When my mother was my age, she was raising a child and was pregnant with her second. She worked retail and saved money so that a few years later she would be able to put a down payment on a house. She was 28. She was a grown-up.
A few decades ago, it was possible for my mom and dad—a young couple of moderately limited means—to have children, buy a home, and establish career tracks, but times have changed. People are having kids later. Housing prices are rising and incomes are not. Thirty-somethings are applying for unpaid internships. Safe to say that adults in their twenties and thirties feel less grown-up today than they ever have before: thus the rise of the embarrassing and self-congratulatory phrase “adulting.”
Adulting is a term most often used when a person fulfills a basic prerequisite of adulthood and wants to feel special—or, worse than that, be charmingly self-deprecating—about it.
“Remembered to pay my phone bill on time #adulting,” they might type.
“Vacuumed for the first time in six months,” they’ll potentially say. “#adulting.”
“Hosted a dinner party where I didn’t ask guests to bring their own plates #adulting!”
(Want some real life examples? Here you go!)
...which is funny, because, even when given ironically, an award for fulfilling your basic responsibilities as a human is pretty much the most childish thing imaginable.
We can all recognize that being an adult is hard. We can also recognize that there are legitimate challenges to modern adulthood that didn’t exist 50 years ago. Even putting aside major current issues like stagnant wages and the inflated housing market, there are certain things that we grown ups have to do (clean, pay bills, sit in meetings) that are always going to suck and that we’re always going to complain about.
That’s okay! I love complaining! Complaining is one of the best parts of being an adult. But when it comes down to getting shit done, it’s time to put aside your need to feel special and praised and simply do your adult diligence without putting a cute word on it. Pay your bills, clean your rented apartment (because you’re too poor to own, obviously), and show up to work on time. Or don’t, and face the consequences. As a woman of nearly 30 who currently types from a bedroom where there are enough dirty clothes on the ground to pad a hard fall, I am in no position to tell people to grow up and act responsibly. I am, however, in a position to tell people that they don’t deserve accolades once they finally do.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.