Every few days the hashtag #adulting comes across one of my social medias. Sometimes it’s people buying a house or a unit (yikes!). Often times it’s people who have managed to do a load of washing, or rego their car, or cook a meal for themselves. What a weird thing to be celebrating on social media. Successfully doing basic chores of daily living isn’t really something worth crowing about. It’s especially not worth seeking congratulations for.
Of course, I realise that most of the time when people use #adulting it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek. They know that what they have achieved is not that impressive. There is a part of them that is saying “Look how dysfunctional I am as a person, managing to cook my own dinner is an achievement for me.” On the other hand, I suspect there is also a bit of them that’s just posting it on social media hoping they other people will be as impressed with them as they are with themselves.
I suspect this because I have that feeling myself. When I do a particularly big wash up, there is a part of me that thinks “I should post this on Facebook so people can see what a lot of dishes I just cleaned.” Or if I do some work in the yard I think “I should post how much mowing and weeding I’ve done, people are sure to be impressed.” I don’t do it, but I sure want to.
This whole phenomenon of “adulting” is very strange. At what point in time did we collectively decide that adult was a verb rather than a noun? When did being an adult become something we sometimes choose to do before we regress back to our perpetual childhoods? Why do we have such low standards for ourselves that we want a few likes as a reward for doing our own laundry?
Adulting shouldn’t be a thing. There are things that one must do to function well as an independent person and they are just facts of life. There is a time in your life when you have to just pay your bills, clean your house, wash your car, cook your food, and iron your clothes, not as any exceptional task but just because you are an adult, that’s what adults do. Taking responsibility is what functioning adults have been doing since humanity began existing.
In my opinion, the only people who should be allowed to use #adulting are children who are actually doing the tasks of an adult. The 13-year-old who is cooking dinner and looking after their younger siblings while Mum is at her second job trying to make ends meet because Dad nicked off – That kid should use #adulting anytime they feel like it. But when I managed to pay my overdue parking fine that was nothing worth cheering about.
I suspect one of the issues going on is that we don’t know when we become adults. We don’t have many rites of passage in our culture. We’re moving out of home later. We’re getting married and having kids later. We’re studying at Uni for longer. We don’t have initiation rites into manhood or womanhood. So many cultures have ceremonies for entrance to adulthood, from which time expectations for maturity and responsibility are placed on young people. We have 18ths and 21sts and those are generally just big parties where we look at baby photos and hear stories from high school friends of underage drinking. It’s not much of an inspiration to take your place as a functioning member of society.
I’m not saying that every young person is useless. There is a dichotomy within ourselves that we’re sometimes doing amazing things, and sometimes behaving like children. Maybe it’s because no one told us we were adults. At some point, we just have to figure it out for ourselves. I suspect if we saw ourselves as adults we would behave like adults. We wouldn’t feel like boiling an egg or changing a tire needed any special recognition beyond your sense of inner joy that you really are an adult. We might be more inclined to search for bigger problems to tackle. The world has plenty of problems that need dealing with. How do we solve climate change? How do we learn to love each other in a divisive culture? How do we end modern slavery? How do we get clean water to the nearly 1 billion people who don’t have access to it? How do we live as loving, productive people who will leave this world better than we found it? Working on these things is worth celebrating. This is the work of adults. It’s worth stepping up.