Two friends of mine are getting married next weekend. Though I’m not in the wedding, they asked me to lector, so I’m driving 3 hours to the rehearsal dinner the day prior to the actual ceremony. Since I didn’t want to drive another 6 hours round-trip between the rehearsal and the actual wedding, I booked a hotel room. As soon as I received the confirmation email, I took to Facebook:
Just made my own hotel reservation for the wedding of two friends. Am I adulting?
Normally I cringe at words like “adulting.” Innocent nouns should not be pressed into service as verbs unless absolutely necessary. But the verb form of “adult” is one I will allow for the simple reason that it is the most expressive word for the situation at hand. “To adult,” according to Urban Dictionary, means “to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.” Frequently appearing as a hashtag on social media, it can be used ironically (“Goldfish crackers and prosecco count as dinner, right? #adulting”) or seriously (“Checkbook balanced, apartment cleaned, laundry done, and dinner in the oven. I’m adulting well today!”).
The term has come under fire for its celebration of everyday chores. Some who are already proficient at adulting (or like to pretend they are) say that everyone has to do these things. You’re not special for cooking a real meal or running a vacuum. A recent Cosmopolitan article argued that emphasizing the basics of grown-up life undermines real accomplishments like career growth, adding that this probably stems from Millennials’ “extended adolescence” because “growing up may feel optional” nowadays.
While many young people do benefit from still living at home and the perks of having their parents do most of the grocery shopping, this actually makes adulthood more scary, not less.
I was fortunate enough to have parents who insisted I learn to cook some basic meals and keep a bathroom sanitary before I went off to college. They gave me a larger allowance in high school with the understanding that I would use it to purchase my own clothing, coffee, etc. so I could learn to manage income and savings on a small scale. Though I’m sure I rolled my eyes at these lessons (sorry, Mom and Dad), I’m grateful for them now. But no parent can teach their kids everything, at least not specifically (“Today I’m going to show you how to call the insurance company for a quote and where to find your policy number on that stupid little card”).
Many of us also grew up hearing that we could do anything, be anything we wanted, follow our dreams, etc. And those are wonderful things to hear when you’re a kid. They are also very broad, sweeping encouragements, with little to say concerning the nitty gritty of how to support yourself while chasing those be-anything dreams. Again, I was lucky; both my parents were happy to help me pursue my love of writing, and at the same time they made sure I would be qualified and capable of holding a day job until that passion could become a sustainable career.
But guess what? Adulthood is still really freaking scary. Yes, the big career moves are nerve-wracking, but it’s also the little things that no one tells you about, like having to put towels down when it’s too late in the evening to call maintenance. Even when you have a potential safety net at home, couldn’t you feel a certain amount of pride when you stop being complacent with letting your parents do everything? If I lived at home, I would be proud when I made dinner for the family. And now that I don’t live at home, I still like to send my mom pictures of the flowers I potted or the art I finally hung up on the walls. These are small accomplishments, yes, but they’re still symbols of independence I am still learning to claim.
Perhaps this is nothing new. Perhaps every generation up to this point has felt the same way as they’re thrown into the deep end of Grown Up Life. But we have social media now, and ways to connect internationally with other people who are experiencing the same thing. The only difference between us and the young adults of the past is that we can be much more public with our anxiety, and we can cheer each other on through the victories, big and small.
So I will keep on adulting, thank you very much.