A guide to adulting when you don’t feel like a real grown-up.
It seems no amount of childhood or academic preparation aids in navigating adulthood. Insurance, voluntary doctor’s appointments, bills. Like, ew, why?
But the unfortunate truth is that adulthood, once breached, is a point of no return. And now we are left on the other side, looking despondently back at all of our temper tantrums over nap time or how we couldn’t wait until we were older, when now all we want is a midday nap and a coloring book.
After desperately searching for Neverland, I realized I must resign myself to the next chapter. This is my definitive guide to navigating adulthood when you feel like you are still a child.
Learn about money
If it wasn’t so sad, it’d almost be funny how academia places such an emphasis on the importance of parabolas while general finance, seriously the only kind of math that affects us all, is left relatively untouched. Taxes, accounting, expenses, investing, assets, liabilities, interest rates, insurance, credit scores, financing. These are all financial beasts that make surprise appearances somewhere within your 20s, some good, some bad, that can be downright vicious for the ill-prepared.
Be the master of your money.
That being said, if you are like me with spending, where you like to remain blissfully unaware, stop it. I tend to spend too much money and then deal with the guilt through avoidance, refusing to check my bank account until it is refilled.
If you have made it this far without a savings account, don’t go a step further without opening one. I have found that though I am more conscious of my money, I am still impulsive. Having something that is not directly swipeable cushions that impulse in some capacity.
Furthermore, credit cards and financing options make money seem intangible or figurative. Sometimes it is just too easy to swipe a card. It takes the emotion and consciousness away from actually exchanging and seeing your hard-earned cash physically leave you.
But here’s some breaking news: This is the real world. A world where money is literal and no amount of object-avoidance pays bills or puts food on the table. Check your bank account and know your spending. Make adjustments if you need to. If you must employ object avoidance, avoid debt.
Also, ‘financing’ is just a fancy word for the aforementioned D-word. You may borrow your friend’s earrings with little to no consequences, but you borrow money, you will pay. Make sure you don’t pay in your credit score.
What’s an adulting article without the R-word, right? But outside of standard obligations, you must confront the reality that you are now wholly responsible for yourself. Forfeit the blame game—it is always futile. Even if it really was not your fault, if it is your directly affecting your, you must take responsibility for the results.
You will never be successful in any aspect of life if you relinquish control simply because it wasn’t your fault. Not your fault doesn’t always mean not your problem. Blame games rationalize stagnancy.
Minimize stress by getting ahead of problems. It is a waste of time and energy to let your issues stock-pile until you can no longer deal with them. Whether it’s cleaning, doing the laundry or keeping a relationship healthy, do damage control before damage is done.
Value long term reward over short-term gratification
Your teen years and early twenties are the prime chapters for instant gratification. It’s easy to live this way because there are fewer consequences. But real life starts making a strong case for long-term value.
The novelty of quick wins tends to wear off even faster it came. The rewards of using shortcuts usually decay in time. Shortsighted decisions often have long-term effects. Invest in and embrace yourself, your process, your time, your money. Your future self will reap the benefits in a major way.
Take care of yourself and your stuff
I know (hope) it goes without saying to shower and brush your teeth. But stop binge drinking, getting 4 hours of sleep, incessantly watching TV are all aspects of well-being that need regular maintenance. Self-diagnosing yourself on WebMD (guilty) is not going to replace your annual physical.
Also, letting dishes pile and laundry sit is filthy in the immediate sense but can also have you frequently replacing items that could have longevity with simple, routine care.
Ask when you need help
Stay humble. It is okay to need some help. It’s constructive to approach adulthood with a learn as you go approach. Be humble enough to know that you may not be equipped with all of the answers. Sometimes, not even Google is equipped with all of the answers. (Blasphemy right?) You may need to source outside opinion or expertise in order to matriculate the impending decades successfully.
Help when others ask
As you are figuring things out, don’t be too proud to lend a hand to others who need a boost too.
Keep a mindset for learning
You will never know it all.
Learn the art of the “no.” You don’t have to be a Scrooge, but people can unconsciously be demanding of your time. Be protective of your time. Do not over-commit your life to happy hours or weddings or off-the-clock work.
Also, learn how to say no to yourself. If you are exceeding moderation in certain areas, eating, sleeping, shopping, etc. learn how to deprive yourself. Self-indulgence can be difficult to deny because you are in control of satiating or denying your own desire. Human nature is always going to push you towards that short-term gratification with little regard to outlasting effects.
Make time for substance
Exist outside of your news feeds. Disconnect once in a while. Trade scrolling for strolling. Keep yourself grounded in the things that you enjoy. Deliberately pursue passions, hobbies, and vacations. Adult life can quickly become so centric on work or raising families—these two things are how most of us introduce ourselves after our names—that you forget that you have so many other facets that need nurturing and cultivation.
When in doubt, fake it til you make it
The rest of us are too.
Lauren is based in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to writing here on Pursuit of Daydreams, Lauren’s daydreams consist of all forms of design: Graphic, Fashion, Web, Interior, Art. On any given day, she can be found preoccupied with at least one of the above. She is happiest with a bowl of ice cream in hand.
Also published on Medium.