Millennials, stop panicking about Adulting — we’re never going to get there anyway
I’m turning twenty-five this year.
I realised this rather unexpectedly, around January 3rd, (my festive hangover had finally cleared), and I actually stopped what I was doing and had a very real oh shit moment. I was at my parent’s house for the Christmas break, minding by own business wandering aimlessly around the kitchen, opening and closing the fridge door at least five or six times to see if food had magically appeared (it never does); when my dad appeared with a smile on his face and said:
“You know what, you’re twenty-five this year, maybe by your birthday you’ll actually realise that the fridge fairy doesn’t exist.”
It’s worth saying at this point that I do in fact know my age, and I also do know that in order to feed oneself, one must go to a supermarket and actually buy food. It’s more the fact that the reality of turning twenty-FIVE has triggered what I can only describe as a bit of a quarter life crisis. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t that long ago that I was a fearless sixteen year old, wide eyed and bushy-tailed, living a life where thirteen hours sleep a night and cupcakes for breakfast was acceptable. Yet now, I have no cupcakes, and I lay awake at night crippled by the anxiety of how I’m going to pay my rent in London this September, how quickly time passes, and that my lack of enthusiasm for morning jogs makes me a terrible person.
Basically, I think I’m an.. adult? Perhaps? To be honest, I have no idea.
This unexpected identity crisis got me thinking. What actually is an adult? What does it mean to adult properly? At what point exactly should this process occur? Does it happen overnight? Are there physical attributes included? Do I get an award?
How do I class myself as an adult when I still don’t know what one serving of pasta should look like without accidentally cooking half a pack of spaghetti and eating leftovers for two days?
Adulthood, as a definition, can be intersected in many ways. Biologically, adults are human beings who have reached sexual maturity, evidencing the ability to reproduce and continue the human race. Legally, our adulthood is defined by social freedoms granted upon us after surpassing age barriers, for example the ability to vote, drink, have sex, get married, drive cars, buy property, etc, usually defined by the age of eighteen depending on your nationality. Yet, when I think about this, most of us will agree that during our late teens, our emotional and social maturity was that of a cheese sandwich, and rightly so. Adulthood may be defined on paper as being able to reproduce and vote, yet it is the things that we are expected to have achieved and the way in which we should carry ourselves as clean, polite, functioning human beings that manage to interact with one another by cordial email exchange and not kill anyone is what really defines us as adults.
Embodying Adult seems to represent some kind of self-proclaimed success at ‘life’. Once we achieve what our understanding of social, grown up responsibility is, constructed and placed upon us as over-arched expectation, only then do we pass or fail.
Legally and biologically speaking, the Millennials of today meet the requirements to sit with the big girls and boys, yet, we’re quite all right on the floor cross-legged with our juice boxes. We are expected to raise to the table, yet the truth is, those already sat there eating are the ones that have kicked away our chairs. We reject the social construction of Adult that is layed out for us by previous generations like a dull outfit ready to wear simply because it doesn’t fit us and makes us look ridiculous. We can’t and won’t come to terms with this pre-defined, unwanted sense of Responsible Adultness because it doesn’t work for us the way it did for our parents.
The only generation better off since the 2008 crash and the ones that came out in hoardes to kick us out of the EU only to die in the next couple of decades; there has never been a bigger distance between us and the Baby Boomers. It’s no wonder our understanding of what Adulting represents has become even more problematic.
The generation before us talk about how the definition of success lies in the bricks of the house you own, the job that keeps you employed and the money that you have saved in your account. Adulthood and being successful is intrinsically linked to materialism, yet we are the generation capturing more memories with our GoPros than signing contracts. We are moving into flatshares and constructing our own social microcosms in tiny apartments, rather into setting up house in property down the street from our mum and dad’s. We educate ourselves even though we can’t afford it and although it means that we will have thousands of pounds in debt before our quarter century birthday, we’re defined as financially reckless. We are the ERASMUS generation, the first born out of Maastricht, making friends with people from all over the world and testing out new cultures and languages, yet we’re told that we’re selfish and searching for instant gratification and attention by those who prefer to close the shutters and Leave rather than to open up and Remain. We want to legalise the oldest industries in the book that have kept hidden generations of people employed and supplied in order to help and protect those who need it, yet we’re greedy and over consume. We see through the Post Truth Politicians born out of the 50s and 60s for what they really are and shout about it appropriately, yet we’re disillusional and glued to our iPhones. Our £700 a month flat share in London and £9,000 a year university fees is a far cry from their Their Right To Buy and free education.
Why is this important? It shows the disparity in socio-economic lives that contrast intergenerationally.
Pressure on how to Adult is in essence constructed by a society that doesn’t necessarily understand the way we ourselves live or what we consider to be important. Yes, we may still have issues knowing how to fill out tax reforms, but we know how to manage at least four different social media accounts and reguarly keep up to date with what’s going on in the world and read about it from different perspectives through the beauty of technological exchange. We might be up to our eyeballs in student debt and still not be Bill Gates great at managing our money because of our high rent and food bills every month, but we know how to feed a hungry flat of hungover graduates cheap and efficiently and are great at sourcing wallet friendly flights to go visit our friends who live overseas.
Adulthood is a phase of life that no-one can avoid, and it arrives insidiously. We will all reach certain birthdays where we all stop and think oh fucking hell. Usually that comes around your mid-twenties because you’re grown up enough to remember to buy shoe polish and lightbulbs and Adulty things like that, yet you still feel horrendously out of control when it comes to talking about how much you think you should be earning or how outrageous your living situation is for a graduate who has an actual degree. Reaching certain milestones in life reminds us to think about all the things that we think we should have achieved by twenty, or twenty-five, or thirty. Yet when the bar is set by people who had the means to purchase houses whilst we are still shuffling around our flatshares in last night’s pants, it’s not really the same kind of adult, is it.
Adult doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It doesn’t have to be a checklist. It can be an approach catered for us. For me, I feel like an Adult when I feel on top of my affairs, when I feel responsible and in control of my life. But like everything in life, ying and yang exists, and yes sometimes I like to spend my Sunday in my pants eating way too much pasta and flicking through social media like a self-indulgent snail, wrapped up in a duvet that is most likely marketed for children under ten years old and trying to count how many glasses of wine I actually drank last night.
Of course, interests change and develop, and the day you find yourself admiring the coffee machines sat delightfully in the kitchens you wake up drunk in, or willingly going to bed before midnight on a Friday because you need to catch up on your sleep and want to actually see daylight during your weekend off: these are usually the bizarre moments where you stop and say to yourself, ok I can definitely see the difference between twenty-four year old me and eighteen year old me.
So yes, I’m still discovering what it means to Adult. I also realise that I will most likely never fit into the category of Adult that has been set out for people my age by those older than us. I don’t want to, and that’s fine given that I’m simply not prepared to sell my soul to the corporate property devil at this point in my life, nor do I think that the job of your dreams should come straight out of university. Life changes and you mould accordingly. Plus there are a lot of places in the world I want to visit, for my own personal development (that’s how I sell it to myself anyway) — tell me again how a £50,000 mortgage is more important than that?
I’m still routinely late to things, I don’t own a house and probably won’t do for a really long time, I still get confused with how many litres fit into bin bags, (is it 30L or 50L for a small bin? Literally no idea.) But, I know how to look after myself and my friends, I know that I won’t always do things perfectly, but I have faith in the future and know that essentially, we’re all in the same boat, twenty-five and wise or not.
And no, I don’t think I’ll ever learn how to measure pasta properly, but is that really so bad?