Adulting 101

I hate the word "adulting". Why? Why do I hate this word? Well, where do I usually see it? Social media. In what context? Memes. Memes about not wanting to do the things one must do. Memes about feeling too overwhelmed to undertake the basic responsibilities of life. Memes about "stuff" being "so hard" that "I can't even deal". The memes always portray being an adult in some harsh and negative light.

These memes bother me.

Why? Why do these memes bother me?

Because they're all fake.

And because they're not just fake, they're also completely disingenuous. These memes bother me because if exposed to these when I was a younger lad, I might just start to believe them. I might grow up in agreement that yes, being an adult is harder than it should be. And if I believed that, I might start routinely complaining about adulting while I wait for someone else to do something about how hard it is. And while I wait for that, I guess I could just keep on childing since adulting is too hard and no one has come along to fix that for me.

Let me tell you something...

Being an adult is so fucking awesome that I take offense to the mere thought of a meme besmirching its good name. And the memes are insidious because they make it fashionable to be emotionally incompetent.

Look at this nonsense:

Google search results of Adulting mugs

On the surface, the message seems harmless but if you look at enough of these, a theme emerges: "I'm too weak-minded to get through a single day without complaining."

But let's be generous for a moment and assume I'm missing something. Sure, maybe being an adult is hard...but what does that even mean? What parts of adulthood are under scrutiny here? I'd have to assume no one would complain about the cool parts, so let's make a list to see if we can identify some key responsibilities (omg so annoying!) plaguing adulthood:

As an average, well-adjusted adult you're supposed to:

  • Wake up on time (on your own)
  • Go to work (on time)
  • Pay bills & taxes (on time)
  • Buy healthy food
  • Cook the food
  • Excercise
  • Pay for gas
  • Call people to make appointments
  • Remember all the birthdays of people you care about (and some you don't)
  • Do all the chores
  • Fix stuff that breaks or pay someone else to fix it
  • Raise your children without abusing them (and believe me, at some point you'll want to)

That's a decent list, and that's just off the top of my head.

It's worth noting that I consider adulthood beginning not at age 18, but after attaining complete financial independence. Once you cease borrowing money for day-to-day living expenses, congratulations. You did it. You made it. And if you and your parents are healthy and you still live with them (permanently) after age 30, I'm sorry but you fucked up.

Ok, so I'll admit the entire list is pretty annoying. Hell, a good portion of my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood was dedicated to aggressively ignoring my responsibilities so I could stay in my walled garden. I was a decade in when I suddenly realized I was still clinging to the artificial ideals that yearned for a lack of responsibility. In a way, I was the poster child for those who "just can't do adulting today".

But here's a question you can be sure never entered the mind of someone who complains about being an adult: What's the bloody alternative?!

Every item on that list has to get done. It has to. So who's going to do it? What the hell are we even talking about here?

I spent a year working for a company whose owner/CEO was highly unethical, legally speaking. I found this out when I discovered that one of my coworkers spent much of his day writing fluffy, keyword-rich blog posts portraying the owner in a positive light (a.k.a. lying) so they would drown out the high-ranking search results from news sources regaling scathing indictments of his character and business practices.

At the time I scoffed at his tactics, but that's because I was only focused on the fact that he was being dishonest. The basis of the idea is to diminish one thing by overwhelming it with its opposite.

The problem isn't that there are too many responsibilities. The problem is that you have zero(0) other things going on.

There is no greater energizing force than having something interesting to work on. Even one cool project that takes a bit of effort makes me instantly forget to go on the internet and complain about life. Burning through your list of errands should be like breathing; automatic and matter-of-fact. Because on the other side of your responsibilities is all the kickass stuff you planned out for yourself.

As a competent and independent adult human being in the internet age, you are free to pursue any life-enriching skill, hobby, practice, vocation, or interest you can imagine. Let's pick one and see what happens.

Calvin & Hobbes Sunday Strip