I’d like to think I’ve got this whole adulting thing down pat, guys.
But the truth is, I am absolutely, 100% without a doubt still trying to figure it all out.
And I’m realizing, more and more, that that is okay.
I don’t mean in the way of managing to keep myself alive, or to do basic “adult” type things. I do them, in some way or form, every day. And I don’t mean that I don’t know how to be mature, because I do (ish. I know how to be mature-ish). I think there will always be people who are older — and maybe even more successful — who are less mature, and the level of maturity needed for every adult situation, I’ve found, varies from case to case.
But as I’ve been an adulting adult (which, I admit, is not very long in comparison to other adulting adults) I’ve realized that a lot of things vary from case to case.
I go to the gym most days a week and I eat a lot vegetables because it makes my body feel better, and it keeps me from getting sick, and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s a slightly better alternative to living solely off of ice cream and gummy bears. I try to balance work life with outside-work life, the fun things with the not-so-fun-but-I-really-need-to-clean-my-apartment-and-do-my-laundry-and-buy-groceries things. Variation is the spice of life, right? Or something to that effect.
And I have learned that it is not hard to love someone — you kind of just do it, and let yourself let go and give in — but it is harder, strangely enough, to open yourself up to being loved back, and to rely on the person who loves you, and harder still to find that your love is not reciprocated and you should move on. But it happens, and the only way to do any of these things is to just do it, which is not very helpful advice, or very comforting when you’re sitting around wondering if and when someone will love you in the first place.
But part of being an adult is just keeping on with your own life anyway, even and especially if this thing does not seem to be going right.
And you have to keep on with your life even if and when it is going right, too. The rest of your world does not magically fall into place just because you find someone who cares about you. You still have to deal with the other shit, too.
And speaking of all of that stuff, there is no one and magical way to be a competent adult. You can set up auto-bill-pay and learn how to do your taxes and buy a house and all of that all you want, and there are still things that will fall through the cracks. You will forget which bill gets deducted on which day and log into your account and freak out about the lack of money and think you’ve been scammed until you remember otherwise. There are days that I forget to mail something until five days after I said I would, and have to hope it all works out OK, and sometimes it doesn’t, and I figure it out from there. But I got there eventually and sometimes that is what matters: crossing off your to-do list as you go, as long as you finally do it. That is, in a lot of ways, adulthood. Adulthood feels less “having it together” than you think it will.
Sometimes adulthood feels like you don’t have it together at all, but you’re trying, and that is what matters.
I love going to work every day, to a job I love, but believe me when I tell you that it wasn’t always that way. But even when I hated a gig, or I felt like that wasn’t the right path for me, or I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do with my life, I woke up every day and I went, thinking that I could find some time to get myself out of the situation I didn’t want to be in any more. And it eventually worked. Sometimes forcing yourself to do the thing you hate is the most adult decision there is. (But sometimes, the adult decision is deciding you’ve had enough and drawing a line. I admit I’ve done that, too. I don’t know. There’s no good road map.)
By the time they were each my age, my mother was trying to raise two little rugrats, my father working 80 hours a week at a job he hated just to provide for his family. They had to deal with a lot more and worse than I did, and there are a lot of days when my problems feel insignificant to those of my peers. The adult world our generation is navigating now is filled with a host of new problems we’ve never seen before, some serious and some trivial, and some we make for ourselves because humans are very, very good at fucking up our own lives. But I have also realized that part of being an adult is sitting down and saying that if I got myself into any one mess, I can at the very least try to get myself out of it, and if I cannot do it alone, sometimes the most adult thing to do is to ask for help. And if there is help to be found, I am very, very lucky for it.
And though I have a lot of years of figuring out adulthood left, I have realized that, for the most part, there will likely not ever be a moment at which I finally feel like I am an adult.
There is no magic age, no set routine, no milestone that will make it all “real” for me. I am childish and selfish and impulsive at times, but so are a lot of people, all with varying degrees of success and maturity to their names. And while we’ve all likely had great role models and idols to model what successful adulthood looks like, we’re mostly just figuring it out as we go, and hoping we don’t make too much of a mess of it all. Sometimes we do. Sometimes it’s inevitable. But then we try to fix it, and then we move on, and it’s ok.
Adulthood is not getting married and cooking dinner every night and having kids and remembering to file your taxes early. You might do some or all of these things in your lifetime, sure, but the milestones are changing these days, and so are we. Adulthood is, I think, in a lot of ways, just waking up every day and trying. And none of us really know how to do that, but we do it anyway. We try. That is the most life can ask of us — and it will ask that of you every single day. It will demand you try. So you do, and you try again and again and fail maybe but succeed the next time and try some more, and then look back at it all and call it adulthood.
Whether or not you thought you “knew” how to do it in the moment, but you tried anyway.