Adulting. Somewhere in the past few years (though its initial uses can be seen as early as 2011), millennials have adopted this verb as their resounding buzzword, the answer to their young adult troubles. Being a millennial, I will admit that I’ve used it on a number of occasions, but felt idiotic immediately after it left my mouth. What we’re calling “adulting” is merely what normal people are expected to do in their daily lives: waking up at a decent time, buying groceries, doing laundry and ironing it; things modern homo sapiens have been doing without such fervent complaint for decades before we millennials showed up and minimized their efforts.
What I’m proposing is not necessarily an end to the term—I have no authority to say what words we can or cannot do, not until I marry into the Merriam or Webster family and take over a dictionary empire. What we should do instead is take adulting less seriously. I’m serious! At what point do we magically stop being children? Is it the moment we turn 18 or 21 or graduate high school or get our first job? When we start paying our own rent or buying insurance? Does it even matter?
Adulting (forgive my use of the word this once) is important, don’t get me wrong. Perhaps society would deteriorate if we all quit our jobs and stopped paying bills. There’s probably a dystopian novel out there for every possible scenario.
But instead of getting caught up in all the reasons the world is more unforgiving now that we are older and the responsibilities seem endless, it might be more essential (and enjoyable) to embrace all the things we loved about life when we were young. I’m calling it “childing.” Though the copyright is already in progress, alternate suggestions are welcomed.
Childing is about flying kites and drawing with chalk on your driveway and riding your bikes without planning where you’re going and wearing sunglasses shaped like pineapples because you can. It’s about not caring whether you have the most respectable pantsuit in the office or whether you washed your lights with your darks and ended up with pink underwear. Millennial Pink is the color of the year anyway, right? Being a child is about making mistakes.
At some point in our human discourse, we’ve been told we’re not allowed to make mistakes if we want to succeed. That’s potentially an explanation why perfectionism and anxiety are so rampant among our generation. Perhaps I’m biased because I spend a lot of time around children (summer camp counselor reporting for duty) but they experience the world in such a unique and carefree way that adults do not. So I’m not saying you should ignore all of your adult duties, but spend more time viewing the world with childlike wonder. One of my favorite quotes by Abraham Heschel embodies this quite well: ““Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually.”
Go out into this worry-ridden, responsibility-laden world that we live in and experience it in radical amazement. Once you change your attitude, your life will change—I firmly believe that. Take time today to lay in the grass and pick out animals in the clouds. Eat blue ice cream and get it all over your face (but maybe avoid getting it on your pantsuit, because stain-removing is a really adult thing to do). Run around barefoot and blow bubbles and wear two different socks because life is too short to spend it “adulting.” And then get back to arranging appointments and balancing the checkbook (but you can listen to some throwbacks while you do it), because it is really all about balance. Employers talk about work-life balance; consider the necessity of an adult-child balance too. Just because we grow old doesn’t mean we have to grow up all the way.
Get out, millennials, and prove that we are above the entitlement of the term but can handle the responsibility with a bit of childlike wonder.