Very rarely, though it does happen, people ask me if I see myself as an adult now that I’m out of school, working full-time, and living alone. I must admit that the transition from being a student (a grad student nonetheless) to being a “young professional” took a bit of struggling. For example, for the longest time after I started working, I avoided looking at my 401K because the word “Roth” made me feel utterly incompetent (as does, basically, anything that has to do with taxes). As I was graciously thrown out of my comfortable school bubble and into the wild, I also had a hard time learning how to be alone, structuring my time so I have fun but also am productive, and feeling “on track” toward a goal.
While I don’t claim to have it all figured out, I have made a list of some drastic shifts in my life over the past year that made me realize, yes, I am becoming more of an adult than before. I’m not sure if any of us can ever say with certainty that we’re “adults”— levity in life is so important, and that only comes with the big kids inside of us.
1. You wake up on Sunday, trying to push away the blues associated with the imminent arrival of yet another work week. You briefly consider day-drinking, but instead you take your laptop to a coffee shop and do work to make yourself feel better.
2. You pack lunch to take to work.
3. You start being OK with coming straight home after work to an empty apartment instead of panicking at the thought of it as soon as it starts getting dark out.
4. On your way home from work, you feel ambivalent and sometimes slightly nauseous at the thought of ordering from Seamless or ducking into a random restaurant to grab mediocre food. Instead you look forward to coming home, where you can strip off your body-binding work attire, throw on your sweats and an apron, and peacefully make food in the kitchen to the musical wonder that is Norah Jones.
5. You no longer go out drinking every weeknight, mostly because when you do, you’re more or less a wreck the next day. You still get peer-pressured into it sometimes, and the next morning you wonder at what point in your life you’ve gotten less tolerant to this kind of self-abuse.
6. You used to think it was perfectly fine to snuggle under your sheets and pass out watching Netflix on weeknights — until you find yourself doing the same thing on Friday night…and sometimes Saturday night. Then you get over it and secretly congratulate yourself on all the sleep you’re finally able to catch up on since you started pulling all-nighters at the age of 17.
7. Fridays. You still get excited that it’s a Friday. You still send “TGIF!” texts to people as you enjoy taking part in the general celebratory movement. You try to make grand plans for the evening that would entail dressing up to Top 40 music then going out and dancing with strangers. Then things quickly go downhill after you’ve taken a shower. You lie on your bed and inadvertently become one of those “lame” people who cancels at the last minute because they have trouble staying awake past 10:30.
8. You have trouble staying awake past 10:30.
9. On Saturdays, you wake up bright and early in a state of ecstatic optimism. It could be hailing outside, but you’re still up for anything. You make grand plans, work out, do laundry — generally being very badass. Then somehow you find yourself crashing by 4PM, at which time you nap unabashedly deep into the evening.
10. You have meaningful discussions with your friends about collecting points from various sources such as credit cards, air miles, and hotels as a part of the broader discussion of How to Save Money.
11. You find it increasingly intolerable to have roommates.
12. You find yourself increasingly displeased by teenagers, especially those that travel in groups on school trips and milling around malls and tourist attractions that really aren’t that spectacular.
13. You and your friends start discussing neighborhoods. High on the checklist are things such as the presence of a good grocery store, a washer/dryer in the suite, and property value. There’s often a general sullenness as all of you realize the impossibility of buying your own apartment in your dream neighborhood, and you always jokingly end the discussion with “Rent is too high. I need to get married.”
14. You experience moments of panic as you question whether or not your city is really a suitable place for settling down. Sometimes you will reassure yourself it’s not by stumbling down the streets in the “cool part of town” to observe the gaggles of clubgoers being ushered into $$$$$ Club by a dubious promoter.
15. You go out dancing sometimes—not to meet someone or get wasted or because your friends are going out, but because you like dancing.
16. You take deep breaths and realize that taking on more responsibility doesn’t make you a bore. You understand that everything takes time, that you should enjoy the present moment and make the most out of your independence. One day things may change, but that will naturally happen when you’re ready.