I remember being a kid and thinking I understood what an adult was. Who doesn’t? I see that wistfulness in the eyes of kids I encounter now – see them looking at my friends and I like we are the coolest ever and they want to be just like us. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that most of us wish we could just go back to being carefree children again?
Well … I used to wish that. Overwhelmed by adult responsibilities like bills, unforeseen expenses and life decisions, I’ve often longed for the days of my childhood. If only I had appreciated it then.
If only I’d known that being an adult was much more trouble than it’s worth most of the time.
This line of thinking arises from a fundamental misunderstanding of what being an adult truly means. I think there are a lot of people my age who feel bad about themselves. We thought we were supposed to have certain things by this point in life and most of us don’t have them. Some of my friends did obtain them– a marriage, kids, a “real” job or career – but even then, it doesn’t look the way it did thirty years ago. It’s not what we imagined it would be.
I felt bad for a very long time about where I am. I haven’t achieved any of these arbitrary goals we’re all supposed to work on. I don’t have a lucrative job. I don’t have a husband … or fiancé … or even a boyfriend. I’m not making money in my desired field, though I’m working very hard to get there. I did a complete 180 about a year ago and I’m still trying to adjust and figure out what I want now. I made a total career change at 32. It’s scary, but the funny thing is, I feel better than ever before. It was intimidating, but incredibly freeing.
I know now that I can accomplish anything I want if I work hard enough. I have faith in myself.
I never had that before. I was ashamed. Ashamed of my failed relationships, ashamed that I wasn’t “succeeding at life”, ashamed that I was still waiting tables in a restaurant. I never wanted to talk to anyone about myself. I became an expert at deflecting the conversation to anything but my self-bestowed loser status. I felt like there was no hope for me. I would never pull myself out of the rut I’d let myself fall in so easily. I was depressed and angry and bitter. I hated acting negative all the time, but I didn’t know how to solve it.
When I went through my huge transformation, most of that changed. One of the most interesting shifts, at least in my mind, is how I now view adulthood. All those material goals and life milestones we’re told to meet? It’s a load of shit. There is absolutely no reason to feel bad about who you are and where you are. We’re told that we are less than if we aren’t at a certain place, but we are all amazing just the way we are.
Here’s the thing – adulthood isn’t about getting married. It isn’t about having kids, and a fast car, and a nice house with a hefty mortgage. All the bullshit we thought would finally mean that we’re grownups actually means nothing. It’s crap we are sold as a package deal to happiness. Everyone used to buy in wholeheartedly. Now I’m seeing that most of my peers got wise to the scam.
I’m happy to say that I finally understand what being an adult really means.
It means commitment to constant personal development and growth. It means having the balls to apologize and admit fault. It means having the grace to forgive even those who aren’t ready to apologize to you. It means hard work and sacrifice and dedication to your goals. It means looking defeat in the eye and telling it to fuck off. It means getting knocked down repeatedly and standing back up every single time and trying again. It means developing kindness and compassion and understanding towards every single being on this earth. It means taking care of this earth itself. It means thinking of others before your own selfish desires.
Adulthood has nothing to do with appearances. All that crap you obtain? It won’t give you any more happiness than you already have.
It’s about becoming a better person every single day.
It’s about doing the work internally. I am more joyful these days than I ever thought I could be. I literally never ever thought I would get here. I sometimes randomly burst out in tears because I’m so damn grateful.
My life doesn’t look any better than before on the outside. It probably looks worse. I don’t have nice things. I don’t go out to fancy places. I’m not successful or cool by any superficial measure of those words. I’m broke, I’m messy, I’m imperfect … and I’m so happy. I’m so, so happy. I’m happy because I know who I am and I like who I am. And that, my friends, is becoming an adult.