You don’t just become an adult when you turn eighteen. Adulting is a process. It takes lots of trial and error and hard reminders from life and expired relationships. Although we grow up and acquire tools, responsibilities, and jobs, deep inside we are children who snap back often. Whenever we encounter resistance or triggers, our child rears its reactive head. We pout, whine, complain, and start swimming in our own shit. Adulting is a practice. It takes years to be aware of our child and not pull from who we used to be or how we were treated.
Also our definition of “adult” changes. What you thought was adult a couple years ago may not be today. Example: When I’m acting like an idiot with my guy friends telling inappropriate jokes and sending ridiculous texts is me adulting today. I would have labeled that immature a few years ago. But today, I believe we need some ridic in our lives. It makes us not take ourselves so seriously. It can be medicine with the right dosage.
At 43, I’m still learning to adult. But here are some definitions of what I believe adulting looks like today.
1. Don’t be an asshole.
Kids are allowed to react, throw peas at the wall, and have temper tantrums. This is part of their growth process as they learn that reactions won’t serve them. As an adult, you have the capacity to pause and choose differently. Being an asshole is a choice and a reaction. If you want to be an adult, don’t be an asshole. There’s no excuse. Respond to people. Think about how your words and actions will affect others as well as yourself before you respond.
2. Take full responsibility for where you are in your life.
You can bitch and complain about your life and some of it is totally fair. Many of us were dealt some really shitty cards and things have happened to us that we had no control over. Okay. But if you want to pull yourself out of quicksand and make some kind of dent in this world, you have to accept where you’re at. Completely. That’s the beginning of building or rebuilding anything. And the way to do that is by taking full responsibility of where you’re at. Own it fully in order to get the power back. The truth is many of us were victims. But a victim mindset does nothing but turn us into prisoners. If you want to turn the page, you must look at everything on it and digest it instead of trying to rip it out. What does taking full responsibility of your life look like?
3. Love hard.
I understand you’ve been hurt. We all have. But loving from a place of hurt isn’t loving. That’s hiding. And you will never hit the high notes of love you’re searching for if you’re hiding. So I know it’s hard but love as hard as you can. Don’t give yourself any, other, choice. Be fearless. Vulnerable. Show yourself. Put yourself out there. Completely. Eyes closed. Arms folded. Knowing he or she may not catch you. But what if you get hurt? You probably will. But what’s the alternative? Love with fear? And what would that look like? You know. You’ve been there before. And how did that work out? But more importantly, what would that feel like? Oatmeal, that’s what. So you have to make a choice. A difficult one that will bring you a shit-ton of resistance. You have to let go of control, predictions, expectations, and just practice love in its purest form, without fear. You have to wrestle logic, ego, and stand on the ledge with a fucking smile, knowing that loving someone else as hard as you can will always be more about you than anyone else.
4. Love responsibly.
Now the other half is responsibility. I’ll break it down to its simplest form. It means to communicate. Don’t leave people in the dark. We all know that when we sign up to love someone, we are also signing up for possible hurt. That’s just the name of the game. There’s no way around that. But there’s a difference between a broken heart and unnecessary hurt from being irresponsible. Or simply put, a coward. It takes courage to be vulnerable and honest. It takes courage to show yourself and have tough conversations. It takes courage to draw boundaries. It takes courage to not make it about you. It takes courage to make it about you. It takes courage to love responsibility.
5. Stop lying.
Yes to others but more importantly to yourself. Nothing can be built without truth. Children can believe their own lies. They live in fantasy. If you keep lying to yourself, you will always be a stunted child. This will keep you from everything you want because you will not be everything you are. You will be invisible. What is a truth you need to swallow in your life right now? Why is it so hard to swallow this truth? Most likely, fear. What does it mean if you finally swallow this truth? How will it change life? How will it change other people’s lives?
6. Check your ego.
I understand there is a healthy dose of ego we all need. I’m referring to a state where one is ego-driven, manipulating everything to circle around them instead of with them. Finding a way to always make it about them, so they gain and stand in the spotlight. What these people don’t know is their ego is blocking their potential.
Besides fear, ego is the other wall that will prevent you from all you can be. Our power will always be in giving. Not taking. We all have ego and it can swell fast. Adulting means being aware of it and choosing to pull from a different place. Children pull from their egos. Adults pull from their heart.
7. Call people back.
No one does this anymore. We’ve become so accustomed to texting and instant messaging that real voices bring us anxiety now. Why call when we can just text? Technology is training us to hide behind our phones instead of actually using them for what they were originally meant for.
If someone actually picks up the phone and calls you, you should call them back. Unless they’re your parents. Joke. But seriously, they want to talk to you not text to you. Or they would have just sent a text. Don’t allow technology to create gaps and disconnect in your relationships. Technology should be a tool to connect better, not a crowbar to separate us. Adults call people back.
8. Take care of your own shit.
Children make their problems other people’s problems. They don’t have self-awareness or the capacity to hold space for others. They vomit. And we allow it because they’re children. But adults do have capacity even though many chose not to. So if you want to adult, you must be aware of your own perceptions, problems, issues, and triggers, and how they affect other people. Especially in your relationships. If you don’t take care of your own shit, boundaries are blurred and you will be setting yourself up for an adult-child dynamic instead of two adults. Then don’t be surprised when you wake up one day and your partner tells you feelings have changed. The truth is the relationship dynamic has changed which then changed feelings.
9. Be grateful.
Children just want more and more and more. Adults want different. Well, some adults just want more and more and more. But then they are not adults. Because if that’s all you want, there is no room to practice gratitude. Adults practice gratitude. Children do not.
Be grateful for everything you have today, including all the chapters of your life you want to rip out, all your expired relationships, the challenges, the struggles, the turbulence, that you will get through. Like you got through before. Be grateful of all the lessons you’ve learned and how they have changed you into a better version of yourself. Be grateful for all your relationships, even if they can be challenging sometimes. Be grateful that you have choices. Be grateful that you can choose to be an adult.