The funny thing about #adulting – or at least the way most 140-character jokes about it exist – is that it reduces being a functioning person to an optional hobby. I have never understood why people find it funny more than they do sad at best and concerning at worst.
As Danielle Tullo puts it, scroll through the hashtag and you’ll see anecdotes like: “I grabbed drinks with friends but only talked about apartment leases #adulting,” “I have clean laundry!!! #adulting,” or “I made dinner that wasn’t hummus and baby carrots #adulting.”
“Adulting,” according to her, is like a “life choice you’re hesitant to fully buy into,” and it’s singularly millennial – and “especially female.”
And when you think about it like that, it really makes you take pause. Why don’t we say things like: “I just published something I’m very proud of, and I’m past my fear of being vulnerable with my partner, so things are going well. #Adulting.” Or: “I just took on some new responsibilities at work, and I am excited for what new trajectory this may put me on. #Adulting.”
As humor always bears shreds of unacknowledged/obvious truth, that trend is basically a product of how few women are willing to fully own their success, which despite this new age manifestation, is a problem as old as anything else.
Think about the women you know. How many can verbally recount their accomplishments and not back them with a “but,” a sour note to dull the shine, a reason why it’s not that great, an excuse for why it’s not where it could be, why they aren’t where they should be, what they sacrificed to arrive, what they regret, how tired they are, how the money doesn’t mean much when there’s no love, how the love is lukewarm when there’s no money… the list goes on.
Though in some cases it could be for the sake of transparency, most of the time, it’s about the overwhelmingly female complex to be likeable, and make everyone feel good. Being successful and aware of your success does not make everyone feel good. It envies. It upsets. It elicits comparisons. Women know this. We all know this.
We villainize successful women. We say they should have it all then doubt their authenticity when they do. We say they aren’t humble. We say they’re cold. We say they’re bad mothers. We ask about their wedding days, or whether they’ll ever meet someone.
We know what happens to women who don’t shoot themselves in the feet first.
But here’s something subversive and liberating and true: it’s not your responsibility to make other people feel comfortable – no matter the immediate social implications. It is only your responsibility to be honest. And maybe, if we all embraced our whole selves, we’d inspire one another to rise. Owning your success as much as you’re immediately willing to own your shortcomings isn’t over-inflating your ego, it’s seeing yourself with more accuracy.
It’s learning how to be happy, but without a catch. It’s learning how to be where you are without having to list where you want to be. It’s learning to communicate to other people in a way that doesn’t try to elicit or manipulate their emotional response, but to just share the truth, and be seen. *Be seen.* That thing we all want most of all.
Your success isn’t hurting anybody, but the words you speak become the house you live in, and muddying your happiness *does* hurt someone – consistently, and almost exclusively, you.