“I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this age before.”
People say you’re supposed to be an adult at age 18, 21, 24. People say a lot of things, but as you check each of those birthdays off the calendar, thinking the next one will be the one, you start to wonder: Am I ever going to feel like an adult?
When you were a child or teenager, the “adult” was a concept of something that you were not. Like, “I don’t know what the hell it means to be an adult, but I sure as hell know I’m not one, so yeah! Take that, old people!”
You didn’t know exactly what it meant to be an adult, but you knew you weren’t one for sure. I mean, how could you be, right? But as you got older, it became harder and harder to convince yourself that you weren’t an adult, and you started to wonder why you hadn’t hit that stride that would carry you into being a proper adult like your parents.
I think the truth is that you never will.
None of us actually ‘become’ adults, we just kind of… are.
Growing up is a process of learning many different new things, and letting go of many of the things that defined our younger selves. For some of us, we might have let go of our crazy, impossible dreams, like the dream teenage me had of being a rock star. Or, we let go of the all-consuming desire to be liked and popular.
Being an adult is not just about learning how to pay your taxes and make money at your job and gamble with stocks; it’s also about unlearning things from your younger days, for better or worse.
For every bad habit we let go of as we mature, we often let go of good character traits as well, and learn terrible things from the people who call themselves adults. We learn to be judgemental, to discriminate. We learn the difficult truths that selfishness is the law of the land, and that there is no such thing as good or bad, right or wrong.
Adulthood is about learning, first and foremost. But since we learn throughout our lives, the process of becoming an adult is really an ongoing one. In that sense, if we grow into adults, then the ‘adult’ is really just a perfect version of ourselves that we can never be, like a dog chasing its own tail.
For what it’s worth, though, here are a few lessons I’ve learnt that have helped me in some little way in my clueless fumble through adulthood. Maybe they’ll help you too. Well, probably not, but who knows right?
To Be Happy Is to not give a f*ck
In ‘simpler’ times, all people had to care about was food, water, shelter, and sex. That was it. Get fed, get hydrated, find a cave, get laid. Now, we have a laundry list of stupid little things, including laundry, to attend to, and it’s frankly exhausting af. Is it better than living in the jungle and worrying about getting mauled by tigers? Probably. But it’s still exhausting af.
People use the term ‘carefree’ as if it’s something they want, something they aspire to, but they do absolutely nothing to achieve it. Too many people care way too much about way too many things, and in doing so neglect the truly important things in life.
Trim the fat. Pick your battles. Stop caring about things that are not important.
Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business
Speaking of not giving a f*ck, one of the stupidest things to give a f*ck about is the opinion someone else has of you. Especially stupid is when you care about the opinions of people you don’t even know. That is the kind of nonsense high schoolers worry themselves with.
So, f*ck those people staring at you on the train. F*ck superficial acquaintances who think they know everything about you because they’re such great judges of character. F*ck the things people say about you but are too spineless to say to you. They don’t matter. And your opinions of others shouldn’t matter to them either.
Everyone thinks they’re the good guy
In the process of becoming an adult, you realize that the ‘good guys’ – sold to you by the media as kids – don’t actually exist. Right or wrong is all a matter of perception. There is no such thing as an objectively ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person, only a person who is good or bad for you.
When you learn this, you stop chasing someone else’s ideals of what it means to be good, and start focusing on your own version of being a good person. You understand that the righteous hate you have for others is all bullshit, and you become more understanding of the differences between people. You learn that there is often no point in trying to convince someone to see things from your point of view, and to instead live in a state of mindful acceptance with the world around you.
Growing up sucks, let’s be honest. But maybe next time you feel lost and confused about adulting, you can take some solace in the knowledge that everyone else is just as f*cking clueless as you are.