Millennials: We’ve Gotta Stop ‘Adulting’

By constantly praising each other for "adulting," we prevent ourselves from becoming full adults.

With this magical word "adulting," we give ourselves a pass for the kind of whining that would've earned grandpa a trip to the woodshed.

By Liberty McArtor Published on May 17, 2017

Fellow Gen Y-ers, join me on an important quest. Vanquish the “adulting” beast before we loose it on unsuspecting Generation Z, or our future children.

“Adult” used to be a trusty word describing a grown human being. Its reinvention into a verb denoting basic responsibilities started out innocently enough. At least for me.

I first heard the term in college. My roommates and I would laugh as we reminisced about simpler times when we didn’t have to pay for car repairs and plan meals. A.K.A. “adult.”

In the words of Tywin Lannister, “Any man who must say, ‘I am the king’ is no true king.”

Don’t get me wrong. I reveled in my burgeoning independence. Even still, whining “adulting is hard” sometimes offered welcome comic relief. Especially after gazing upon the mountain of laundry that threatened to swallow me whole as I ran off to Spanish class. Or digging between couch cushions for enough change to buy ice cream during a study break.

But we weren’t visiting the Sofa Scholarship Fund because we were lazy snowflakes with no work ethic. We worked hard, often at multiple gigs for the hours equivalent of a full-time job. We contributed to our share of school payments, fuel, food and savings, on top of studying and going to class. (As you can understand, this is why we couldn’t afford the ice cream and also precisely why we needed it.)

Until …

But the tongue-in-cheek wallowing after a long day of “adulting” grew into something more. Something ugly. Something that dug its claws into our hides and wouldn’t let go, even after we sped off campus, diploma in hand — or somewhere back there among the trash bags full of unwashed t-shirts.

Personal example: I realized one day about a year post-college that I was spending way too much on coffee. It would be expedient to invest in a Keurig and buy a cheap brand of coffee pods in bulk. So I did. I set up the Keurig and promptly texted a picture to my old roomies with the caption, “I’m officially an adult!” One of my life-long regrets.

By constantly viewing menial tasks as an undeserved hardship, we prevent ourselves from finding joy in the every day routine.

See, saving money by making coffee at home instead of buying a ridiculously over-priced latte everyday was a wise decision. A responsible decision. You might even say … an adult decision. Bragging to my peers, as if having a Keurig in my kitchen somehow made me grown-up, was not.

In the words of Tywin Lannister, “Any man who must say, ‘I am the king’ is no true king.” Any millennial who must say “I’m adulting” is no true adult.

Forever Young (In a Bad, Selfish Way)

“Adulting” is like the inverse of the humble brag. It allows us to complain without sounding like we’re complaining. But too easily, it makes us forget that millions of other adults are completing the same tasks we are (plus some) with nary a peep. With this magical word, we give ourselves a pass for the kind of whining that would’ve earned grandpa a trip to the woodshed. 

For some, “adulting” is an actual attempt to cope with the fact that their parents never taught them basic life skills (Exhibit A: this Adulting School in Maine). Be that as it may, an upbringing that lacked the occasional doing of chores doesn’t give one an excuse for such self-obsession. Our great-grandparents grew up during the Great Depression and then left to fight WWII, for crying out loud. I think we’ll be fine.

Constantly groaning about “adulting” makes us sound more like grumpy Mrs. “Pills and Bills” Snow in Pollyanna than young adults enjoying life.

Further, celebrating our own grown-up-ness traps us in a perpetual state of mental adolescence. Those menial tasks we call “adulting” will be there, ever needing to be done, for the rest of our lives. By constantly viewing them as an undeserved hardship, we prevent ourselves from finding joy in the every day routine. Wonderfully, there is more to life than work, Netflix and Tumblr. When we allow ourselves to embrace all that life brings along, mundane chores included, we’ll be richer for the experience.

Also in the interest of truly staying “forever young,” wouldn’t it be better to forgo complaining altogether? If you think about it, constantly groaning about “adulting” makes us sound more like the grumpy Mrs. “Pills and Bills” Snow in Pollyanna than young adults enjoying life. Do we really want to achieve that level of crotchetiness before we’re even 35?

Our Potential Awaits Us

This is our time to start defining our legacy. To start molding the culture that will shape our future children. We can’t do that if we still demand stickers on the chore chart every time we fold laundry. Moreover — fellow Christians, I’m looking at you — we have a biblical imperative to follow. Remember that verse we all memorized and said was our favorite in youth group? Yeah, it still applies:

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

How can we set the believers an example when we treat making supper for one as an exhausting task worthy of an #adulting hashtag and a blanket fort?

I’m not bashing my peers. I’m saying this because I believe in us. Most of us are already putting in the long hours at work. We’re politically engaged and compassionate toward our neighbor. We have the potential to do great things. But our own beastly habit of classifying everyday responsibilities as “adulting” distracts us from the prize ahead.

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  • Autrey Windle

    Part of the reason this is happening is because we put our 6 year olds in high heels and make-up and let them have sex ed at 8 and start dating at 12. Pot is legal and it’s funny to let your kids have beer when they’re little. All of the things of adulthood immature children want and none of the responsibilities. No wonder they make a game of being adults. It’s what they were taught to do from the cradle by society and too many parents reluctant to teach, spank or take to church. Welcome to the fruits of your failure to labor as parents America.

  • Charles Burge

    I was struck recently by a line in an article posted on National Review. In “Why Saturday Night Fever Wouldn’t Be a Blockbuster Today”, author Kyle Smith wrote (of the 1970’s) “At the time, kids yearned to be adults, and movies reflected that. Today, adults yearn to be kids, and movies reflect that too.”

    We’re living in an age in which adolescence lasts well past age 30 for many people. Perhaps this “adulting” thing is a thing only because it isn’t commonplace anymore. I’m not saying we should celebrate milestones like graduating or landing a first job, but when formerly common markers of adulthood become less common, that’s a troublesome trend.

    • Liberty McArtor

      Great point. Thanks for reading!

  • Dean Bruckner

    Well said. Nothing like a famine or a depression or a breakdown in society to accelerate the adulting.

  • ericdijon

    We can’t do that if we still demand stickers on the chore chart every time we fold laundry. Exactly. Stickers received for chores prevent the works from being other-centered. Younger people don’t get much opportunity to learn or practice how to be responsibly other-centered and that really is the milestone of maturity at any age.

    • Charles Burge

      Just the other day I was thinking about some of the things my dad taught me when I was growing up. One of the lessons he drilled into me was that, not only was I expected to help around the house with various chores, but I was expected to do things without being asked first. It wasn’t a lesson that I learned quickly, and my dad’s discipline was gentle but consistent. I get the sense that today’s parents think they need to be “nice” to their children rather than discipline them properly. One of the Bible verses I heard my dad quote probably more often than any other was Proverbs 13:24. “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Now that I’m an adult, I’m very thankful to have grown up with such a wise father.

      • ericdijon

        It truly is a gift to know just how to empower, to set boundaries that once crossed will assuredly result in discipline, and to restrain from resorting to inflicting punishment. The bible introduces the concepts of empowerment, boundaries, and discipline to us in the second story of creation and then throughout the rest of the Old Testament we learn of example after example of this fairness doctrine. You dad seems to have easily spotted the doctrine and put it to wise use for the benefit of his family and community.

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