The term “adulting” is one that was coined by Kelly Williams-Brown in her excellent blog, Adulting:
How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, which has since become a fun book, as well. The appeal is twofold, I think:
- First, it provides a venting for the frustrations we have with others who may seem to not quite meet our standards of maturity (the first entry, for example, was entitled Make Your F**king Bed).
- Second, it acknowledges that along with the global information age comes a whole host of new and confusing expectations and challenges that go along with the idea of being an adult.
Here’s an example of just how strange it is: the idea of someone “moving into their parent’s basement” has become a favorite attack of baby-boomers on millenials – as if it represents some failure. Yet the latest cause-celebre of the productivity world, Cal Newport, holds up as a fine example of “deep work” a man who quit his job, moved into his parents basement, and studied coding nonstop for three months. He then went on to a coding “boot camp”, graduated top of his class, and landed a six-figure job in silicon valley. Pulled himself up by his bootstraps, he did!
Personally, I’ve avoided putting my own kids in that kind of quandary: I don’t have a basement. But I see them, on occasion, trying to impress me with feats of performance. “Dad, you would have been so proud of me!” Youngest Daughter told me at a recent lunch, bragging about her adventures doing urban exploring in Minneapolis.
She’s right – I am proud of her, just like I admire her sisters for doing things like following a dream to Atlanta, or creating new menus, or recalibrating life goals when circumstances change. These are all the big and obvious things. But as an aspiring Adultist, I am also impressed with many other things that I don’t think they give themselves enough credit for.
- Trying to have a polite conversation with an ex-boyfriend who is also a co-parent, or
- Dealing with absent parents.
- Working to create fun and secure living spaces with their children.
- Looking for work not based only on monetary gain but also on whether the career would do good for the world.
- Spending time on personal appearance to look professional.
- Working their way through the bureaucratic morass that is our modern culture.
This isn’t to brag about them, by the way. There are also a lot of ways that I wish they could be more adultey, from simple things like having a cel phone survive longer than a week to the complexities of remembering that they can, in fact, follow their dreams, and don’t have to settle. But that’s the wish of a man who is in a very different place than them, and I don’t really understand their challenges as well as I think I do.
Instead I just watch them, and try to let them know that it’s amazing – like, ninja-warrior amazing – that they are such Bad-Ass Adults. It doesn’t take running through sewers, winning prizes, or getting rich – there are enough challenges to simply living a graceful life to impress me.