In the passed two years I have become increasingly aware that adulthood is something that you grow into very slowly. It’s a process. And often it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. I see posts from my peers all over social media sites making jokes about how bad they are “at adulthood”. “Eating ice cream for breakfast, because I’m an adult.” Or, “I didn’t realize adulthood would mostly involve crying into mac ‘n’ cheese while watching Frozen.” They joke, self-deprecatingly. Two semesters ago I took a Shakespeare class at college, the class itself was mildly disappointing, but one thing my professor said really stuck with me. She theorized that the things we joke about the most are the things we have anxiety about as a culture or as individuals. I think about this insight a lot, and I think that in this instance it’s true. People my age have a lot of anxiety about whether or not they are “doing adulthood” right. I am far from immune to this, I often worry that my choice to live with my parents during college will somehow stunt my adulthood and independence, even though I believe that I have made the best choice for myself. I worry that no matter how hard I work in college I won’t be ready to work hard at a job and that I am inherently too lazy to be a functional adult. These aren’t very well-founded fears, but they are fears nonetheless.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about why so many of my peers have this fear of not being good at being adults. Are our expectations about adulthood wrong? I think that is part of the problem. Books, movies and TV shows so often show adulthood as this glittering life of independence, adventure and romance. They do not highlight the loneliness, stress, and messiness of figuring out life on your own. But even more than that, I think a huge contributing factor to our adulthood anxieties is the myth of readiness. As a kid and teenager there were lots of things where I just assumed that when the time came I would be ready and I would know what to do. For me, adulthood has come with the realization that this is not the case. I think that for most of us there will always be things we don’t feel ready for, but that the actual adventure of adulthood lies in making the choices to do those things anyways.
Choosing to do things you don’t feel ready for is not the comfortable option. But I think many of us postpone finding meaning and doing what we are passionate about because we don’t feel ready yet, or because we’re afraid other people will think we’re not ready. I know that I struggle with this, especially in my writing. I constantly worry that what I have to say is of no value and that I am not ready or qualified to express my ideas as if they may be useful. However, I think that continually putting the things we want to do on hold often means that they never happen simply because we never feel ready. Of course, there is a balance, some things you do have to work towards, but even after working towards a career or a project or whatever it is sometimes you still won’t feel ready. For me, part of embracing adulthood has been embracing that lack of readiness and choosing to trust that if I am passionate and work hard then I am capable of doing the things I want to do here and now, whether I feel ready or not.