Did my parents instill this into me in order to ensure that I could survive on my own, or was it something else?
When I left for university, I found myself in a situation that I was ready for, but I never really wanted it. I managed to go to school full-time, and still hold down a job where I worked, on average, 30 hours a week. Sometimes more. While I was prepared to be an adult, I didn’t want it then… and if I’m being honest, I don’t really want it now! (Insert awkward laughter.)
Like many of my friends, at the age of 19, I had a car to look after. But where our stories diverge, is that I was almost solely responsible to ensure that it was in good working order. That meant making sure I had money for gas, oil changes, minor repairs, tires, brakes, and even insurance (gasp!).
While my parents did help me in many ways, it was still my responsibility.
On occasion, I did need to call my Dad to help me with a car related situation, but I never liked to do it. (It must be stated that these phone conversations usually started with me in tears, but ended with him providing me with a practical solution.) I was 19. I really didn’t know anything, but I knew enough to know that the situation was over my head.
Which brings me to my next question – is being able to handle situations like an adult, mean you are “adulting”?
If that’s the case, then sometimes I still don’t. There are situations that arise from time to time, and I am unable to find my way out of it on my own. I call my friends, or family and they help me through it. Does that make me less of an adult?
My father always had a “sink or swim” type attitude towards life. I was thrown into situations where I was required to just figure it out. The best example I have of this is learning how to drive a manual transmission. I learned to drive using an automatic transmission. The summer that I got my license, the car with the automatic transmission decided it was going to die. My father pulled it off the road and left me with the manual transmission car. He and my mother were gone a lot that summer, and if I wanted to do anything – like leave the property, I would need to use the manual transmission. I literally had no training, and extremely limited instructions.
Needless to say, I figured it out.
I think the idea of needing to identify yourself as doing adult things is a bit absurd. What qualifies your actions as actually being “adult”.. And not just “skills”?
A quick search of the word “adulting” on Twitter, shows the different ways in which it is being used. One user tweeted that she had eaten Wheat Thins and Hershey’s Kisses for dinner, and was failing at her ability to be an adult.
Newsflash! Adults don’t always eat properly. There isn’t always the time. I’m not saying that this is a good or even a remotely healthy habit, but it does happen. I cannot tell you the number of times that I made popcorn a meal. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t think it makes me any less of an adult.
The argument could be made that you are so busy that you were unable to get groceries, and this is what you have in the house. The alternate argument could be made that you didn’t plan your meals out properly, and you’re stuck with Wheat Thins.
Whatever the reason for eating poorly, it is a decision that you made. Accept that, and call yourself an adult. Don’t use adulting as an excuse for a poor choice or decision. We all make bad decisions from time to time, and that’s what makes us human. Learn from it, and make a conscious effort to chose differently the next time. Just don’t use it as an excuse to not be an adult.
I think it’s important for young people to learn basic skills in order to be successful. No, you don’t need to learn to drive using a manual transmission, unless that is a skill you require. The world is changing so what was useful in my day, may no longer be. That said, there will always be a handful of activities that you will always need to know how to do. I’m talking laundry, managing a bank account, paying some bills and maybe even cooking.
You don’t have to be good at these tasks, by any means. My father is still not able to do laundry well, but he gets the job done. I on the other hand struggle sometimes with understanding finances, but that doesn’t mean that neither one of us is an adult. I know enough to get by, but could definitely improve. We all have our strengths, and I certainly rely on close friends and family to help me with these tasks.
In my opinion, I think it’s a bit of a disservice to identify the process of learning skills that make you a better human being, as adulting. There are many resources now that one can reference to help them be a better adult. Including books, Twitter accounts, and news articles. But does one really need a step by step instruction manual on how to be an adult?
Maybe that is my struggle with the notion of adulting – needing “life” instructions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an expert in being an adult and most days I would rather lay in bed than do anything productive. But, sigh… that is rarely an option.
On the other hand, if this is what is needed to help today’s youth become better individuals am happy that there is an instruction manual to give them this information.
Maybe I’m lucky that I had parents who had a “sink or swim” attitude… Or maybe I’m jealous that there wasn’t more information out there on how to do these things. I had to figure it out on my own. I had to make my own mistakes, suffer the consequences and learn how to not repeat that mistake.
Either way, I do think the notion of adulting is over rated. Learn some basic skills before leaving the house. Even if that means you find a YouTube video that explains how to do your laundry. Just figure it out.
There seems to be too much emphasis on defining our actions, and less on execution. Actions speak louder than words.
Finally, I want to say this: if you are in your late teens and still living at home, great. Enjoy the time you have because once you become an adult there is no going back. If you’re in your late twenties, and still living at home, I suggest that you find one of the many adulting resources available to help you become a better adult (and your parents do to).