Welcome to Adulthood. It sucks here.
I have recently discovered that mid-twenties, despite all of its youthful glamour, are actually right when the awkward stage you were sure you left in middle school is resurrected with a crippling vengeance. This horrible and unsolicited demand to be a functional adult blindsides you quite suddenly—your badge of student-hood (read: viable excuse to forego responsibility and make questionable decisions) is revoked and replaced with a stupid certificate of adulthood that you didn’t even really ask for in the first place.
The Survival Guide
- Don’t be afraid to keep your dreams alive. It is our first response to jump ship from our ultimate goals because we feel rushed or pressured to function responsibly, but take that pressure and transmute it into productive urgency and motivating ambition. Turn dreams into grown-up plans with deadlines and action. Success comes in a million ways, whether it is the complete realization of that goal, or learning, or finding yourself along the way.
- Stop thinking you’re so old. In fact, every person older than 25 right now is reading this and rolling their eyes at my rather youthful naiveté and I will probably glance at this in a year or so and shake my head similarly. Just because your bucket list isn’t completely checked off as dictated by your 20-year-old self, does not make you unaccomplished or inadequate.
- Stop comparing. Everyone has their own issues even if their Instagram feed may not give off that vibe. (I mean does yours? If it does, you should probably start off your fledgling adulthood by deleting all your business from social networks.) It is so easy to peek at someone else’s safe-for-social-network life, curated with drama-less selfies and foodporn, and deem ours less than. But in most cases, you don’t know their story much past their car selfie. There are equal amounts of struggle behind that front-facing camera. And even if there’s not, that is not your business to worry about.
- Stay open-minded. Even though, by now, you have perhaps graduated from everything you can possibly graduate from, keep learning. There are possibilities and potential in every corner, and a mind that functions in positivity and possibility is the stuff of opportunity.
- Explore. The world, yourself, opportunities. Just explore.
- Find yourself. It is cliche. But it is so necessary. These are the times when we need to really get acquainted with who you are and who you want to be and then reconcile the two into a mutual reality.
- Make mistakes. Don’t be so afraid to fail. It is the best teacher. And don’t let failure beat you. It is not a sign that you should give up, rather it is a checkpoint for you to become stronger. It is ok to get it wrong. Now next time, you have a point of reference for you to get it right.
- Stay passionate. Pursue it now. Eliminate the what ifs. Better to answer those what-ifs now so you don’t have to be hit with them during the even more awkward mid-life crisis.
- Stay positive. Stay persistent. When in doubt, keep a positive mindset. That is the game changer in many a dark situation. Life will throw plenty of curve balls and rejection; your positive persistence is key to hitting those home runs.
- Pave your own way. Separate your decisions from society, friends and family. They all enjoy exerting their opinions on how to conduct your life, and though they may mean well, you have to make these calls for yourself. That is not to say to reject the wisdom from those who have validity, but internalize those suggestions as just that: suggestions; not directions. And then figure things out for yourself.
- Hold yourself accountable. Most of us have probably spent a couple of decades being held accountable by third parties—parents, teachers, clergy—that it can be a bit difficult to figure out how to hold yourself accountable without someone looming over our shoulder. But this is key to this whole responsibility nonsense that we have to confront. Create deadlines and expectations for yourself. Learn how to prioritize effectively.
- Well, I hate to curse at you, but it begs to be said. Be responsible. Remember all those years you begged for freedom? Well here it is and it has this nasty and inevitable side effect called responsibility, whose only cure is to embrace it.
- Keep your sense of wonder. Adulthood cultivates routines in most of us, which is certainly a good thing when you’re trying to navigate this world filled with responsibility, but it can also curate a rather boring and jaded lifestyle. Don’t forget to enjoy this ride. Don’t forget to pay attention to the little things. Don’t forget to give yourself a break from the mundane.
- Keep your real friends close, and subtract the excess. Make sure you don’t get too busy adulting that you forget to socialize. Friends keep us grounded in this busy and stressful grown-up world and it is too easy for us to get wrapped up in our responsible schedules that we go months without intimate interaction.
- But don’t be afraid to minimize. Growing up in an age defined by social networks, many of us have curated widespread and relatively meaningless groups of chatter via seemingly endless platforms where we are constantly available to anyone who sends us a notification. Adulthood is better navigated with genuine and/or productive company, so forego the dead weight. You do not need 3000 Facebook friends.
- Go off the grid. Value your me time. Though it is great to network and socialize, the best way to discover ourselves is without the distractions or external stimulus.
Also published on Medium.