The thing about growing up is that you’ve been doing it since the day you were born. It has always involved taking the initiative to do new things — standing upright, taking baby steps, learning hundreds and then thousands of words and how to marry them into sentences. Completing each of these tasks took a lot of patience, caused a lot of frustration — but they were necessary to our development as humans and, in my humble opinion, totally worth it. And so when I hear people talking about how difficult it is to become a “real person” or about how they’re not ready to do “adult things,” I wonder why they have the expectation that these are things that just happen. As though on graduation day, you wake up and you’re magically unafraid of confronting your bills and calling your mom back.
I don’t fault people for describing their life in this way, in those terms, because it does seem like some store-bought version of adulthood is what’s expected of us once we’re no longer of school-age (whatever that means to you). There are articles asking us to buy houses to stimulate the economy (LOL). Articles about us moving back in with our parents. Articles about our endless adolescence, our Peter Pan syndrome, our incapacity to grow the hell up. We’ve been conditioned to believe that life happens in stages, that there are milestones to be reached, that you go from infant to child, from adolescent to adult. And now that we’re up at bat, now that we’re of “adult age,” we keep striking out.
The truth though, is that you’re not just some adolescent, or some adult, or some merging of the two. You’re you. You’re just you. You always will be. And so the decisions that you make are the only things that define you. Not your age, not your savings account, not your thread count. You are in control of your own life. In the same vein, you are responsible for your own life. I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. But when your bedroom in your “real person” house looks more like some freshman’s dorm, whose fault is that? Whose fault is it that you have a hangover every morning? Whose fault is it that you’re broke, that 40% of your paycheck goes to dining out because you never learned how to cook or make time to shop for groceries?
The things we complain about, the “adult” minutiae we find boring and bleak, are not going to go away. They won’t disappear. They will follow you into your 40s and 50s and 60s. You can ignore them and continue to act like a caricature of the bumbling, helpless post-grad packaged up like a pretty little gift for trend piece writers, or you can suck it up and deal with it. I don’t mean to be critical because I’m guilty of it, too. I put off things like cleaning and grocery shopping in favor of lounging around watching crime documentaries. Then I hate myself when my room is a mess and I’m ordering Seamless web for the fourth time that week. Errands aren’t fun, I get it. But my choices have nothing to do with whether I’m ready to be an adult or not. My choices have everything to do with the person I’m choosing to be, the person I’m telling the world I am. The whole “I’m not ready to be an adult” thing is a cop-out. You’re actually just not ready to do work, to improve, to grow. Even 3-year-old you was more ambitious than that. But here’s a gentle reminder of why you should continue to move forward rather than stand like a deer in the headlights of your future: You won’t mature or gain experience or learn anything if you continually make the same choices. If you always take the easy way out, you will always be the same person.
You wake up every morning and are confronted with thousands of decisions to make. You can decide to do the convenient thing, or you can decide to do something that might take more effort but will ultimately give you less to complain about. Your life will always be this way. You’re given endless opportunities to change the things you dislike about it. Even in a situation where you have no control, you’re still in control of your mind. You choose how you respond to the world around you. Every action you take defines who you are. Nothing else. You are not a 20-something. You are not a stalled-out adolescent. You’re just you. You’re responsible for who you are and what you do. And that’s a huge responsibility, I know. But the sooner you accept it, the sooner you’ll begin to feel like a real person. I promise.