Growing up, most of us were raised with set ideals of what adulthood should look like along with an invisible checklist of expectations and goals we have to meet up to, and achieve, to deserve the label of an adult.
I personally had my own set of adulthood expectations growing up; but as the ghost of 30 creeps nearer – don’t worry it haunts my aunt while I laugh – I have come to realize that many of the ideals we were taught to believe in as an essential part of adulthood are actually either false, overrated, or hinder us from reaching our full potential as our unique adult selves.
To disillusion the teens and to reassure all you adults out there, we are not a disappointment to humanity as our parents continuously remind us; allow me to list down all the lies about adulthood i’ve come across:
1. Adulthood comes in one size fits all
Due to fate, life choices, and experiences that come together to create our life paths, no adulthood experience is in the same mold as the other.
Not all of us are going to end up living happily ever after, married, in a big house, with a ton of kids, a dog and no financial woes. These are just the expectations built by all the American movies we watched as kids.
It is important to get rid of the lie that adulthood is going to look the same for everyone, whether financially, professionally, or romantically.
2.You must remain close to all your friends
I talked about the myth of the bestie before and how film, drama, and, now, social media make you feel obliged to stay in contact with every single friend you ever had since preschool, under the excuse that that’s what “good” friends do. This is an unrealistic myth and could negatively impact your psyche.
Trying to be the perfect friend can end up being quite the heavy load on your mind and can take up a lot of your very valuable time. I’ve seen some of my friends end up very depressed or anxious because they felt like they weren’t making enough time for the people they used to know in college.
The presence of these “friends” on social media opens doors for continuous comparisons between their different adulthood paths and gives people the feeling that they owe these long-gone friends a chunk of their mental capacity, care, and wedding invitations.
So, don’t define friendships by who is still taking a chunk of your newsfeed, define it by the people who you are more likely to pick up the phone and call.
3.You must own a car
I was recently in a relationship with someone who didn’t own a car, and while that didn’t impact our relationship in any way, the reactions of a lot of the people around me when they found out that he didn’t have a car were so negative.
I am well aware that this is a mix of absurd expectations from adults with class complexities and a bit of sexism. But if you want to be an acknowledged adult in this country, you’re expected to own a car; especially if you’re a guy, which is ridiculous in my opinion. It creates unnecessary financial pressure on young people to afford a car, its fuel, and its maintenance all while dealing with stressful traffic jams every single day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against driving or owning a car, I personally do own a car. However; I have seen many of my friends & relatives give up driving or sell their cars to use uber or ride the metro instead. It gives them more time to sleep, read, and it makes them less stressed about the traffic and limited parking spaces in the city.
Point is, owning a car doesn’t make you more or less of an adult, it’s a life choice like everything else.
4.You should be married & settled, with kids in your 20s!
This is another one of those items on our imaginary childhood checklist that was well fostered by our parents and society. Everyone expects us to be married and to have kids in our twenties. We go to college, graduate, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. That’s what adults do.
So, it’s weird when your twenties scoot by and you still haven’t gotten to the marriage part yet or just don’t understand how your parents could have had kids at your age when you literally still order happy meals WITH the toy and jump on a swing the minute you see one!
That feeling of weirdness or being left-out doubles as you watch all your peers on social media get married or engaged, have their first born or even worse, have their kid’s first day of school (when did they have the time to make that happen!). It can be so nerve wrecking and even push you to start looking for a partner (I’ve personally been there).
But if I was totally honest with myself, if it weren’t for all the external pressure and expectations, I could probably find more fulfilment as an adult from my success in my career and education.
Here’s the thing, I’ve learnt by time that someone married and with kids doesn’t necessarily make them mature. Mind you, I’ve seen some very immature parents. Not everyone who is married is a happy, mature adult. If you can care for yourself financially and responsibly; you’ve got adulthood nailed. Even if it involves the happy meal that makes you smile every once in a while.
5.You’re not allowed to change career paths!
This one creates so much pressure on high school seniors and fresh college graduates. It’s just insane to have a choice you made as a 16-year-old control you for life. The major you choose to study in college shouldn’t be a guillotine hovering over your head; it should be a learning experience that you come out of knowing more about yourself and what you want to do with your life. I have seen teenagers take gap years, not to travel and discover the world, but to stress even more about what major to choose!
Fresh graduates are continuously stressing about how their first job has to be relevant to what they’ve studied or is directly related to the career path they want to pursue. Why? Because of the continuous agonizing idea that what we choose now will be our path forever and heaven forbid we choose to change paths along the way. Because if we do, we shall be behind in comparison to our peers.
Life isn’t a race with an exact start and finish line and neither should our professional life be.
6. Career ladders!
I hate to break it to you grandpa, but the typical career ladder era of the 60s where you start in a company and gradually climb to the top with set raises and promotions is over. In fact, it’s totally natural for you to be moving in different directions in your field whether taking up different positions with different responsibilities or moving to a different organization for the raise or promotion.
Staying in the same place for your entire career has become very rare because the modern professional world is like a game of snakes and ladders. So, it is encouraged to move around and try different jobs and experiences to upgrade your skills.
7. People at work know exactly what they’re doing
Remember when we believed that everyone who sits on a desk and wears a smart suit knew exactly what they’re doing?! Here’s a secret: everyone is, kind of, faking it. No, I don’t mean that everyone has zero clue about what they’re doing at work, but it’s normal to start a new job and not have all the skills you need for that job since you haven’t done it before.
So even if your boss draws a face of certainty, know that even him/her is unsure about the final decision and is waiting for the results with as much anticipation as you are, maybe even more. As a good friend of mine once said, “it all works out with a bit of love”.
So, the next time you feel small and doubtful of your capabilities at work and feel like curling up in a corner wailing “why am I here with these adults when I should be right next to some ice cream truck”, remember, everyone is just like you.
8. Everyone’s eyes are on you
“What will people say, you’re not a child anymore,” is a statement your grandmother and maybe your parents continuously remind you of every day. While I don’t advocate you taking your pants off in public; the reality is, your life and the decisions you make do not impact others.
The more you acknowledge that, the more likely you are to avoid major mistakes like staying in a job you hate because it’s more socially prestigious or getting married to someone you’re not sure of anymore just because you sent out the invitations for the wedding. Seriously, no one cares what you do with your life. Gossipers will always gossip and the bullies will still be mean even if you were a wallflower.
9. You owe people explanations
A bit of a follow up on the previous point. Even if we know we’re not the focus of everyone, we find ourselves explaining to others our life decisions because we have this feeling that we owe them an explanation, especially if our decisions are societally odd, rare, or nontraditional.
We need to stop being so hard on ourselves. Remember, you can walk into a place, mention you had to quit work for a couple of years or live abroad or leave a relationship and not feel obliged to explain why. Even in an interview, you’re only required to clarify things that impact your professional life, like why you quit a job. But no one has the right to an explanation to why you’re single, married, or divorced (yes, ladies, no one!).
10. You don’t have to give a hoot about anyone
I know this sounds like I’m contradicting myself but hear me out. There are two types of people: some who hinder themselves by believing their adult choices are scrutinized by everyone and those who go by the belief of ‘now I’m an adult I can do whatever the hell I want ha!’. This is a reaction some of us have when we first get to college or graduate, but the reality is, how other people perceive you matters, and people’s feelings matter.
If you’re known to be a nice likable person, you’re likely to even receive favors from people who don’t owe you anything because you’re a nice person and they know you’ll be there when they need you to. As a cousin of mine once said, “life is a wheel of favors, today you give, tomorrow you take.”
11. Adults never have fun
If you’re wondering why most find adulthood depressing it’s probably because we’re taught that being responsible adults comes with only having good times on special occasions, like vacations or holidays.
However, that’s not true, you can add a fun activity for one night per week. Our previous administrative officer Nada, always had yoga nights on Tuesdays, it energized her for the rest of the week.
Also, instead of saving up all your holidays for that month-long vacation in summer, try splitting that up into small numerous long weekends or weeks throughout the year where you can go someplace close by to chill and energize. It offers a span for different experiences and a chance for you to enjoy traveling away in non-tourist season when the rates are lower so you can save more money.
Lastly, you don’t have to wait for the holidays to meet your family or relatives. If you have certain family members you truly cherish and love, call them, try organizing a visit on a random weekend, or even go out together to hangout. It makes your relationship more significant and fun rather than it just being an obligation.
My mother used to say make time and effort for the good times and you’ll have much more of it in your life.
12. Being honest is rude
As an adult, you will face uncomfortable situations and you should be vocal about them. Don’t sit back and keep taking in the things that bother you till you suddenly burst with anxiety. If you’re overwhelmed with your boss’s endless demands, simply walk up to him/her and say that while you deeply understand the work pressure and want to contribute as much as you can, you will not be available after a certain hour to reply to emails or phone calls.
Or if you have a friend who always drags you into their drama, simply say that while you have their best interest at heart, you can’t handle that kind of overwhelming stress in your life. However, you’d gladly lend them your ear when they need a chat. And if you have that colleague who insists on always offering you advice while smiling with a cookie, simply say that while you really appreciate their efforts, you are currently very comfortable with your life choices and don’t need a cookie.
The point is, just because you’re a responsible adult doesn’t have to mean you should shut up and toughen up. You are allowed to be vocal about the things that make you uncomfortable. In the end, as cliché as it sounds, honesty is the best policy.
Do you also have a list of adulthood lies?
Which adulthood lie do you believe is the worst? Do you have another lie in mind? We’d love to know, so remember to leave a comment!