How to Adult, Part II

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When does adulthood start? Right on your 18th birthday? A little before, or maybe even years after? Where is the line? And why does that line have to be so dreadful?

Other generations, Gen Z especially, have taken to making fun of millennials and our seemingly incessant need to “kidify” things. Even the term “adulting” has taken a hit for allegedly being too juvenile. Many millennials had to grow up faster than we wanted, thus leaving us to honor our leftover childlike tendencies as adults. We create fandoms, we paved the way for TikTok through Vine (RIP), and we dance along the line of functioning adults with remaining wonder. As Julie Lythcott-Haims shares during her interview on our podcast, PrepTalks, adulthood is the time between childhood and death. Yeah, that’s dark, but there’s a whole lot of living to be had in-between. So how are you living these days as you draw closer to your definition of adulthood?

As your senior year bends the final corner, you may be faced with the giant question, “now what?” Yes, college or trade school or the workforce is right there to greet you, but once you toss that graduation cap in the air, where do you go from here?

Failing Up Can Be a Good Thing

No one gets adulthood right the first try. What we’re fed through TV shows of young adults in huge apartments overlooking the cityscape with pithy dialogue and one-liners are just that: a show. We never see the line slipups, missed cues, or failure to land the scene. We don’t get to see the mistakes that led to the triumph onscreen. Failing up means occasionally tripping up those stairs leading to your dream college, career, or location, but continuing to move up anyway. It means being okay with starting over as Plan A turns out to be Plan Q. The adult thing to do is honor those feelings of failure and use them as fuel to power yourself through. And failure tends to give us a viewpoint that instant gratification and Instagram perfection don’t: we notice the little things edging out beyond the margins. Failing reminds us of our humanity, and succeeding after failure feels otherworldly.

Give Yourself Grace

There’s something about the age of 18 where some people think adulthood kicks in immediately. You may even be pushing yourself to “grow up” faster than your mind and emotions are ready for. I’d suggest taking a breather. You’ll be an adult way longer than you currently realize, so indulge in the nuances of teen life. What I’ve noticed about Gen Z is they are not afraid to have the difficult conversations most older generations were taught to avoid. Continue to embrace that while also acknowledging when you need to take it easy. Giving yourself the space to create, destroy, understand, forget, unlearn, and relearn is crucial to adulthood, as most of what we are taught growing up will be challenged in the “real” world. It’s okay to change your mind, update your thinking, and acknowledge hurts and mistakes as you come into who you’re meant to be. Go easy on yourself: those growing pains didn’t end in middle school.

Know When to Ask for Help

Adulthood is all about being solely self-sufficient, having the right responses to every situation, coming out on top every time, and landing into your golden years square on your feet, right? Nope. Learning how to ask for help strengthens your resolve when times get tough. Something I share with my daughter is how important it is to not only ask for help, but to know who to ask. Not everyone is equipped to handle your heavy moments, and you should be able to lean on those who can support you and vice versa. One tip I learned from a friend who’s also a college professor is when approaching someone for help — be it emotional, mental, or physical help — first ask whether or not they have the room for requests. You never know what someone is carrying, and the worst thing we can do is add to the load unknowingly. Asking if they have room and accepting their answer teaches you how to ask for support, acknowledge when someone’s load is too heavy at the moment, and understand how support is a team effort.

Adulting is something you’ll be doing for the rest of your life. It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom but instead a journey you make all your own.

For the first piece in this series on adulting, click here.

Joi Donaldson

Communications Associate

Joi Donaldson is an author/poet, photographer and all-around creative. She’s an obsessive Hamilton fanatic, curator of good vibes and, through transparency and humor, has learned how to make tough conversations fun. Her podcast, My Depression’s Got Jokes and her non-profit dedicated to shining light on the mental health disparities of teen girls of color Paper Storms is all in the l...

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