It’s not all hangovers and mortgages.
I have a daughter and, no matter what I do, every day, she’s getting older.
And that sucks.
Because that means I’m getting older too. And, one day, our family is going to completely flip roles — someday I’ll be a senior citizen and she’ll be an adult — and, I suspect, we’re both going to freak out about it.
Change is hard. I know that when I “officially” became a grown-up, it was a very difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. So, I’m not a kid anymore? I have to find my own medical insurance? And I’m supposed to know what to do for the next 80 years of my life?
Becoming an adult isn’t anything you can really prepare for.
In retrospect, I could’ve done a much better job of transitioning into adulthood. I made so many rookie mistakes, which I guess is kind of the point, but, still, I wish I’d spent a lot less time on existential quandaries and a lot more time just enjoying my newfound independence.
With this in mind, and as I see my daughter rapidly heading towards the same precipice, here are nine things that I really want my kid to know about what it REALLY means to become a grown-up.
1. When your kids go to sleep, you get to eat all the candy and watch all the R-rated movies that you want.
There are so many hard things about being an adult, but, this is definitely one of the perks. I just fill a mug with Starburst jellybeans, balance it on my stomach, and then watch whatever looks violent and cool on Netflix. And, if it’s around Halloween, I steal my kid’s candy because she doesn’t really have a proper grasp of inventory yet.
So, yeah, some of the stereotypes are true.
2. Sex isn't all that.
Don't get me wrong. It's AWESOME. It makes people take showers and write songs. But, when you're got a really intimate relationship with someone, it isn't really about sex.
Sex is like gravy. It's a topping, an add-on. Sex isn't love, but it's something you can do when you are in love. So, don't worry about sex. Worry about finding someone who makes you laugh, someone you wouldn't mind going on a 10-hour road trip with, someone who gets you. THOSE are the important things in a relationship. Sex is just the cherry on the sundae.
3. College is an experience, not an education.
Don’t get me wrong — you learn stuff in college, but so much of it isn’t in the classroom. More than anything, college is like real-life with training wheels on. You’re living on your own (in housing they regulate), taking care of your own meals and laundry (in cafeterias and facilities they provide), and establishing a routine (by meeting daily goals where you can’t get fired easily).
There are harder sciences where you definitely need the accumulated knowledge you gathered in university classes, but, for the most part, you won’t use 90% of what you spent your classtime learning. Instead, you’ll just keep learning how to live solo, take care of yourself, and get shit done.
4. Nothing is more evil than debt.
College can play a big role in this, but there is nothing worse for your future than getting yourself into a ton of debt early on. Yes, it flies in the face of our desire for instant gratification. We want things NOW — college, travel, stuff. But loans and credit card debt are like boulders you stack onto your back and carry around for DECADES.
Avoiding debt might make you have to miss some amazing sounding opportunities when you’re young, but the freedom that comes from having little-to-no debt is one of the most empowering and intoxicating feelings in the whole damn world.
5. You are not your job.
This is a hard one for adults to deal with sometimes. We’re all looking to define ourselves, and careers offer a seemingly easy way to accomplish this. “I’m a dentist now” or “I’m a bartender” or “I’m an artisanal pasta craftsman.” But, for so many adults, what we do every day is just a means to an end — it pays the bills and keeps us out of the sun.
When you’re older, you realize that, if you don’t have a life beyond the job, something is lacking. Because jobs evolve and go away, but you’ll still be there. So make sure you don’t define yourself too closely by what you do.
6. Cool friends are the WORST.
Cool friends are great in school, because they’re aspirational. We want to be like them. Laid-back, into interesting music, unafraid to try new things. But, when you’re a grown-up, you quickly realize that people who spend their life trying to be cool are the most annoying people in the world.
“Just relax already!” you’ll think when you see them. “Don’t you ever turn off?” You don’t want to spend your life with people who are constantly worried about what other people think of them. You want to spend your life with funny, kind, and empathetic people — people who will help you move or sit on a couch and watch R-rated movies and eat candy with. Comfortable trumps cool every day of the week.
7. Your parents are just big kids.
There’s an old cliché about kids growing up, sharing a drink with their parents, and finally connecting with them as equals. And, you know, sometimes that does happen, and it’s nice. But what they don’t tell you is what happens AFTER that.
What happens is — you get steadily more mature and your parents get less. For whatever reason, grown-ups tend to go through a second wave of infantilization as they age, so, while you’re getting married and buying a house, be prepared to help your parents through temper tantrums, mood swings, and bouts of identity crisis. It can be hard, but remember, you get to do the same thing to your kids when you get old.
8. Being alone is kind of amazing.
There are many benefits, both emotionally and physically, to being a social animal, but, when you become an adult, too often, there’s an impulse to immediately pair off. “I need to find a spouse… a roommate… a BFF to do EVERYTHING with!” But it would be a shame for you to miss one of the absolute best parts of being a grown-up — being ALONE, a.k.a. doing what you want when you want whenever the **** you want.
Go out to dinner by yourself and hold your head up high the whole time. Don’t miss that movie you want to see because you can’t organize the people in your group text to meet at a certain time — go see it by yourself. Companionship is great, but so is not letting yourself have to wait on ANYONE else to do something YOU want to do.
9. We are all faking it.
No one knows what it means to be a grown-up. No one has it figured out. Anyone who laughs, gives you a simple smile, and tells you that it’s easy is secretly screaming on the inside.
We are ALL faking it, which is wonderful, because it means that we’re all starting out at the same point. Some people will thrive, others won’t. But the important thing is that you know that there is no “right way” to become an adult.
Everyone is making up their own thing and hoping that it works. So, the key is just figuring out what feels right to you — how to feel the most comfortable in your own grown-up skin — and never letting anyone convince you that you’re doing it wrong.
(Unless you’re missing the opportunity to eat candy and watch R-rated movies whenever you can, because then you’re definitely doing it wrong.)