Millennial Adulting: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
This growing up sh*t is for the birds.
Okay, maybe that was a bit dramatic— but you can’t deny that there’s truth to that statement. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in these first three months of my 27th year around the sun, it’s that becoming an adult is complex AF.
And it’s not just simple “growing pains” to blame for these complexities. There’s actual scientific research that proves our late twenties are meant to be filled with stress and struggle.
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, doing adult things is not only taxing and annoying, but it can be lonely and perplexing as hell.
This includes the inevitable: paying rent, bills and student loans (Sallie Mae is the worst); making doctor’s appointments and exercising on a regular basis; maintaining ‘that 9-to-5 just to stay alive’ without attempting to kirk out on your co-workers; ensuring that you’ve got at least a week’s worth of food in the fridge so that one-fourth of your check doesn’t only go to wine, Chipotle and happy hour; and remembering to call your parents at least once a week to let them know you’re alive and still kicking.
Now don’t get me wrong — I’m extremely grateful to have a roof over my head, clothes on my back and money in my back account to put on my Metro card. But even with all of these blessings on blessings, I can’t help but think back to when times were a little simpler.
Yes, I am that millennial who likes to reminisce on her days of living in a collegiate bubble with a weekly meal plan, paid housing and free gym access.
You know what they didn’t teach us in school? How inexplicably uncomfortable the process of becoming your own person truly can be. Sure, they (parents, teachers, mentors, etc.) have encouraged us to follow our hearts, dream big and never give up; but they failed to warn us about how complicated it would be to manage that process while becoming better professionals, daughters, sons, siblings, friends, lovers and citizens of the world.
I promise you I’m not bitter — I’m just venting a little bit. So please, bear with me.
I can’t fully place the blame on they because I have to remember: I am not entitled to anything. The world couldn’t give less of a good g*ddamn how much I whine and complain when things don’t go my way. Like everyone else, I still have to work my ass off, get fired from a job or two, experience heartbreak and even lose some friends along the way. All the while, remembering to practice gratitude, patience and self-respect.
Because that my friends is the true art of adulting.
“It builds character,” they say.
“This is just a phase in your journey,” they say.
“You’ll look back and be so proud of how far you’ve come,” they say.
MAJOR KEY ALERT: They are actually right, but those revelations don’t come until after you’ve weathered your storm.
There are also undisclosed emotions that they may neglect to warn you about. You know, the ones that most of us (myself included) tend to shy away from openly discussing for the sake of wanting to look as though we have it all together. And because we’ve grown up in the age of the 140-character status, the 4-second Snapchat and the Instagram photo with unlimited hashtags, evidence of these feelings permeate into the public eye a lot quicker than we’d like to believe.
It is those feelings of stress, anxiety, inadequacy and fear. That looming agitation of how in the hell are you going to turn what you’re really passionate about into dollar signs. The balancing act of relationships with family, friends and the “bae” who could be here today and gone tomorrow. Each of these things can take a blow to the self-esteem and ego, making it all the more difficult to articulate how it is you’re feeling underneath it all.
Recently, it’s been imperative for me to take time to reflect on these moments both quietly and aloud with trusted individuals, even when I find myself in the midst of a complete sh*t show.
While I’m one to sometimes (okay, most times) let my emotions get the best of me, it’s the consistent practice of self-awareness that allows me to remember that these experiences are all apart of a bigger picture.
So here they are: the good, bad and ugly lessons that I’ve learned thus far on this millennial adulting journey.
The Ugly. When you’re really going through it, you may cry in public —and more than once in a week. At the bar into a beer, at the coffee shop into a latte, or in the bathroom stall at work. There will be an internal fight you’ll have with yourself on a daily basis to maintain honesty about how you are really feeling, and not just a cookie-cutter answer to help move the conversation along. There will be sleepless nights, wandering thoughts and self-doubt, but you will have to push past those voices in your head to realize that there is beauty in the affliction.
The Bad. You’ll over-analyze and overthink everything. The inside of your head will become the safe haven you’ll never want to leave. You’ll sometimes expect way too much of others and end up disappointed when they don’t turn out to be who you thought they were. You’ll also expect too much of yourself and attempt to stretch yourself so thin that it will compromise your creativity. You’ll come up with many dope ideas that it may overwhelm you to the point that you lose focus and won’t pursue any of them at all. You’ll sip the imposter syndrome Kool-Aid a few times, and realize that it doesn’t taste like Beyonce or Idris Elba’s bath water. But don’t panic. To quote the great New Orleans philosopher Dwayne Michael Carter, “ I know the process is so much stress — but it’s the progress that feels the best.”
At this point, it would seem like you’re doomed, right? Wrong. Because, it actually does get better.
The Good. After experiencing the stages of bad and ugly, your self-awareness will reach impeccable levels of fleek. You’ll learn to surround yourself with genuinely dope a** people, but ultimately choose the ones to keep around who will always keep it 100 with you. You’ll learn that “No.” is a complete sentence. You will also stop looking for validation from those who you didn’t need it from, embrace your brilliance and celebrate your successes unapologetically. Accepting that ‘the best is yet to come’ will change your perspective, and self-care will be habitual and intentional because… you’re worth it. Speaking things in existence will become second nature. And even though you will have some bad days, practicing gratitude will remind you that you are so much further along than you were the day before, and God has always got your back and your front.
Y’all, adulting is very uncomfortable, and it will continue to be until we reach at least 35 years old. But that doesn’t mean it won’t lead to moments of growth, perseverance and victory. Years from now when we’re sitting in our homes with our arms wrapped around our little ones, or somewhere sailing across the Pacific sipping Dom Perignon, we’ll remember these struggle moments (both good and bad) as benchmarks that stretched us and helped shape our prosperity.
Keep climbing my fellow millennials — the struggle won’t last forever.
We gon’ be alright!