By Katie Cockrell MSW, LCSW
Adulting. By now, most have heard this phrase and can identify with it. It's a simple word that encompasses the idea of what it means to be an adult; what adult life is supposed to look like, and what adults actually do. It also describes all adult tasks, expectations, responsibilities, milestones, and behaviors typically experienced by adults. Some of the well known examples of adulting are: paying bills, buying or owning a home, getting married, having children, and working a full time job. The phrase also acknowledges the stress that can often come along with some of these experiences.
It seems that in an ever changing world, where expectations develop and adapt all the time, the expectations or pressures of being an adult seem to stay the same. What do I mean by this exactly? Well, there appears to be this idea, especially in western culture, that suggests that adulthood looks like the following: working full time jobs, owning homes, being married, and having families. For some, this idea of adulthood is exactly what they want and they create goals to accomplish this idea. For others however, it may look different...a lot different...and this can sometimes cause feelings of confusion, despair, failure, depression, anxiety, and an overall loss of identity. Does this mean then that those who want the job, house, marriage, and family are wrong? NO, absolutely not! Does this mean that those who do not have or want a house, are not married yet nor want to be married, or do not have or want a family are wrong? No absolutely not! Life can be DIFFERENT for everyone.
Maybe you have just completed college and are starting life for the first time no longer being a student. This can be really scary! The transition is new and can be uncomfortable. No one seems to talk about or identify that this transitional period exists for some students. Living life as a full time student and making the transition to full time work, for some, can feel wonderful and exciting! It has a different focus, new challenges, and different responsibilities. For others, this can feel very negative and may be hard to adjust to. If it does happen to feel this way for you, THIS IS COMPLETELY NORMAL!
Maybe you didn't choose college and have been working since high school. Maybe you are experiencing pressure because you didn't complete the traditional educational life that others feel you should have. Maybe you are feeling guilty because you did not or could not further your education. Maybe you are worried that you will miss out on an opportunity that should have happened if you would have continued with your education. Maybe you have a fear that others will think you are less qualified due to not furthering your education. Education alone, does not always prepare one for the real-world. Many times it is hands on work experience that provides one with knowledge, the ability to practice life-skills, develop responsibility, and produce personal growth.
Maybe your adult life has been shaped by something different, such as an unexpected death, illness, or crisis in which you had absolutely no control over. Maybe this unexpected event has caused some delay in developing your personal goals or plans for your future. Just because one experiences a delayed start on adult life, does not mean that they will miss out on opportunities or that they do not possess the appropriate skills to manage their lives. Circumstances change constantly and things happen unexpectedly which can put one's life on a completely different path. Whatever the case maybe, this societal pressure that suggests that one NEEDS to create or have or live life a specific way, by the time one reaches their 20's, 30's and beyond, is simply not true or realistic.
So then what is adulthood truly about? It's about allowing yourself to stay focused on what is important to you and your happiness. It's about allowing yourself to figure out what goals/accomplishments are providing fulfillment in your life. It's about setting the appropriate sized goals to achieve what it is that you want or need and make sure that these goals match the life that YOU want to have. It's about giving yourself time to find yourself by trying new things, exposing yourself to challenges, and failure. It's about building a life that matches your personal values and that you are personally proud of. Maybe this means owning the house,renting the apartment, having children, not having children, getting married, or living the single life. There is more than one way to experience adulthood and to develop a satisfying life. Life is hard...sometimes it's very hard, and guess what, it doesn’t get any easier!
You cannot Pinterest your way through life and expect good results, it just doesn't work that way. So instead, consider these tips:
9 Tips for Adulting