Adulting VS Being An Adult - What's The Difference?

Jan 29, 2021

Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres

It dawned on me, at some point around Christmas this year, that it seems to me my generation is now definitely grown up. I mean, based on my Facebook newsfeed, a bunch of my friends are either getting married, getting pregnant, buying a house, moving jobs, changing careers… But that’s just one group. The other, much like me, spends most of their time planning trips to Disneyland, discussing the latest Marvel show or moaning about how expensive the rent is.

But as I look at the glimpses of their lives that I’m allowed to see through social media, or when we catch up on things, I get the distinct feeling that, rather than being fully fledged adults as I remember our parents or grandparents being, we are in fact just adulting our way through life. And before you tell me that no one ever really knows what they’re doing, and maybe they were just as confused as we are now, hear me out.

How often have you thought to yourself “woah, guess this means I’m an adult now” while doing something? It could be driving in your own car, doing your tax return, shopping for groceries, baking a cake or feeding your child. The thought will just pop into your mind, either fleeting or lingering, and you’ll just shake it off. But eventually, especially if you’ve had the feeling more and more, you’ll start to wonder why it feels so strange. Shouldn’t you be prepared for this by now? Shouldn’t it feel normal?

Maybe, yes. Most likely, no. And why doesn’t it? Because the world is not actually preparing us for the realities of life like it used to. Gone are the days when you learnt sewing, cooking and woodwork in school. No one ever bothers to teach you how to write a decent CV, let alone explain how to calculate your taxes. Of course, there are tools to do that online now, but most people would benefit from early application in class, and it would lead to a generation that’s more prepared for what awaits them.

The first time I had to fill out a French tax return, I asked my mother for help. Then when my colleagues couldn’t figure it out either, I passed on what she’d told me. The following year, the company sent out a detailed explanation with pictures as to how to fill out the return. Somehow, I don’t see this happening 20 years ago.

Similarly, when I moved into halls my first year at Uni, only a few of us could actually cook more than pasta, eggs and anything that reheats in an oven/microwave. But we eventually all taught each other recipes from back home, made dinners together and by the end of it, were much better off than before.

People often use the term “adulting” jokingly. They’ll post a shot of them building an IKEA wardrobe, or changing a tyre, and will add #adulting as if that explains why or how they’re doing something that they should be doing at this time in their life. A friend of mine recently had a baby and later got a haircut, calling it “mum-hair”. Why would she feel the need to call it that? I know many women prefer to cut their hair shorter after having a baby, to avoid the hassle of long showers, hours spent detangling or dyeing their luscious locks. I’ve never seen them advertise it as “Mum-hair”.

When you were little, what did being an adult mean to you? Living by yourself probably. Having money to pay for things you wanted. Driving a car, being able to go out late at night. And as you grew older and started doing some of those things, did you ever feel like you were an adult then?

People often reminisce about the past and are often reprimanded for doing so. Life expectancy was shorter, there were less laws protecting our rights and no one really cared about saving the planet. But they had good bits too. Why not bring back some of those values? A growing number of adults used the lockdowns to teach themselves new skills, from baking to sewing, and quite a few have vowed to consider starting a manual side-hustle, where they can use the skills they acquire and make something. Some of them might end up leaving their 9 to 5 to start a bakery, or a shop, or retrain as a vet.

How long will it feel like just adulting, and will it ever feel like being an adult? I don’t know. Others might completely disagree with me, and they already feel like a grown-up. The most important part to remember is: you do yo.