Five Lessons I’ve Learned about the Adult World

Last month marked two years since I finished my undergraduate degree, started my Grown-Up Job, and began living alone in my Grown-Up Apartment. In short, it’s been an introduction to Adult World, which for me means a world where you get up at 7 am on weekdays, have a wardrobe of office clothes, pay your own cellphone bill, and know which fork to use at a fancy dinner.

Last month, I also gave my official notice at work that I’ll be leaving at the end of June to take the summer off before heading back to school this September. (For those who don’t know, I’m starting a master’s in public policy at University of Toronto.) Obviously  I don’t know everything about being a grown-up (heck, people still mistake me for a student all the time, especially when I pounce on free leftovers) but I thought now would be a fitting time share some lessons I’ve learned so far about the Adult World.

1. Turns out you can get work with the much-maligned liberal arts degree. 

When I started my job at the Victoria Foundation, I realized nobody really cared what my degree was even in. Can you write? Can you think? Can you meet deadlines? Can you solve problems? Can you interact with people like a grown-up? All of these things were more important than the theory of liberalism I learned in Poli 101. (But guess what: I learned these so-called soft skills in Poli 101 too as I was learning that theory of liberalism.)

2. Nobody will congratulate you for doing stuff you should  be doing because you’re an adult. 

This lesson came from a conversation I had with my mum about the phrase #adulting. I tried to explain when one would use the term–basically in self-congratulation for completing some “adult” task. I filed my taxes! #adulting. I got up early enough to pack a lunch today! #adulting. To which my mother responded: “Isn’t that just kind of when you’ve done something you should be doing anyways?” Yes, mom. Yes it is. In Adult World, you do not get A+s for remembering to clean the bathroom before you have guests over.

(Side note: I tried to find examples of my own #adulting tweets to illustrate this point but could only find cases where I had used the phrase ironically:

3. Adults have hobbies.

Once I graduated from school and started working, people started asking me questions like: “So, what do you do in your free time?” I panicked. Apparently people who are not students do interesting things in their leisure time to show they are well-rounded individuals! Novel idea. (I am told that some people substitute school with work to be their whole identity. I also hear this is not a healthy work/life balance sort of situation.) So I immediately set out to find some hobbies: I joined a community choir, started a book club, and trained for and ran a half-marathon. On the whole, I think this one’s been a positive lesson.

4. Possibilities don’t seem so endless when you’re in Adult World. 

As a student, I always felt like my life could turn on a dime. I could (and did) pick up and move to a different continent for a few months, if I felt like it. All the different possible paths my life could take stretched out before me in my imagination. Once I started working, I realized how easy it is for inertia to take hold. You start working in a certain area, developing a specific skill set, and suddenly it seems like you’re headed down one path and leaving the others behind. You get settled in your comfortable life, and suddenly packing your bags and moving away no longer seems like an option. I do, however, know adults who have retained that same sense of freedom and possibility I knew as a student. I admire them greatly for it, and aspire to be like this myself.

5. You’re never too old to have no idea what’s going on. 

I have this theory that everyone is pretending to have this whole Adult World thing down, and some people just fake it better than others. I’ve met people in their thirties, forties and fifties who, for a variety of circumstances, haven’t reached “typical” adult milestones, are struggling with life transitions, or don’t know where they want to go next or who they want to be. I guess it’s not that encouraging a sentiment to end this list with–the idea that this uncertainty continues long after you think it should!–but at least there’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one who finds Adult World a strange place to be.

(Or, I like how this poster put it:)

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 6.24.50 PM

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3 thoughts on “Five Lessons I’ve Learned about the Adult World

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