I hate social media. Like, can I just be real about it? I hate the petty Facebook feuds, the tweets that somehow reveal more than I ever wanted to know about someone in just 140 characters or less, and how people construct these ideas on Instagram about their happy, adventure-filled lives where they know everyone and look runway-ready every day. But in all seriousness, one of my least favorite things about social media is reading people’s statuses containing their misconstrued ideas about adulthood.
Since when did my generation start buying into the idea that there’s only one way to do it right? And where did these ideas come from anyway? That getting a college degree, never moving back from our college town, marrying our university sweetheart and bumming it for a year to save up money to buy our first house with the white picket fence, and never having to ask Mommy and Daddy for a dime thereafter is the way to have “arrived” at adulthood! Life’s all tied up in a neat little bow. When did we get so foolish to think that’s how it all works?
I hate seeing pictures of my friends’ official hospital ID or first-year classroom, with silly captions about their first post-grad job officially deeming them a grown up. Heck, if achieving even one of my aforementioned milestones makes someone the real deal, then I’m still a child.
Some of us have been blessed with the support of families who would rather us focus on saving a dollar before they send us out into the world where we’d just sit in our apartments after work nibbling on bread and ramen because it’s all we could afford. Some of us have chosen fields of work where we’re passionate about the mission, but aren’t making much. Or think about the unpaid internship that’ll lead to more experience, a larger network, and a stronger resume. Or take missionaries for example, many of which literally raise their salary to live and do ministry. Or those of us who are working, but aren’t actually sure what profession we might want to invest time and energy into for the bulk of our lives. Or young adults who board a plane to Europe after collecting their degree at the end of the stage. Or what about those heading off to grad school, and living with Mom and Dad until they’ve finished up their masters program? Or students who chose not to pursue the four-year degree which everyone raves about but instead opt for a the more direct approach: the trade school education (and who can blame them? screw Gen Eds!)? Do any of those those things disqualify us from being adults? Please tell me.
I’m glad I only have my student loans and fuel to pay each month, and although you shouldn’t envy that, I truly believe that living for as long as possible for free is right for me at this time in my life. It’s almost like a little project I have: for how long, and in how many places I can live, love, learn, grow, and serve for free or as cheap as possible? Being that I love kids―nannying for free room, board, pocket money, and flexibility to work on my passion projects and side hustles suits me well for now, thank you.
My situation doesn’t make me a child. Or irresponsible. It doesn’t mean I’ve lost my way. That I’m doing adulthood wrong. No, it’s helping me explore the facet in which I’ll best work with kids; I’ve already done the whole teaching assistant thing, and now I’m interacting with youth in a more intimate setting. So what I’m not ready to decide whether I want to pursue another degree or just be certified or even teach overseas? Working with kids is one skill of many that I’m strengthening in order to serve others, to live a simple and frugal life, and to eventually lead me to every corner of the United States and every country I’ve ever wanted to visit. Just think: have you acquired skills to eventually get you closer to achieving your long-term dreams and goals?
And because I don’t have my own place, or even many of my own possessions, that makes it possible and practical to pick up and explore. Because I’m not in a relationship, I can be flexible. I can pay my loans from anywhere. I don’t have to request time off work. And so on and so forth. Might it be possible that maybe, just maybe, in the midst of trying to “get it right” and “make a life” for yourself, that you (or someone you know) has forgotten to actually live? Hope your fancy car, apartment, and first salaried job are getting you a step closer to where you want to be―that’s all I’m saying.
I’m happy for those of you who have worked your tails off to make your current status happen. I truly am. No one would ever claim that you’re not an adult. Seriously, appreciate the fact that you work hard to put food on the table, that you juggle relationships and long hours and buying groceries and doing laundry.
But don’t tell me or your peers who have chosen (or who actually have to) live an “alternative” lifestyle, for the time being, that we haven’t made it. Don’t forget that some of the tangible symbols of your adulthood aren’t the strong desires or focus of people like me, so no, I don’t really think I’m missing out on much, but ya know―you do you.
Sure, the path of finishing school, getting married, and purchasing a house is the typical course of action, the norm for recent grads, but who are we to say it’s the only way to navigate the real world? It works for most, but this course is not the superior or dominant option, and my way of life is not “Other.” This is something we all need to get right, otherwise those of you who’ve nestled into your first job and pad will think you’re better, and those of us not hardwired for the 9-5 may think there’s something wrong with us―that we’ve made major mistakes, or have to change our ways, or that we’ll never be good enough. Take heed to what I’ve been learning about adulthood, and let’s stop acting as if there’s one bridge to the island. Because even though it’s never been on my bucket list to own a home―it doesn’t mean I haven’t found my place. *Drops mic*