How do you Adult?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Eli
Comic by xkcd used by Creative Commons license.

I'm young. I just turned twenty-two, and when I get married I will be three weeks shy of my twenty-fourth birthday. I graduated college recently, and while I am working full-time, I still live at home and don't really have any expenses. Which is awesome, because I have the opportunity to save up, and my job does not pay very well at all.

But at the same time… I have almost no idea how to be a fully-functioning adult.

I was thinking about this all last night because I'd just signed up for dental and life insurance through my work, and that sort of thing feels really grown-up. Responsibility! Future planning! Insurance! But it also cast into sharp relief the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing and I'm scared as hell.

How do Other People do it?

I just feel like when we get married, and start living independently, I'm going to be completely lost. There's so much I don't know. My mom is basically flawless — she works full-time and still manages to be a domestic goddess. I watch her and just wonder how on earth she manages it.

And it's not even just the domestic household chores that freak me out — I'm actually pretty handy at that sort of thing — but things like bills and loans and car payments and mortgages and insurance and savings and home maintenance and car repairs.

And then, since we want to have kids, and to start relatively soon, it occurred to me that in five or six years I'm going to be a MOM. That got me even more freaked out. I babysit, and I know a lot about taking care of kids, but there's so much stuff I never even considered — like sleep training, and breastfeeding, and what way the baby should sleep (on zir stomach? back? side? The research seems to change every ten years).

Pointless panicking, I know. Because the truth is, I know that eventually I will learn all this stuff. And while I may screw up, I'm not going to be alone in all this — I'll have my husband with me, and we'll figure it out, the way everyone does.

In the ever-wise words of Rubeus Hagrid, "What's coming will come, and we'll have to meet it when it does."

So, let's hear it Homies who've been there. When did you feel like you'd truly become an adult? What steps were most important to getting to that feeling?

      • Seriously, though, the biggest thing about being an adult is learning how to figure out all the things you don't have the first fucking clue about. Eventually you start to feel reasonably confident that you will be able to figure those things out or fake your way through them, and maybe that's what it feels like to be an adult.

        • Exactly. Learn how to learn. I still backslide sometimes and I have to remind myself that EVERYONE is muddling through.

          And people have vastly different levels of confidence relative to their competence. So even if you feel less confident than someone else appears, it doesn't always mean that they are actually more competent than you are. I think sometimes the only way to be confident with yourself is to recognize that you've been at square one before with a different problem, and you made it through that problem just fine, so you can make it through this one too.

    • in the mean time, i really like sites like for lessons in being a grown-up. doesn't help much with the panic and i don't think anything ever will. my new job is super responsible and i kinda can't believe they trust me with it when i currently have a blanket fort in my living room because i can't get my landlord to fix the heat

  1. I remember being 19, and had recently moved out of my parents house and into my first apartment with my now-fiance, and talking to some friends at my synagogue who are my parents generation (50s ish). I don't recall the context, but mentioned feeling like an adult, sort of and sort of not like an adult at all. They sort of laughed, and said they still don't feel like Grownups. I think the key to adulthood is sort of just muddling along, making the best choice in the moment, and realizing we are never all grown up.

    • Ha, this just reminded me that, the other day, one of my coworkers made a comment about what "the grownups" do. And I said, "You know, technically we *are* the grownups…"

      And then we all had a moment of silence.

  2. Tell you a secret – none of us feel "grown up". I'm 36 and still feel 17 a lot of the time (hell, I'm one of those who still thinks 1990 was ten years ago). We muddle through, make our mistakes, *learn* from those mistakes, and keep our cool.

    A friend (age 58 when she said this) once commented: "A lot of people mistake being tired as adulthood. You're just tired – take a nap and you'll feel like You, not a phase of Life."

  3. Oh, this is excellent. I feel like this nearly every day. I'm 26, a married, full-time working, home-owning mother, and I still want to just hide in a blanket fort with a book and eat mac-n-cheese.

    You'll learn as you go that everyone, at some point or another, feels like they are an intruder into this strange world of adulthood. In reality, there is no grown up club. We're all just kids inside wondering who the heck decided it was a good idea to give us a mortgage. Or a baby!

    I actually find it quite comforting. I love being an adult way more than I expected. I thought I had to give up Legos and LOTR. Turns out, not so much! Plus now I have a little human to share in my childish pursuits with me! Win!

    • One of my best friends said she knew she was ready to have a baby, when she wanted to build blanket forts to play in, rather than to hide in.
      And now she gets to buy all the toys she wants, without getting -that- look from the store clerks when she's a 24-year-old woman buying batman lego.

  4. I would say we are all still just figuring it out as we go along. I'm married, with a kid, self employed (as is my husband)…and I couldn't tell you that I have this whole "adult" thing cased. I don't think I ever will, nor do I think I should. It's all about learning and changing and moving forward.

    I think the little things you learn your own systems, organization, paying bills, mortgages, etc. But it takes time, and energy. Heck it took me a year to even figure out how to be a moderately productive self employed person at home.

    Remember that being an adult isn't all about responsibility and stuff and things. It's about fun too, and keeping fun in your life is important to who you are.

  5. Some of it happens as a trial by fire. I moved out at 19 and was glad I had a roommate who understood bills and that because I had no idea. I slowly became more responsible for that kind of thing but I still have moments of confusion. But you learn to call when something isn't working and to pay bills.

    But to help you out, why not talk to your mom about this stuff? Maybe she can help you get some experience in a safe setting with doing some of this. I wish I'd been able to know more about budgeting and all that sort of thing earlier. I fumbled through my 20s and survived without ever having to be too responsible or aware and then suddenly I had a lower paying job, no bonus money and I was on my own. That was scary. My mom admitted that they never really budgeted though so she wouldn't have been able to sit down with me and a budget and talk about how you manage on X money.

    As for other things, there are people who are experts at this. Financial planners exist for a reason. I have a lot of friends who have gone to one or recommended going to one (I haven't managed that yet aside from talking to someone at the bank because my bank calls me to check in and suggest meeting). Mortgages are like rent except you actually own something.

    Just keep in mind that everyone does what they can manage. Some people seem amazingly flawless on the outside but they probably have their anxieties too. Talk to your mom about how you're feeling because I bet she's been there.

    For the record, my friends have all admitted that they had no idea what the heck they were doing when it came to kids. So you talk to other people. You find people who can support you emotionally. You find communities where you feel safe enough to ask questions or admit to feeling scared.

    Talk with your fiance too. These are things you can share. Maybe he feels comfortable with paying bills or handling some things. Not that you shouldn't know what's going on, but dividing things up can help work on strengths. πŸ™‚ But finding things out and knowing how it works helps a lot to make it less scary. It's still scary, especially when your budget is tight or your job unstable, but it is less scary when you have ideas on how to proceed.

    • I second this. I never really had trouble with the rent-paying, laundry-doing, home-cooking aspect of things, but I was never taught how to budget and that caused some rough experiences in my early to mid-twenties. This can easily happen if you've been living at home rent-free and are accustomed to thinking of the entirety of your salary as disposable income. What I finally ended up doing was reading every financial planning book I could get my hands on and then I sorted out what I would pay off, save, or put into my retirement with every paycheque. Now I am really frugal and save like a mad fiend.

      As for the rest of the stuff, honestly, nothing gets you ready for living in the world except…living in the world. It's a learning by doing scenario. I completely agree with all the people here who say they feel like they're faking it. I don't really feel like I'm faking it anymore, but I don't feel like an adult either.

      One step at a time. Take care of the wedding, for example, before you start doing research on breastfeeding. Or the other way around, if that's what suits you. But you don't have to do both at the same time!

  6. I'm 25 and I still find myself wishing that my mom could make my doctor's appointments for me. I still ask for parental help on my taxes. I have NO IDEA how to navigate insurance. Best advice I have for "how to adult" is to know that it's okay to ask questions, and knowing the best person to ask in certain situations is the key.

    Also, I started feeling a little more grown-up when I took responsibility for waking up earlier on the weekends. It's a little thing, I know.

  7. yeah, it sounds big when you think about it like that, but the reality is that it kind of trickles in a little at a time, and you're gliding along before you even realize anything changed. moving out has more contrast naturally, but you don't take on all those new responsibilities at once. life doesn't come with a manual. you just have to wing it, lol.

    • i also want to add that i'm 30 and a mother of a 3yo, who i parented on my own for the first 18 months because my husband passed away before he was born. i still feel like i'm faking it sometimes, and i definitely pay someone else to do my taxes. when you're faced with responsibility and don't really have a choice but to take it, you just kind of figure it out as you go along.

  8. my dream would be that we give up the legend of adulthood and accept that fundamentally there is no difference between being 5, 25, 45, or 85. I think there would be much less stress and more understanding that way. We all just do our best, not really knowing how to do it, learning.
    my 2 cents, don't take all this too seriously and it's just a new game with new parameters, enjoy (giving this advice to myself too).

  9. The only reason your mom looks flawless, is because she spent 20 years fucking up and making shit up as she went along and learning a lot of hard-won lessons.
    Ask her for advice. Look up things on the internet. Make checklists (it's the only way I can keep all my 10,000 monthly student loan payments straight). You're going to make mistakes and forget to pay the electric bill, and food is going to go bad in your fridge and you're going to sign your first mortgage papers while shitting your pants, and that's okay. Not only do you have your husband, you have the rest of everyone by your side.
    None of us know what we're doing.

  10. I'm 26, and we just bought a condo. After the meeting with the seller I just burst into laughter and giggled like an idiot all the way home. Someone thought _I_ was an _adult_!

    It's hard to take on all the adult stuff, like mortgages and all the insurances and planning for the future. There is so much one needs to know! But I guess I'll pick it up along the way.

    I figure that if I am entrusted to put cytotoxic substances in catheters that go to the big veins in peoples bodies (hooray for nursing!), I can probably learn to handle the adult thing. But I don't know if I'll ever _feel_ like an adult, I'm happy if I just learn the moves and you know… get good at faking it.

  11. Me: Teenager cleverly disguised as a 30 year-old woman.

    I keep wondering when I'll stop laughing at fart jokes and listening to my music too loudly in the car.

  12. Like almost everyone commenting before me, I, too, sometimes feel like a fake. I have health-, home-, car- and life insurance, am engaged and living together wiyh my fiancΓ©, own a car etc. and sometimes I still want to be mollycoddled by EVERYONE and have all things taken care of, like laundry and cooking.

    But then I realise how much I love being able to make my own decisions, even the 'childish ones'. Eating ice cream for breakfast can be the best and as long as you know you shouldn't do it every morning, no harm done.

    The only thing that is utterly important is to teach yourself to read *everything* before you sign it and if you don't understand, go to someone who can explain it to you so you will. That is not a lack of 'being adult enough' but rather the only smart thing to do.

    And indeed, if you talk to your mother you will most likely find she struggled with the same things as you do now.

  13. Part of my "Am I Adult" anxiety stems from the fact that my parents were adults well before they left home. They were taking care of their siblings and their family farms from a young age. When they moved out, they had to sink or swim immediately–either figure it all out or starve. And though I know they experienced doubt and anxiety, they did it all anyway because they had no one to really lean on.
    Growing up with such "I'll take care of it" people, I never really learned to do much myself. And my parents are a little baffled by me because I don't just figure it out. My mom says to me a lot "Well you have to do it." I get that I have to, but I don't understand why I was never taught to do these things. My high school education afforded me the ability to do some pretty intricate probability figuring, but I still have no idea what even a third of the jargony terms on a tax form mean.
    You know how I deal with it? Breathing deeply and feeling grateful for the internet. If I'm feeling overwhelmed, confused or like a big faker, I just Google my way to instant adult-like confidence.
    Because seriously. I'm pretty sure that 90% of "being an adult" is just acting like you've got your shit together.

    • Doostie Bug: "I'm pretty sure that 90% of "being an adult" is just acting like you've got your shit together."


      We need a sampler of this in every home.

    • Do you know, I think that's a big part of my problem too. My mum left home when she was 16, got married at 19, had me at 24, left my bio-dad at 29, remarried and became a stay-at-home mum when she was 33, at which stage I was 9. My job, was going to school and doing my homework. I didn't have to look after my siblings, or do any chores on a regular basis.

      I moved out of home when I was 21 got married at 25, now I'm 29, and I'm still struggling to work out how often I need to clean the bathroom (though I know it's more often than I actually do it) and my Mum wonder's why I struggle with these things….

      Into the bargain, I'm trying to run my own business, and I have Fibromyalgia, so I'm failing miserably at all that, but if anyone asks how I am or how my business is doing I smile and say "Yeah, I'm fine, business is great!" and people think I'm a grown-up.

    • Yep.
      My parents met at 18 and 19, married at 20 and 21, parents at the same age (what up shotgun wedding!). They both lived on the other side of the country to where they grew up when they met.
      I'm 27 now, by the time my parents where my age, they had two children.
      I'm engaged and live with my fiancΓ©, we've got pets, saving money, have a car, insurance, do our own taxes, etc. We've figured this stuff out bit by bit, over time.
      I'm lucky that my parents taught me good budgeting skills, so the money stuff always came easy to me.
      And yet, I still feel like I'm muddling my way through, I feel like I did when I was 17.
      On my 26th birthday, I asked my mum when do you feel grown up? And she just laughed at me.

      • My parents were married at 17, and had me at 19. I thought they were proper grown ups until they divorced when I was 11, and they both went off the rails, in totally different ways.
        My mother now works with young children who don't get to experience life, because they have parents who work long hours, so she gets to be a big kid, for a job, which apparently makes her feel even less like an adult.
        My dad took to working all daylight hours, and drinking all the rest. He's reverted back to being arrogantly immature, rather like a 15 year old boy. "You can't tell me what to do, I'm the adult here" is his favourite line. (for serious)

        All this has terrified me, but at the same time, I've learnt that you don't need to grow up to be an adult. My mum freely admits that she's not much of a grown-up, and I think that is what makes her more of an adult than my father.
        It also made me realise that I don't need to stress out about still feeling like a confused teenager, because as long as my fun isn't at the expense of other people, I'm allowed to keep having it as long as I like πŸ™‚

    • "I don't understand why I was never taught to do these things."

      As a person who works at a college and sees many students that are quite uncertain about how to handle some problems that come their way, I have to encourage all of us to change this! Teach kids, tell them how things work, and give them responsibility little by little. I remember in high school my mom handing me the phone number to the pediatrician to call and schedule the appointment when I was sick. She was right there with me, but I had to talk to them and pick out a time. It was nerve-wracking, but little things like that built up my confidence so that I could handle my first parking ticket. And car accident. And I still have to ask for help, Google plenty of stuff, and taxes still completely baffle me. πŸ™‚

      • This is true true true. I had the both unfortunate and fortunate experience of being very self-reliant from an early age, so I have been repeatedly BAFFLED by peers of mine who had no idea how to do very basic things (grocery shop, pay bills, fill out financial aid forms, and so on). I understand that not everyone has the same experience as me, but I think teaching self-sufficiency is a great thing for parents to do. Maybe not the way MY parents did it (Hey you! You're on your own!), but in general. Sounds like your mom had the right idea. πŸ˜‰

  14. I'm married and 27 with a will and a pension (pension, can you be any more grown up?). The best thing to do is ask people who have experience with something. As you would ask how someone likes a certain phone you ask if a landlord is reputable, if an insurance policy is a good one etc. Over time you learn from any fuck ups you make and eventually you will feel like a grown up for something.

    But despite my pension and will I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to making ends meet, or finding a decent landlord, and I have no idea what to do with that pension and I paid a lawer to sort out that will.

    There is a saying: "you stop being a child when you can have sweets for breakfast, you start being an adult when you know you shouldn't have sweets for breakfast." Nothing in there about not actually having sweets for breakfast. And definately nothing about convincing yourself that this time you won't get a tummy ache.

    • Ha I was just thinking that my 'I know I'm an adult now' lightbulb moment was when I realised I could eat chocolate bars for breakfast without anyone telling me off. Just to be clear I don't recommend it. Well not on a regular basis.

      • Yeah, part of being an adult is knowing that you CAN eat whatever you want, but shouldn't. And when you start paying attention to things like fiber and protein…

        • HA! Fiber. So true. *pats flax seed meal* Part of being an adult for me was realizing that eating better food wasn't just a "I should do this" thing, but actually a "I feel better when I do this" thing. WEIRD.

          • My "shit, I'm an adult!" moment was realizing I was eating a spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette and ENJOYING IT. Because I actually feel better when I eat stuff like this.

            And now I keep fiber gummies on my nightstand.

  15. To quote a favorite book/movie, Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood,

    "It's life. You don't figure it out. You just climb up on the beast and ride."

    True dat! I am 28 and I have days where I feel 8, 18, and 88 all in one day. We're all figuring it out, Just stay humble and compassionate and open to love and usually the universe will align in your favor. Best of luck sweetie πŸ™‚

  16. Once when I was 17 and living in my own apartment, I had to go buy clothes because I had severely underestimated how long it takes to dry clothes. My other option was wearing a ball gown to a lecture- If my partner didn't handle the washing Im fairly sure this would have happened many times since.
    I am adult.

  17. I moved out for the 1st time at 17 when I moved into the dorms. I moved out again at 21, got super sick, moved back in with my parents. Moved out again at 24, broke my arm (I'm on crutches too btw) and moved back in with my parents. Met my now husband at 27, moved out at 28. Actually stayed out. Yay!!! I was home every week during graduate school (meaning my parents house) for dinner…still ask my father to this day for car advice. I saw something on line one time that said something like at 17 we hate our parents and in our 60s we are wondering why we took such advantage. My point? We are all faking it. I marvel at how you're 22, moved out, have a car, signed up for car insurance on your own, and are getting married. I can't imagine it. But in all seriousness, the financial stuff, get someone that is good at it (fiancee or parents or whomever) and ask. Ask ask ask ask. You'll know what feels comfy for you on what to save, spend, and pay off bills with. What kind of debt you're comfy with. My first adult moment? I'd love to say that it was when I ate dessert for dinner, but it's more like when I got super sick and was in the hospital for 2 weeks, and the bills came to me and not my parents.

    Just finished paying them off though.

    15 years later. πŸ™‚ Stay strong! We're all there with ya.

  18. I have a problem. I hate leaving things to fate. I get that personality trait from my grandmother who is absolutely OCD about EVERYTHING. As soon as i was old enough to receive a regular allowance, and since my elementary school actually had a banking program with a local bank in the area, I had a pretty good idea how checks, bank accounts, and savings accounts worked.
    As I got older, I was lucky enough to even go to a highschool with a pretty thorough home ec class that even had a course on "How Households Work" Such as planning out cleaning, how to clean with natural products, and mending clothes.
    I went to another highschool that even explained how to plan for careers, what benefits are given at some companies, and how to fill out applications with tax information correctly.
    My grandmother helped in explaining taxes to me when I turned 18.
    My other side of the family never talked of such things. It was assumed you'd figure it out for yourself through trial by fire then if you fucked up, then that sucks for you and everyone avoids doing whatever they assume you did. lol
    With my drive to study things before leaping, I have been able to avoid pretty bad pitfalls with careful planning. I studied insurance, what exactly I needed and why, lease information I learned because my mother lived in a TON of apartments when I grew up in Atlanta (Word to the wise, kids observe what you do WAY more than you think!) So I was able to actually negotiate a lease with a company-backed apartment and have been living in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath 1100 sq ft apartment for $600a month for two years now. =) Not bad for a kid, right?lol
    But the whole thing I'm trying to get across is that it is never a bad idea to plan, re-plan, study study study something carefully before going for it. That hard work does pay off. And don't ever be afraid to speak up when you feel something isn't right. You do have legal rights. You can negotiate almost anything with enough information and drive.


  19. Reporting in from age almost-28 to say that I still have no idea what I'm doing but somehow managed to buy a house anyway (???) You kinda just figure shit out as you go. Be super glad you're adulting in the age of the internet when you can literally google how to do almost ANYTHING. Baby steps, one little question at a time. And if google doesn't turn anything up, just ask someone who has already done it.

    The one piece of solid advice I can offer is SAVE MONEY. There is not one adulthood situation where having some extra money put away is not a really, really good thing. Every frickin' crisis that comes up costs more money than you think it will. If you're like me and hate putting money away when there's so much pretty stuff to buy and see out there, push through and try to make saving/budgeting/DIYing a perverse source of pride (the blog "andthenshesaved" was helpful for me in that regard. Also while we're talking about adulting… the blog/book "Adulting" is pretty great.) Plus, if you've got money, you can always fall back on "paying someone who knows what they're doing" to handle something you really don't want to take on.

    • Also, just use Turbotax. It makes everything a million times easier. Our taxes are kind of complicated because I'm self-employed and I need that handholding. If you make under a certain amount per year, they even have a free version of their program (I think it's called "tax freedom" or something, it can be kind of hard to find but it's there somewhere.)

      • Yep, this is what my husband does. He likes to have his taxes done on January 1. If it were up to me, I'd get it done some time around March… Anyway, this is definitely one of the better methods of quick/easy/diy/cheap tax prep.

  20. Though it might feel overwhelming that you have to do it all at once, you can also be happy that you have such a supportive and together family who has been able to help you so well all these years!

    In my case, the upside to having a somewhat unconventional teenagerhood was that I never really had that "oh my god I'm on my own" moment because I'd already had various periods of relative independence (at least relative to my peers in high school and college). The downside to that is that when I really did want to look for my own apartment and pay my own taxes, I didn't really have any support.

    My friends and I used to joke that a sign of being an adult was being able to pay for something at a cash register without looking like a complete idiot (fumbling for change, crinkling bills in awkward ways, etc). But sometimes I still fail at handing my money over to the cashier like a normal person. πŸ˜‰ (most people avoid this by using plastic, but I'm kind of stubborn about using cash)

  21. I second the advice about asking questions.

    Ask questions.

    Ask them of people who are genuinely willing to help you. If someone is condescending or seems like they're trying to sell you on something, ask someone else. And then someone else. You're gathering information. It's ok to get multiple opinions and perspectives. It's like doing research.

    Ask questions confidently. As children we have so much to learn that not knowing seems to equate with youth or inexperience, while knowing seems to equate with adulthood. Drop that idea. There are adults out there who know far less than you about certain things. And others who know far more about other things. Adulthood doesn't mean you have to know everything. It just means you're the one making the decisions at the end. Ask people to help you, and expect them to treat you respectfully like an intelligent human being while they do. If they can't do that, find someone else.

    Know that you CAN figure it out, it's just a matter of figuring out how. Every new adult-world challenge will make you more confident about the next, so make it a fun game. When it's not particularly fun, just think of how awesome and capable you'll feel when you figure it out.

    Oh, and trust your gut. Nurture your intuition. Pay attention when something feels wrong or weird or insufficient. The more you pay attention to what your mind already knows on that subconscious level, the more you'll gain confidence, and the more likely you'll be to catch problems before they get too big.

    • "Ask questions confidently. As children we have so much to learn that not knowing seems to equate with youth or inexperience, while knowing seems to equate with adulthood. Drop that idea. There are adults out there who know far less than you about certain things. And others who know far more about other things. Adulthood doesn't mean you have to know everything. It just means you're the one making the decisions at the end."

      -This is amazing advice and must be put on a needlepoint sampler somewhere, immediately.

  22. I'm 23, got married this past January at 22, and I first moved out on my own (other than residence, which in my mind doesn't count) at 19.

    Last week, I did some tax stuff, called my insurance company about the increase in my tenant's insurance, accepted my offer of admittance for college because my university degree is not enough to land me a decent job in this economy, applied for OSAP (government student loans in Ontario), and went to the pharmacy/post office to renew a prescription and mail all this crap, and some other unrelated stuff.

    That was a big week for me (and it was almost all in one day), and so I spent the weekend playing Pokemon.

    Adulthood is how you define it. And no one knows what their doing. Some of that stuff I should have done months ago, and finally got around to doing it, which is why I ended up doing it all in the same week. Not very "adult" of me.

    Remember that it's okay to ask stupid questions. When I signed up for car insurance I asked SO MANY dumb questions, but you have to remember that the insurance companies (and banks, and etc.) are used to this. Lots of people who sign up for car insurance are in their early 20s, and have no idea what they're doing. The people at the insurance company don't expect you to know what you're doing.

    Also ask your parents, if you can. They've been doing this shit for years, and it can be way less intimidating to ask them than to call the insurance company sometimes.

  23. Sometimes being a grown-up is more about knowing where to look for answers rather than automatically knowing it all. I've been on my own for years but still feel like I'm amateur status most days but when I deal with things I'm uncertain about (loans, insurance, credit, etc) I find myself picking the brains of my co-workers who seem to have their shit together and learn a lot from them. They are often where I look for answers when I get overwhelmed and most of 'em are happy to answer questions and freely admit when they're just as lost as I am. Then we get to feel lost together!

  24. Nothing makes me feel more like an adult than choosing to do something productive instead of watching TV. Responsibility win!

  25. Yes, I'm definitely in agreement with all the support & commiseration of being an "adult."
    It sounds like a lot of your anxiety is about personal finances & management. There are TONS of books out there on the subject, check out a few from the library. Learn about what you fear, and it becomes a lot less scary.
    If you're not into books, ask your local bank if they give free financial counseling. My credit union offers monthly seminars, in addition to individual help given by the bankers.
    Personally, I've used my bankers to learn all about loans, how to buy a good car, credit cards & building good credit, negotiating payments that seem overwhelming, student loans and travel advice. And it's all been FREE and easy to do on my own schedule.
    I like reading blogs, too. One of my favorites is because he's an engineer, self-taught economist, and home DIY-er.

  26. I knew I was truly an adult when I looked at all the responsibilities that being a "grown up" entails (bills, job, etc.) and said, "Okay, let's do this," instead of running away.

    I think that's the key. Just accepting responsibility instead of shying from it.

  27. My favorite xkcd comic also has the answer to this; "We're the adults now, so we get to decide what that means."

    What I've found is that the things you have to do (pay bills, feed yourself and your family, not go crazy and murder everybody around you with an axe) center me, and that so long as I have the essentials taken care of, everything else has a tendency to fall into place.

    Except for cleaning. But we're not going to talk about that. I have important internetting to do.

    This also applies to parenting, too. At least right now in the baby stage. Is he fed? Diapered? Need a nap? OH GOD I DON'T KNOW LET'S TRY EVERYTHING TWICE. Except for sleeping at night, which we're struggling with for some reason, I've got the best baby in the world which makes me feel like an adequate parent wat is this.

    omg i am adulting best evar plz gimme a cookie.

  28. I saw this and thought "Oh My God, thank you, I'm not the only one." I'm 23, going to be 24 soon. My girlfriend talks about "Imposter Syndrome" a lot, especially regarding her work, where people are unable to internalize their accomplishments, and I seriously think this isn't a syndrome or phenomenon or whatnot. It's just life. I feel like I'm faking it everyday, and start to feel insecure when I think other people have it together, but really, we're all just faking it. Some people are just better at faking it or have been at it longer.

  29. I don't know if too many people feel like an "adult", whatever that means. I'm 31, pregnant with our first, homeowner, 9-5 job-er, taxpayer, etc etc. But I still don't feel like an adult, even though I am by any definition.

    So I guess for me, being an adult is just being old enough to take care of my responsibilities before I spend all evening bumming around on my iPad while watching tv. πŸ™‚

    • For me, being an adult is being old enough to know I have responsibilities to take care of before I spend all evening bumming around… and still choosing to bum around half the time.

  30. I seriously could have written this post, so true to liife. I'm 22 now and will be two months shy of 23 when I get married this coming March and then we (my partner and I) will graduate in May. I look around at my adult friends even my sister who is 35 and just a whiz at a life and think WTFFFF how do you all handle thisss. I even look at my partner sometimes with his bills and stuff and think "shit I suck at adulting. I fake it so hard all the time and he's just so natural at this."

    I am, thus, so glad for this to have been a post and see all these replies of "learn to learn things" and "just muddle along" and "don't be afraid to ask questions of anyone and everyone." Not only does it make me feel better because I'm not the only one faking it, but it's nice to see that everybody else struggling with it too! It's nice to remember this. It's nice to remember that while society tells us that "adults" are a certain way and have all their shit together, in reality nobody is that way at all…..

  31. I asked the same question. College done (didn't feel like a grownup yet). Moved all stuff out (nope not then), had a baby (still nope). Wasn't until I signed a 30 year mortgage that I Felt like an adult but still was growing. My advice – enjoy all this. You'll do the best you can and will accel in certain areas and flunk in some. We all do. Manage your money. That one will bite you in the ass for years to come if not managed. (I calendar all bills, pay them all every payday every two weeks, and know today how much of my December pay checks are already "spent" on utilities, mortgage, etc).

  32. I just turned 26. I've been married, self employed, moved across texas and back again, divorced and now run the daily operations of a multi-million dollar company. I do not feel like an adult. I still feel awkward in the liquor store, and when I get to leave uncarded, I flee like a bandit before they can realize their mistake. I'd like to buy a new car (had the same one for almost 10 years) and a house, but I can't help but think 'am I allowed to do that yet?'

    Maybe it changes when you have kids?

    And that whole 'how does mom do all that' feeling, remember it may have taken her years to perfect that outward appearance. Don't measure yourself against her, your journeys aren't the same.

  33. I am 39 and a good faker. I had my 1st chIild last year. This year I went through the Dave Ramsey financial Peace class. Don't let the fact that it has a Christian base scare you, it is the nuts and bolts of finance.

    Then, and on after you have made it through his class, save for your baby.

    I personally loved the "Happiest baby on the block dvd" and "The no cry sleep solution".



    I bought my first home a couple of months ago and am now planning a wedding. The day we signed the contract, I couldn't handle it. I just bought my first home – at 24. Brain = burst! So I gathered up some girlfriends and dragged them down to the pub to get trashed and sing hours of karaoke. So yes I too am faking the fuck out of it till I make it.

    Probably I never will make it…I still get such a thrill watching Disney films, decorating cupcakes, playing with my dog, rolling down grassy hills, splashing in the bath, doing craft, getting a caramel sundae at Maccas drive through…if I ever lose that zest for the little things in life, it will be such a sad day. So fuck being an adult, if adult means laying down and accepting the drudgery of mortgages and seriousness and bills and *shudder* grocery shopping.

    You will kick arse at pretending to be an adult, we all do! xox

    • But when you grocery shop, you have ALL THE CONTROL!! You get to choose what fantastic, delicious looking items should enter your home and be used in tasty creations!

      Plus, guilt-free spending! Food is a need, unlike most other things that I consider spending money on! They may not always be the best purchases (is that oreo's on sale? Score!!), but they are always guilt free!

      (I happen to love grocery shopping, can you tell?)

  35. One thing that was extremely helpful to me was the "Life After College" book put out by Cap & Compass. They walk you through stuff like enrolling in your first 401(k), choosing health insurance, renting your first apartment, and all sorts of other "nobody ever told me but everyone expects me to know this" stuff. It made me feel like someone had handed me the Adulthood dictionary.

  36. As pretty much everyone has said, it's an illusion! I've had a few times in my life where I reached the age of others I had admired, and realized that I was just like them. On the outside, to people who are younger or haven't had those life experiences yet, it seems like they've got it all figured out. But really, you just do the best you can, and somehow on the outside, it looks as if you know what you're doing.

    Over time, you have experiences. You learn from those experiences, and you incorporate that knowledge into your life. I think it's called wisdom, but it's really just everyone making it up as best they can as they go.

    When in doubt, ask someone. Consult a book, or hire someone else to do it. You'll never be sorry that you did!

  37. …What makes a person an adult, anyway?…

    I suppose – as somebody said – it's just taking responsibility for yourself and your choices. Asking for help if you need it. Admitting when you're wrong. Continuing to learn. Screwing up, too, and making bad choices or weird choices, as long as you're conscious of it. Being self-aware!

    …Too bad most don't see it that way, though. I often feel like the "little kid" among my friends who are married and have "grown-up" jobs, because I'm in school (but working!). I guess the markers of adulthood (job you'll "never leave," marriage, insurance, etc.) are easier to see and categorize than a person's inner self.

  38. So I'm 31 and I'm still figuring this shit out. I can cook, clean, do my own laundry, and have a productive disagreement with my husband without throwing things. So, check those things off the "adult" list. I'm terrible with money. Always have been. I had a job in high school, but my mother dictated how much I saved and how much I could spend. I got a credit card and went ape-shit with it. I have two credit cards with large, large balances that I have little hope of paying down any time soon. My "adult" moment came last year when I signed up for to track my spending and made an excel document to remind myself to pay all the bills each month. I'm slowly chipping away at my mountain of debt, but it's going to hang over my head for a long time. Taking responsibility for your bad habits and working on ways to correct them is adult, whether that's financially, emotionally, dirty bathrooms, whatever. If you're constantly striving to improve yourself and your shit, that's adulting.

  39. I totally like the post, but I'm actually quite disapointed no one cited the source of the comic, xkcd. I mean, I keep reloading the page in case I was missing it, or maybe it's a mobile thing, cus OBE is usually really good about that. But I really love xkcd, and it's kinda sucks to use the artists work without acknowledment.

  40. Recently, I got divorced. My ex made comments that I wouldn't make it on my own. So now whenever I do chores or ADULT stuff, I call it my adulting.

    But if being an adult means not having fun, I don't want it. I figure between my 50+ hour job, I can have some fun time etched into the year by going to festivals and such. Now, that is adulting!

  41. I recently read Suze Orman's "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, & Broke". It was really helpful in explaining seemingly adult things such as how to save money, what your financial priorities should be, how the stock market works, and why you need to start a retirement plan now. It is a bit dated, but I still feel like I learned a good deal from it.

  42. do you remember going from feeling like a child to feeling like a teenager? or a teenager to a young adult? i know i dont, one day we will just wake up and be an adult, to outside eyes we may already look it. and in the end we dont really have to grow all the way up, that is no fun at all.

  43. My mother still asks me and my brothers when we are going to grow up. This is usually when we're driving her crazy from play-fighting in the kitchen while we're cooking a holiday dinner. (Or maybe during Guitar Hero after dinner, I dunno…) Keep in mind, I'm 42 and have been out of the house since 18, one brother is 33 and bought a house six years ago, my second brother is 29 and married and has an awesome job on the other side of the country, and the youngest is 25 and been working and in school since he was 16 (ok, he's still in my mother's house).

    My usual response is, "We can pay our bills, we can keep a job, and we can clean up after ourselves. Until we have kids, we're grown up enough."

  44. I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with everything, there will always be new stuff I'll suck at, but still, I learn little by little. At 18 I moved out to a college dorm and got to do my own laundry – messed up a few then got it right -, got to feed myself (pasta saved my life; I'm 26 now and I kind of can cook), got to decide how to spend my money, apart from rent. Then I moved in my boyfriend's flat, and got to choose a health insurance, got to get a credit card (I was amazed that people thought it was normal to trust me with one), got my driver's licence. Then we got cats and I got to learn how to take care of them, when to take appointments at the vet, and I had to remember when to give them pills. Now I'm planning a wedding, and having read a lot about it because I didn't know anything, I'm actually asking for what I want and refusing what I don't want.

    Each time I had to do something new it felt really odd and grown-up to me, and I had to read a lot about anything, and it ends up feeling normal after a few times. I still don't really feel like an adult (I still don't pay taxes because I don't earn much, don't have a rent because my boyfriend owns his place, don't own a car, don't have kids).

  45. I'm still wondering when I grew up. I don't feel any different. Isn't there supposed to be this moment when you know?

  46. 30. Regularly refer to myself as anywhere between 6 and 14. Not sure if I'll ever feel like an adult. Not sure I want to. ^.^;;

    Though I found something that does help me to feel like more of an adult is to handle my own shit. I love my mom desperately, but she can sometimes be a bit obnoxious because she'll swoop in and be like, DO YOU WANT ME TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR CRISIS FOR YOU? instead of letting me handle it on my own (and to be fair, for many years, I let her do this). I take care of all of my own little crises myself these days, though sometimes if I'm complaining about a thing that I need to deal with (like fighting with the city clerk's office for my marriage certificate, harrumph) my mom will still ask if I want her to call and do it for me. My response to which is always a polite "no, thank you, I'm just kvetching."

    Don't know if that's helpful at all, but there it is.

  47. Im 50. Yep have been since August, and still wake up feeling about 26 most days. Still wear a "I love Dr Who" hoodie, and still want to fix the world. But I can plan for retirement and run a business and care for my nieces and nephew and pay off my house. Its patchy, its sometime really challenging (still) and I sometimes wish I could hand it all over to a parent type. But value your freedom and choices. Accept that this adult stuff needs to be learnt & eats time, but its not much and you may well spend more time shoe shopping than doing paperwork for yourself in the course of the year. Like cleaning the bathroom, it has to be done and its never so bad as you think πŸ™‚

  48. I'm going to take off my publisher's hat and comment as a reader, because the conversation here is too interesting!

    Unlike many of you, I absolutely DO feel like an adult. I remember being 19 and talking to a coworker who was in her early 40s, and she was like "Nope, nothing's changed!" and being sort of aghast. You mean I'm stuck with this angst and misery and turmoil FOREVER!? (College was super funz for me, as you can tell *eyeroll*)

    For me, there was a big shift in my 30s when I was like OH I GET IT, NOW I'M ADULTING. The key difference in my life was consequence pattern recognition… I reached a place where I'd made similar mistakes enough times that I started to be able to recognize patterns. Go out late the night before an early morning = rough morning… therefore, plan to go out late on a different night. Ignoring pile of unopened mail = bills getting lost = creditors calling… therefore, open the mail as soon as it arrives, and post bills where I can't ignore them.

    It wasn't like I learned any magic skills or waved a wand and felt Very Mature, it was just that I started getting better at recognizing the consequences of my decisions. Of course this doesn't always mean I make the right decisions, but for me I felt like an adult when was able to recognize my own behavior patterns and predict consequences. Even if I don't always make the adult decision ("getting up early tomorrow… meh, fuggit: going out late tonight anyway"), it was huge when I was able to identify the patterns of how my behavior had consequences on my life.

    • I completely agree with you. I posted elsewhere and just saw this comment now. I'm in my late 20s and definitely feel like an adult.

      I even posted something similar, where I mentioned the same stay out late scenario.

      You were far more concise though!

      Ultimately, for me, being an adult is about responsibilities: being responsible for yourself, your actions, your commitments, and your things.

      Sure, a lot of the behaviours are repetitive and become habitual, but it's also about recognizing the consequences and choosing to do things based on either an aversion or embracement of the consequences. You can decide if the consequence is worthwhile, and you can make that as an informed decision.

  49. There is no point at which you feel adult. As far as I've come in my travels, I've determined the term is as fictional as the desert planet of Arrakis or the forest moon of Endor. I've never felt as if I've moved beyond the juvenile feeling, and I'm 31, a science teacher, married, and have a 2 year old daughter. I still feel like a kid accomplishing the things in life I want to accomplish and just playing adult as best as possible. I think that's the best anyone has to hope for.

    Deal with things as they come to you and you'll do fine. It all falls in place eventually with a little effort.

  50. Thank you for reminding me just how much I love being in my 30's.
    All this adult stuff?
    It really does get easier.

    I started to feel like a true adult over the last couple years. Granted, this is also when I started playing hula hoops and having a whole lot more fun in my daily life. Basically though, I figured out how to listen to my own inner guidance and not worry at all about doing things as society says we should.

    I've learned how to take care of myself properly and my household. I know how to cook, the best ways to shop, how to do laundry and how to balance taking care of my needs with those of my family (although this is an ever evolving process) and how to ask for help!

    Learning how to learn and how to figure things out are the most important parts of growing up. Knowing when to ask the internet, when to ask a friend or your grandma, and when to just pay a professional to do the work for you.

    Really though, the best part of growing up for me is realizing that life can be easier and more fun than it ever was when I was a kid, because I get to do whatever I want to do and I gave myself permission to do whatever I love.

  51. So, this adult thing?

    I felt like an adult when I paid off my student loan, before my intended date, accomplished via goal setting and making realistic decisions of what my priorities are.

    I have worked hard to remain debt free ever since and increase my savings with every pay cheque. I recently checked my balance and thought to myself, "wow, I'm doing great". I started with $25 a month when I was struggling to pay off my student loan.

    For me, financial independence and managing my responsibilities makes me feel like an adult.

    I would like to suggest that while you are at home, practice living on less.

    Buy the week's groceries for a week and tell your mom you want to help out and prepare all the meals for a week. In res, I had a number of people on my floor who couldn't cook (yet were in the res that had kitchens in their unit).

    Start tracking your expenses. It can be as easy as opening a spreadsheet, writing down your current bank balance and then deducting the amount for every purchase/auto payment, and adding the amount for any income (birthday gifts, paycheque, reimbursements, etc).

    Tracking my expenses began when I was first on my own and I thought, "no, that can't be right. How did I spend so much? I thought my pay would go further!" With my first "full time job". It's not a fun feeling to realize you've over-spent an entire paycheque.

    Since you're living at home, do some research – how much does rent cost for a 1 bedroom apartment in your neighbourhood? Are utilities included? What's the cost of cable, Internet, and phones? Once you have those numbers, start putting aside that much out of your pay into a savings account. When you're ready to move pit, you will have a cushion, and you'll already be used to paying that amount. In general, you want housing to come in under 35% of your take home pay so you aren't crippled with payments.

    Other suggestions for the pie chart of finances (from Gail Vaz Oxlade, a Canadian version of Dave Ramsey/Suze Orman) include: 10% retirement savings, 15% to debt repayment (once paid off, you can use that for anything else), 15% transportation, 25% life. You can read more online at

    You might also want to start putting something aside for retirement – get in the habit of saving right now, and then once you're ready to increase those to higher deposits, you'll have had some experience and practice with that too.

    Being an adult is mostly just routines and repeated behaviours – they can be both positive and negative. Oh, and added responsibility. As you grow up, you take on a greater responsibility for yourself, and as things transition a greater responsibility for others.

    Sometimes, it reads like a boring choose-your-own adventure book: "you're out with friends and realize it's 9 pm. You have to get up for work tomorrow morning at 6 am and it will take an hour to get home because your bus and subway ride sucks. Will you go home now and go to bed or stay out a little later with friends and suffer the consequences?"

    In the end, I see "being an adult" as making responsible decisions, being capable of being independent (even if in a relationship), financial independence, and being able to set goals and prioritize (and re-prioritize when "life happens") things to work towards your goals.

    This kind of sounds like I live a dull life. I don't. Some days are certainly more boring than others, but I think everyone probably experiences that.

  52. Checking in from 32 over here: still faking it.

    Don't sweat it — I've come to believe that being a 'grown-up' is just a myth that 'grown-ups' tell children, akin to Santa Claus.

  53. I actually came on here to recommend the "Adulting" book that was recommended in the first couple of comments πŸ™‚ I just bought it for my 19 year old brother for Christmas, and plan to borrow it back from him to check it out!

    But I just wanted to weigh in on the kids thing — sure, do your research, join support groups (like La Leche League, or whatever you think you might be into) and meet people — BUT — once that baby gets here, YOU will be the expert on your child. None of the decisions about things like sleep training need to be made in advance. Your child will let you know what he/she needs, and you will be able to understand far better than anyone else. So about sleeping position? Sure, the doctors will give you advice, but after a month of sleepless nights, that baby gets to sleep in any old position it will actually SLEEP in! πŸ™‚

    Also — everybody has to do dumb stuff, like miss a utility payment or not change the oil in their car until they ruin it … and THAT's part of how they learn to be adults. Yes, even your parents did stuff like that.

  54. Many other people have already said most of what I was going to say, so I'll just say this:

    The moment I started to really feel like an adult was when I bought my first charcoal grill. Only grown-ups have grills.

  55. To add to everyone's awesome advice, one practical thing I'd add is: don't procrastinate. I speak from experience. It's easy to put off that adult-y insurance/tax/legal/repair/whatever because you don't want to do it.

    But there will be a deadline, and that will make you about a million times more nervous. Then there's always some dumb form you didn't know you needed to have, or something else will come up. And then you have a nervous breakdown at the license bureau or on the phone with your insurance person who is tired of talking to people like you all day.

    • Yup. There had to have been a manual or something. When he turned 26 my boyfriend mentioned that he was no longer eligible for the draft, and remembered when he registered. Apparently all men in the US have to register when they're 18-25, and there's a penalty if you don't. I was flabbergasted. Like, how do you KNOW?! No one told me those that.

  56. I'm 24, have a real job and apartment and cooked a full friendsgiving meal this week, all of which made me feel really adult. And yet, the same week, I built a pillowfort in my living room and had a water gun fight that drenched the entire apartment with my roommates… I'LL NEVER GROW UP! And the great part is, I don't HAVE to!

    I think a part of being an adult is accepting your responsibilities, but a bigger and more important part is being happy with yourself and your quirks, even if they include a love of pillow -fort building and bubble blowing and water fighting.

  57. For me, becoming an adult is about emotional stability. I am feeling more adult-like as I practice finding/staying in my center. The teaching I learned is that in your center, you know who you are, what you want, and you already have the answers. It is huge for me to connect to this when there is an external trigger to feel anxious, intimidated, FOMO, insecure, inadequate, etc. I'm me. I'm here. I'm fine. I'm awesome. I'm going take care of my own needs and wants. Whew, that's a relief.

    To deal with the red tape of adulthood that you mention (really, a drag for most of us I think!), my husband and I have recently started writing everything down and setting it aside. Then we have a scheduled "Grown-Up Conference" where we have a grown-up-y treat (such as cheese and wine) and work on our business. Sometimes this is literally just a support group–like, he might need to make a phone call, and I am just there to help him do it Now, rather than Sometime. We do it about once a week, for a few hours, and see if we can get 3-4 things marked off the list. Outside of Grown-Up Conference, we are not allowed to wallow in angst or worry. If something comes up, we write it down. We're free to be happy and feel nothing is hanging over our heads! And we actually make the conference time fun too, so now our lives are pretty much wonderful all the time. haha πŸ˜‰

  58. So this was my post (and I was happily surprised when I stumbled across it!! Does this mean I've achieved my goal of being a published author?), and I have to say–the outpouring of support and advice and wisdom from all of you quite literally has me in tears. Thank you all SO MUCH for your kind and wise words. Good to know I'm not the only one who feels like this, and that being an adult is a learned skill. I'm still nervous, but I feel better. Bless you all!

  59. I'm 28 and just picked health insurance for the first time in December. Even then, I called my parents and made them listen to me process it and reassure me that I'm not making a stupid decision with the plan I pick. I don't think adults know what we are doing. I think we are just really good at pretending like we know what we are doing.

  60. I think being an adult is pretty much having an absolute awareness that there will ALWAYS be something you don't know how to do but you'll have to wing it and progressively you start learning. And then there's something new entirely you don't know how to do and so on and on.

    I want to think I'm about 60% at that point πŸ˜€

  61. My husband and I just had a 2+ hour meeting with a financial planner to discuss our plans for RETIREMENT. And discuss things like at what age we think we might DIE. Talk about a slap-in-the-face reality check. I was thinking, "WHOA, I am a grownup." And it sucks. That is some heavy shit.

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