20 Lessons You Need To Learn When You’re An Adult

Thought Catalog Flickr
Thought Catalog Flickr

1. You don’t have to go out drinking every night. I know this might be hard to hear, but college doesn’t last forever and you can’t act like a frat boy for the rest of your life. What are you trying to prove? I know that when we turn 21, it seems like drinking is the most adult thing you can do, but the more adult thing is to remember you have to work in the morning and make money. There’s this thing called rent. You have to pay it, which is hard to do if you’re always spending it on booze, Charlie Sheen. As every gay bar patron knows, your decisions ain’t cheap. It’s hard to YOLO if you have NADA in your bank account.

2. You need to learn to admit when you’re wrong. Accepting our mistakes and our flaws is a crucial part of getting older and understanding that we aren’t perfect. You aren’t perfect. Nothing is perfect. Life is easier when you accept it for the hot mess it is and the hot mess you are.

3. You can’t do everything. When you’re in college or fresh out, you have all of these opportunities readily available, and you want all of them. Why be one thing when you grow up when you can be seven? But eventually, you’re going to have to decide what you want to be for the rest of your life and commit to what’s truly important. It sounds terrifying, and it is. But you get the best gift out of it: discovering yourself.

4. You’ll never figure it all out. I once asked my therapist how old she was when she figured out her life, and she erupted in laughter, wiping actual tears from her eyes. She told me that most people never do, and that’s okay. Most of everything in the universe is beyond your comprehension. How could your life be any different? But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of our awe and rapture. That’s precisely what makes life beautiful: our ability to be humbled by a world that’s bigger than us.

5. No one cares if you’re popular. I’m sure it mattered when you were in high school, but life isn’t high school. There’s no prom in the real world, and it doesn’t matter how many friends you have on Facebook or who comes to your birthday party. What matters are the people who are in your life, whether it’s 10,000 Twitter followers or your best friend, Leslie. Being cool as an adult, when you aren’t rewarded for it by not getting pushed into a locker, is exhausting. Besides, when you grow up, you learn that the freaks and weirdoes have way more fun.

6. You can’t figure out who you are if you never leave your hometown. To all my friends back home in Cincinnati, this isn’t meant to be a dig. (#gobengals) But have you ever heard a hero story that goes, “The hero grew up and never left home ever. The End.” No, that doesn’t happen. At some point, you need to move away or travel abroad in order to see how much of the world there is. You’ll never know who you are unless you strive to discover something outside of your own experience. Europe is a great place to start.

7. Your parents can’t support you forever. Learn from Hannah on Girls: it’s hard to be an adult when your parents pay for everything. It’s fine when you’re in college, but when you’re out in the job market, what’s your excuse? I know a lot of people who live at home right now because of dat economy, and even they don’t treat their parents as an ATM. Being an adult is figuring out your own way, and enjoying your independence. Take it from Destiny’s Child: Independent women take care of themselves and frost their own dollas, although I don’t know what that means.

8. Failing doesn’t make you a failure. It seems like everyone I know is so afraid of screwing anything up, as all those special interest summer camps and Muzzy tapes bred an army of perfectionists. But if you don’t fail at things, you’ll never learn how to handle disappointment or accept anything else other than what you thought you wanted. You might not get what you want, but a lot of the time, what you end up with is even better.

9. Marriage is not the end-all-be-all of adulthood. For those who watched Sex and the City, you know that adults do lots of things that have nothing to do with getting married. We hang out with our friends, eat an astounding amount of pizza (because Mom and Dad can’t tell you no) and Instagram too much of that pizza. We have dinner parties, have boozy breakfasts, start our own businesses and obsessively write about our feelings on the internet. Do you know how much of that job of being an adult requires a degree in matrimony? Zero. You’re an adult, and you need this time to make some mistakes, kiss some frogs and figure out what you like. Enjoy the perks of being a total slut while you can.

10. You don’t have to spend a lot to look good. When you’re in high school or middle school, your sartorial worth is always attached to how much it cost you — or rather, your parents. “My parents had to mortgage our house for this dress. Doesn’t my ass look fantastic in it?” It’s about asserting class status, but as an adult, you just look like GOB from Arrested Development. You should be proud of saving the money you worked hard for and snagging a great find from the cute thrift store you’ve always wanted to visit. If you want to compete about something, brag about how paid less. “I pulled this off a corpse in an alley! It probably has termites. Isn’t it great?”

11. You can’t please everyone. Repeat after me. “I can’t please everyone. I can’t please everyone. I can’t please everyone.” Now say it forty times. Either you’ll summon Bloody Mary or have a much happier life.

12. You’re going have to do some things you don’t want. I once read an article that attempted to just throw away my interim job, and go for my dream job. Reach for the stars!  Well, honey, it’s hard to do that if you can’t lift your arms because you are too poor to eat. Being an adult is realizing you can’t have everything all at once and working a couple crappy jobs while you get there. When you finally do get the job you want, the memories of that call center job will make you cherish it all the more.

13. However, don’t get trapped forever in a dead end job that you hate. Have you seen Office Space?  Do not let this be your future, especially because the office burns down at the end. That could have you in it.

14. You need to make time for yourself. Being an adult is stressful, especially when many of us are paying to do the thing we love (writing) with our day job (which is definitely not writing). You end up busy with work, friends, family, dating, and your trivia league, but how much down time do you have? How much time do you have to relax, meditate or just veg out and watch reruns of Skins? When we get absorbed in our schedules and the hectic pace of our lives, we often forget how important it is to recharge or take “Me Time.” Take that yoga class, go for a solitary run every day or read a book in silence. But if you never take the time to live for yourself, you’ll never live.

15. Also, you’re not that busy. It seems like every twenty-something I know always wants to talk about how busy they are and brag about how they’re only running on two hours of sleep. Fuck that. I love sleep. I brag when I get too much sleep, and if I suddenly became Rip Van Winkle, I’d feel like the biggest playa alive. People in my age bracket are in this weird competition to see who has the most going on and who can do the most things without dying, and their schedules are always too important to include you. However, people who are truly interested in hanging out with you will make time for you no matter how busy they are — whether that’s today or later next week, when things calm down. You choose what to do with your time, and you can spend that time complaining about how you “never have free time” or use your whining time to make room for other people who aren’t your ego. Eureka!  Free time was here all along.

16. Adulthood sucks without friends to share it with. When you’re a kid, you have your family to form your core group and your support system, bring you soup when you’re sick and help put your heart back together when it gets broken. When you’re an adult, that’s what your friends and chosen family are for, the ones who will also get drunk and go watch Lincoln with you. They are there to love you unconditionally, and you better appreciate them for all the times they put up with you. You might not always deserve them, but they are there for you no matter what.

17. Otherwise, getting older is awesome. This could be its own article, but aging kind of rules. When you were a kid, you couldn’t stay up late, eat ice cream for breakfast or spend all night fucking some guy on the kitchen floor and in the bathroom and all over the sofa — in positions you didn’t even know were a thing. You can even make up your own! You can have multiple partners at once! You can have casual sex with friends without needing to talk about your feelings! I know everyone’s like “aging’s weird because kids don’t know what Full House is,” but you never saw Reverse Cowgirl on Full House. Unless Kimmy was gibbling some weird shit.

18. Life doesn’t end at 30. I don’t know about you, but I’m stoked as hell for my thirties — which Cougar Town promises me are dirty. I can’t wait to be more settled in my career and developing grey hair prematurely, because I suspect I’m going to be a silver fox. I want to ascend to the ranks of George Clooney and Anderson Cooper, who made going grey a panty/jock-strap dropper. And ladies in the audience: look at Rachel Weisz. That bitch is 42, looks more luminous with each passing day and gets to have sex with Daniel Craig whenever she wants. That’s what I aspire to at any age.

19. You don’t have to grow up all the way. When you’re an adult, you set your own rules about what that means to you, and just because you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s doesn’t mean you have to be a bastion of maturity all the time. You’re allowed to act like a big kid, get silly, still drink with the crazy straw and play laser tag. Why else do you think they have kickball leagues for adults? It’s because some things about childhood shouldn’t be left in the past. They’re fun for all ages.

20. No one has it all. Whoever started this idea should be banished to the bowels of internet hell, which I imagine exists on 4chan. No one has it all. Not you. Not me. Not men, not women, not Liz Lemon, not Barack Obama, not Christiane Amanpour, not Clarissa, not even Ash Ketchum had it all. Other people might seem to have everything, but I’m sure you have something they don’t, like a third nipple. Besides, I heard that Glenn Close — who wins Emmys for blinking — once got explosive diarrhea in Europe. Don’t you feel better now? TC mark

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