By Margaret Wright
When I was 10, I went to sleep-away camp and my counselor was 19 years old. I thought that was just about ancient. She’s so nice and knows just about everything. She looks so mature and put together, plus, she’s in college! She must have her life sorted. My cabin discovered that she had a boyfriend for one whole year: so she probably has a job, an apartment, maybe even a ring by spring. Wow, I can’t wait to grow up and be like her – an adult!
I am now 21, and I can assure you I do not have my life sorted. I don’t have everything together, even though I’m an adult. Ok, maybe not in thought, but in law. I love Nutella, trick-or-treating, and sleeping in. Being a full-blown adult would mean I’m associating myself with the people who have kids and make dentist appointments. Adulting allows me to be a kid, but I can “adult” every now and then. Right?
The term “adulting” was dubbed the Word of the Year in 2014 by the American Dialect Society (Time). Its’ usage has increased six-fold (Merriam-Webster).
(But since it’s not in the Oxford English Dictionary, it can’t possibly be a word… right, Dr. Bird?)
It describes participation in exclusively adult behaviors, such as buying groceries, filing taxes, paying rent, etc. In fact, there is a book and blog called Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 easy(ish) Steps. I’m sure you’ve come across it at some time or another. So yeah, it’s a thing. The term creates a distance between the real adults and us – so we can be kids while doing adult things, but we don’t have to be adults 100% of the time.
Kids – legally defined as minors under 18 – actually look up to college students, regardless of what’s going on in our lives. To my 10-year-old self, you are an adult. We need to come to grips that we are an example – we are adults – and while the 10 year olds might not see it, posts with #adulting just doesn’t set the example. Cooking yourself dinner is existing, not adulting. Side note: nobody has their life together. Some people just do a better job of it.
It seems as if millennials (that means us) don’t want to grow up. We don’t want to face the responsibilities of ‘adult life’. One could say we’re having a bit of an identity crisis. But to be honest, I think we just need to grow up. What are we going to say 10 years from now, when we’re 30? 40? “Just made dinner for myself and my bestie #adulting”. I don’t know a lot of 40 year olds, but I can’t see the ones I know posting that. It just seems so… childish.
What are other reasons we say it? We’re so young, hip and ‘in’ that we couldn’t be old enough to be actual adults?
Are we trying to congratulate ourselves on doing something like vacuuming, to make our Snapchat friends believe that because we’re succeeding at one thing that we’re accomplishing more than we really are?
Times change, and to be honest, so should we. We need to realize that we are not kids anymore and we shouldn’t act like them either. I realized that when I got looks while trick-or-treating as an 18 year-old. Adulting can be hard, but in order to fulfill basic responsibilities, in order to be a part of a functioning society, we need to come to grips with the simple fact that we aren’t kids anymore. This isn’t to say we can’t love Pillow Pets, corgis, or Disney movies on a Tuesday night. I love them too! But we need to take things seriously as well. “Adulting” shouldn’t be an action; it should be a lifestyle that adults practice. This is a mental hurdle a lot of us have to get over.
However, I know that “adulting” is not a term used by all 20 year-olds. I see it mostly from a more privileged group of people. Until now (whenever that might be), our privileged friends haven’t had to worry about paying bills or cooking meals. So for some, adulting might just be doing an action without the parent to help them. Our less privileged friends might have been “adulting”/working 2 jobs, doing their laundry, etc. since they were 16. In fact, the term might be a little insulting to those for whom adulting is the norm, not the exception. So, “adulting” finds itself being used mostly by people who are finding themselves doing adult things for the very first time; coming of age with a Twitter account to prove it. Doing adult things for the first time isn’t bad or wrong, but we don’t need to pat ourselves on the back for it. Even when we don’t like or want to, we’ve got to grin, bear it, and Instagram the sunset, not the lasagna.
So, how do we make that mental jump? For starters, we are capable of much more than we think! We buy textbooks, drink coffee, do laundry (usually). We know what we need to do, we just don’t want to do it because then we’d be an adult (insert big-eyes shocked emoji).
That’s not to say we shouldn’t remember what it’s like to be a kid. Childlike faith is necessary to the Christian life – but it’s the faith, not the actions we take. We can be a child at heart, but let’s be honest: we’re adults.
Of course we’re going to mess up, hate a piece of plastic (credit card), and get tired of getting up to go to a nine to five job. Adult life is full of unknowns, but we don’t have to know how to adult.
But as David writes: “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)