No one likes you when you’re 23. Too old to trick or treat, too young to die. The tragic and confusing place between being a teenager and a 30-something. And with 30 being the new 20 and teenagers getting older faster, we’re all a little lost.
Which brings us to the term “adulting” and I’m going to tell you why it gets on my nerves. It’s one part general cantankerousness for all things Buzzfeed and one part targeted aggravation due to the belief that anyone who uses it is selling themselves short. So let’s take a look at this fun little bit of slang that has become the most recent bane of my existence.
According to Urban Dictionary:
Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.
Now, I’ve also seen this in terms of “adulting” meaning, “getting stupid drunk with your best friend. And still making it to work in the morning,” another definition offered by Urban Dictionary.
Let’s unpack this.
“Adulting” appears to be a way for younger adults, those of us in our early to late twenties, to cope with the fact that we are adults. Like actual adults. Like with jobs and taxes and all that. But adults that are scared or freaked out by jobs and taxes because we don’t really know how it all works.
But here’s a little secret: no one wakes up just knowing how it works.
Being an adult is a learning process like anything else. You don’t wake up on your eighteenth birthday and a little bell rings and you suddenly know how to file taxes and do small motor repair. There’s a learning curve that you have to acknowledge, which can unfortunately entail dealing with burnt dinners, overflowing washing machines, and shrunken clothes.
The concept of “adulting” is more or less the idea that you make choices. The choice to go check out a new restaurant in the city or go see a show with friends even though you know you won’t get out until late and you’ll be exhausted at work the next morning.
Remember those economics videos we had to watch in elementary school? It’s about opportunity cost, weighing the price you pay for what you get. Economics sound pretty adult to me. These choices you make, with the logic you put into them, they’re adult choices.
“Adulting” seems to personify the fact that people are desperately hanging on to this idea that we are not yet adults, or that our adulthood is somehow less valid. We feel too young, too inexperienced, and too ill prepared. “Adulting” seems to create something for us to cling to, a word that signifies this liminal space we find ourselves in, something to set us apart from “real” adults.
Part of this may come from the liminal spaces we occupy in our everyday lives. Even within the program, as interns, being in an odd space of being something between students and coworkers or employees, we stand in an interesting grey area that can make claiming our own adulthood feel not quite right. But the mere fact that we’ve made the choices to get here, the effort we’ve put into accomplishing this displays a consciousness of making choices as opposed to following set paths. Yes, there’s a pecking order to respect, and we may be on the bottom, but we’re here. Which is kind of impressive.
Own your choices and your autonomy. You are making adult choices. And that doesn’t need to connote using a juvenile loophole solution to fulfill adult responsibilities (i.e. eating three meals a day but two of them are boxed mac and cheese). Being an adult is hard. Being a person is hard. We get it.
“Adulting” has become a joke to excuse these choices and our learning moments. And they don’t need excusing. Stand by your choices, and your mistakes, because ultimately you’re learning, you’re accomplishing what you’ve set out to do. Don’t sell yourself short.
Accept it. You’re an adult. Congratulations!
Written by Ellen Koppy