How do you Adult?

Guest post by Eli

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?

Comments on How do you Adult?

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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. 🙂

    • 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.

  7. 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…..

  8. 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).

  9. 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.

  10. 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?)

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. …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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.”

  21. 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).

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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 🙂

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