What does being an adult really mean, anyway?

Art by Analyn Camantigue

 

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up and be an adult. I couldn’t wait to have a job, a busy life, and have my own money to spend. There I was, in our humid-as-hell Grade 6 classroom, daydreaming about a fast-paced, glitzy and fabulous life. I’d had it with my boring grade school existence; all I wanted was to get my engines revved up and get going with my life. And of course I was watching movies like 13 Going on 30, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and The Devil Wears Prada, which let me dive into the fantasy even further — but also gave me unrealistic expectations about being all grown up and in charge of my own life.

By the time I went to college I was still obsessed with getting my foot in the door. So I interned, scooped up some freelance gigs, and shimmied my way into the school magazine. My baby ass was hustling — or at least trying to — to pass off as a responsible, hardworking and highly-motivated adult. There I was, feeling my oats with Britney’s Work B*tch as the soundtrack to my life. I mean, who doesn’t want a Bugatti? Damn.

But it was all about to come crashing down. I graduated and started working immediately — for Young STAR, ding ding ding, you guessed it — and right after the honeymoon phase was over, I was screaming for my life. No mid-2000s movie could’ve prepared me for how real it was going to get.

 

I was screaming for my life. No mid-2000s movie could’ve prepared me for how real it was going to get.

 

We all know by now that the mechanics of being an “adult” are not taught at all in school. I hope you’re not surprised because I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you this. First, there are the bills to pay. My parents live somewhere else so I’ve had to manage to go to the Bayad Center on time every month. Easy enough, I thought — just a chore I had to cover; wasn’t that big of a nuisance. But then there was having to file your taxes, which, if you’re a freelancer, is different from when you’re a regular employee. And then there were house repairs. And there was dealing with myself and what I still wanted to become.

Things kept on piling up, and it came to the point where I didn’t want to be an adult anymore. There I was, not feeling my oats with Lorde’s Liability as the soundtrack to my life. I was not on my way to being 30, flirty and thriving, nor did I even want to go there. All of a sudden, I just wanted to go back to being bored in Grade 6, not having even the slightest idea of what I had gotten myself into.

There were so many things to get the hang of in such little time, and all of it was distracting me from what I thought becoming an adult was. How was I supposed to learn how to fix a water supply problem while learning how to get better at my actual job? I was so disillusioned; I mean, some people have it harder and some people have babies at this age and still manage to pull through. How?!?

 

I’m learning that having a fabulous job and a glitzy life does not an adult make. I’ve come to the conclusion that being grown-up and being an adult is not necessarily the same thing.

 

It hasn’t been that long since then, but as I slowly crawl out of the hole I dug myself into, I’m learning that having a fabulous job and a glitzy life does not an adult make. I mean, you think Jenna Rink or Andie Anderson or Andy Sachs had it together completely? Don’t think so.

I’ve come to the conclusion that being grown-up and being an adult is not necessarily the same thing. Learning how to be an adult (“Adulting”; hate that word) just means knowing the ropes and having a handle on your bills and taxes and house repairs. Being a grownup, on the other hand, is knowing how to take charge of who you are, knowing who you are at your core. In school, it’s like actually understanding the concept versus just memorizing the terms and definitions.

 

Being a grownup, on the other hand, is knowing how to take charge of who you are, knowing who you are at your core.

 

And here’s the catch: knowing yourself doesn’t just mean knowing what your favorite movie of all time is, or what your flavor of the month is. It’s knowing how you react to certain situations, how you are when you’re up or down, and how to deal with problems. Some take longer than others, and not everyone has the privilege of learning this immediately, and that means that being a grownup also means having empathy.

It’s a lot to ask, I know. But being a grownup is hard and there’s no way around it. There aren’t any Sims cheat codes for life, I’m afraid. But you’ll get there if you keep working at it. See you on the climb.

 

Tags:
#career #self

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