As you can tell by the title of this list, I clearly fall into the category of “Kid.” The fact that I’m even trying to find a shortcut through the trenches of my twenties is sort of a dead giveaway.
Like so many of my peers, I’m stuck in that twenty-something rut of wanting to be a full-grown-has-their-shit-together-capital-A Adult, but also wanting to burrow myself under the covers until the real world quits knocking. It’s just so hard.
Listen, I know that I sound like a whiny child. That’s because I am a whiny child. I think that the twenty-something crisis is perpetuated primarily by the fact that we Kids get to retain our infant status basically indefinitely these days.
We’ve grown up in an age where if there’s not a person to do things for us, there’s probably an electronic that can. Selfie toasters, cars that drive themselves, self-rotating ice cream cones?? I mean, really, what a time to be alive!
I don’t know when exactly this pivotal switch happened between us and the previous generations, but do you think my parents or my grandparents spent their days creating memes with a Bob’s Burger on marathon in the background while they were waiting to start their Adult lives? Hell no.
Somehow, in all of Hollywood’s vast dramatization of reality, they’ve really skipped over any kind of reasonable representation of how to make the transition from know-nothing, imbecile Kid to calm, cool and collected Adult.
And I don’t know. Maybe it has always been like this. Maybe this period of confusion and despair is just an unavoidable facet of life, no matter which decade you grew up in. In my head, I see it happening for my parents and grandparents as a quick change, but I recognize that it’s pretty self-involved and naïve to assume that no other generation has fallen into these murky depths of indecision and indirection.
In my admittedly very slim understanding of things, it used to be a much simpler and more expedited process. You were in the workforce by 18 if you didn’t go to college, sooner if you didn’t finish high school. If you went to college, it was a privilege to work your ass off to receive that degree. It most definitely wasn’t a four-year-long safe-haven from the rest of the Adult world, and it even more most definitely wasn’t followed by spending time messing around while you figured out your actual game plan from your parents’ couch. I feel like before, receiving a degree was the game plan, and you’d be set. You’d be working in your field almost immediately, providing for yourself and your family.
Yes, I get that it’s calling growing up because it’s a constant process of expanding your horizons and figuring things out. I get that it’s a present progressive term because it’s not something with a beginning and an end, and it’s not something that you can accomplish in a one-second snap of your fingers.
I get that. In theory. In practice, though, I find myself spending a lot of time comparing myself to the 22-year-old software geniuses and pop stars of the world, wondering if I’m ever going to find my way out of this abyss. (Ok, sometimes I’m a little dramatic.)
And while my normal protocol for when life gives you lemons is to use those lemons as a pillow and take a nap, these lemons are beginning to feel like a problem that even healthy avoidance can’t fix.
As a disclaimer, I really do think you could zap yourself into an Adult pretty easily if you were actually ready to go balls-deep into the trenches of Adulthood (salaried jobs, families and home-ownership), but the key words there are “actually ready.” It only takes about .3 seconds to realize that I, for one, am nowhere near mentally or emotionally prepared for that.
So instead, here’s six extremely low effort ways to ease into Adulthood:
1. Take a multivitamin.
Seriously, it’s that easy. What self-respecting Adult doesn’t take their vitamins? I feel like that’s right up there with flossing twice daily, except people actually do it.
Taking a vitamin is one of easiest thing you can do. It takes approximately two seconds, has all kind of immune boosting benefits and can really be done at any time, anywhere. Not to mention that the gummy ones are essentially just sugar-coated candy packed with micronutrients. I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly a win-win in my book.
2. Start your day a little earlier.
I always hear real-life Adults talking about how their biological clocks have them up with sun and how they can’t sleep in if they try… May it never be so. Personally, I’m still in the phase of my life where my internal alarm clock has dipped out and left me to sleep indefinitely until forcibly awakened by an actual alarm clock.
And here’s a fun fact: Adults are recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Yeah, Self, you heard that, a night. As in, regulate your schedule so you’re not up until three in the morning and sleeping until noon, you crazy person, you. Plus, I don’t need to tell you everything that sleep is good for, but here’s a reminder: weight control, skin problems, mental clarity and focus, etc., etc.
I might not know any exact stats, but you’ve gotta at least be slightly more likely to have a productive day if you don’t sleep through half of it, right?
3. Stay current.
We live in the most connected age, like, ever, and I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s hard to rest easy knowing that the fate of the world is in the hands of our generation when so many of us don’t even have a clue about the big issues happening in our own states, let alone the rest of the country, or even the world.
The physical newspaper industry might not be doing so well at the moment, but luckily, in today’s world, there are literally thousands of other sources tossing information at you on all different platforms.
You can follow a few (note the plural) news organizations on Twitter, join a mailing list (like the NY Times Daily Briefing, The Skimm, The Hustle, etc.) or even just put the news on in the background while you get ready in the morning or while you make dinner. Even if it’s skimming headlines for 5 minutes a day, having a sense of what’s happening big picture can do wonders for helping you not feel so small.
4. Learn to cook something.
And for the overachievers, make it a vegetable.
I can’t tell you how grown-up I feel when I make a kale-quinoa salad. And when it doesn’t taste like shit so I actually end up enjoying it? That’s just a bonus.
I think a lot of people went a little crazy when they left home for the first time. College, I’m looking at you and your all-you-can-eat buffet style dining halls and the fact that it was socially acceptable to be drunk at almost any point during the week.
Now, however, we’ve got jobs. We’ve got bills, and stress-weakened immune systems and responsibilities. Most importantly, however, we’ve got metabolisms that are slowing down and (mean) roommates who will judge you for killing that entire pizza on your own.
Why not kale two birds with one stone by learning to be self-sufficient and also making ma proud? Ha.
5. Bring some life into this world.
Nothing screams maturity more than being responsible for another life.
Let’s start small and stay rational here, though, folks.
Puppies and babies are a bit much for the very, very beginning-stage Adults, such as myself, so how about a plant? They’re not as cuddly, true, but they can be cute, and they require much less maintenance and much lower commitment.
Pick a plant that’s impossible to kill. It’ll add some life to your shoebox rental and also make you at least feel like you’re making great strides.
6. Lastly, but certainly not least, take a breath.
And let it out. Repeat indefinitely.
Relax. Do some yoga or look up some inspirational quotes. Maybe write a pretty-long-winded list-based essay on how to deal with the impending doom… whatever you’ve (I’ve) got to do to make peace with the whole Adult thing.
Even though it’s all absurdly overwhelming, the bright side to this whole mess is that thousands and thousands of years of people have lived through this before you. They’ve figured out what they want to do with their lives, and they’ve somehow thought about their general purpose on this Earth without self-combusting.
And anytime you need reassurance, just remember that the people before you managed this all in an age when you actually had to rotate your own ice cream cone.