I spend most of my income on the things I need. Many Saturdays are spent doing laundry, vacuuming and scrubbing the bathroom sink. There’s no one around to cook for me, so if I don’t cook, I don’t eat. My friends and family are spread out all over the globe, and I check my email more than my social media. On nights out with friends, the conversation quickly turns to things like “which credit card gives you the best airline mileage rate”. I guess I’m an adult.
I don’t want to over-simplify what it looks like to embrace adulthood, without becoming cynical, by simply encouraging you to “follow your dreams”. On the surface, there’s no one-right-way to live. Every culture values different things and looks at what it means to be an adult differently. Some young adults live with their families until they get married, while other cultures view that as being overly dependent. Some cultures have a more widely accepted standard of a “good job”, while others value forging a unique identity.
Regardless of the community you grew up in and the values associated with it, I think there’s a persistent thought that could be true for all of us. Adulthood doesn’t have to be the place where what you hoped for in the world goes to die. Instead of becoming detached and dull, or whatever you fear “becoming an adult” might mean, it is possible to become more aware and alive than you’ve ever been. Growing up can bring you opportunities to engage with life in new and vibrant ways.
My experience of growing toward maturity has felt a lot like tuning a guitar. If I notice myself being a little flat in one area, I’ll twist the knob dramatically until I’m too sharp. Then, I’ll pendulum back and forth, dancing around the right note until I settle into a balance and hear that resounding hum. But then I inevitably get out of tune again, and continue in the process of tuning, of growing.
I can be rebellious and overly submissive, highly individualistic while caring deeply about what others think, and view work as the most or least significant part of life. I’ve had complicated relationships with authority, money and work ethic and realized much of adulthood is about living in the tensions and not always trying to resolve them. Living in the tensions of adulthood means we take initiative to be a good manager of our gifts and talents, while also serving our communities in areas we don’t enjoy, but where there is great need. We pursue the bigger meaning of our work, while also grounding our beliefs and taking practical steps forward. We develop healthy boundaries with people, without becoming cold, isolated and uninterruptible.
Embracing adulthood doesn’t have to only involve bank accounts, landlords, ties, cleaning supplies and career fairs. Becoming an adult could also mean taking the initiative to chase after excellence in your field, exploring the kind of person you want to be and seeking to understand how your life fits into a bigger story.
Oh, and while you’re navigating this whole adult-ing thing?
Take some time to be a kid.