Do you remember the first time you learned that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy weren't real? Or that Lindsay Lohan really didn't have a twin in Parent Trap? For a hot ten seconds, you thought the whole world was a lie. Are my parents truly my parents? Is the sky really blue?
Well, this same level of disbelief kicks in when you realize how difficult this phenomenon called "adulting" can be.
Picture this: It's 8:00 PM. You just got home from a long day of work, followed by 2 hours of fake smiling and small talking at the company networking reception. Traffic on the way home is surprisingly bad for so late at night. You get home and all you want to do is curl up in bed with a glass of wine and watch This Is Us, but you remember that you need to meal prep for lunch and dinner tomorrow. You then open the fridge to begin cooking and realize that your chicken isn't defrosted. Bet. Cereal it is. In the shower, thoughts about the bills you have to pay next week consume your mind.
What's a 401(k)? Who is the IRS and why do they need my money?
Am I actually a dependent?
If I say I am, do I get my money back?
Can I finesse and stay on my parents' health insurance until I'm 30?
Ugh, why is my rent due next week? Why does everything cost money?
The water goes cold. Great. You get out of the shower and suddenly it's 11:00 PM. How? Wraps hair. Climbs in bed. Lights off. Before you doze off, you remember that you have to do this all over again the next day, and the next day, and the next…
This, my friend, is adulting. This is the life we seemingly rushed through our final days of undergrad for. This is the beginning of our new forever. Woo!
All jokes aside, late fall typically marks the end of the adulting honeymoon period where we are forced to confront our misconceptions and regroup regarding our approach for this next stage of our lives. You're starting to see the same people at the club, your workload only seems to be growing larger, and the only consistent DMs you're getting in your inbox are from Sallie Mae.
Undergrad had its own playbook and by the time we graduated, most of us learned how to dominate the game. We were the stars of organizations, knew all the places to turn for help, had our community of friends on lock. And then, poof: we're starting all over. The rules aren't the same, we have a lot less free time, and we're learning more about our wants vs. needs.
For so long, my go-to depiction of adulting was Living Single: I was going to have this squad of fabulous girlfriends, go out on all these dates, have this amazing social life, and somehow still have time for myself. Well, now as a 20-something in that very same area of Brooklyn, I am pleased to report that I have a squad of fabulous girlfriends whom I rarely see because I work long hours, ain't nobody got time to be dating all the time, and my social life and desire for me-time often clash.
I have found that this tug-o-war, this requirement that you smell the roses and prioritize what truly matters to you, is a lot more representative of adulting than anything I saw on TV. And while so much of adulting is truly a lot of fun – the clean slate, the independence, the flexibility – there also a number of curveballs. How you adjust to the unexpected is up to you, but if done right, it can make all of the difference.
Here are 6 common struggles of adulting and tips on how to make the most of them:
Everything Costs Money
Bills, bills, bills, can you pay my telephone bills? Can you pay my automo-bills? If you did then maybe we could chill. Right now, if someone were to offer me 6 months of free groceries or free tickets to Coachella, I would pick the former with the quickness. No questions asked. I said what I said.
The beginning of the month is a constant dark cloud over our month because we know that we are going to have to pay our rent, electricity, gas, and wifi bills – maybe even cable – if you're bougie like that.
For recent grads, a good majority of our college expenses were in a vacuum. You likely paid a good chunk of your schooling through grants, scholarships, loans, and possibly parental assistance on a semester basis. There was a lot of stress around the beginning and end of each semester, but what was required from you was a lot more nuanced. Now, we're being asked to make decisions regarding health care plans and life insurance, when 6 months ago the highest level of financial planning we obtained was organizing an 8 person spring break trip to Cancun.
Tip: Get organized as quickly as you can regarding your mandatory expenses. Food, shelter, transportation, student loan repayment – the basics – should be prioritized from the jump in order to avoid hiccups. I create Google Calendar notifications for my bill due dates and set up automated payments to ensure timeliness. I also met with a financial planner to discuss my long-term strategy. After doing some basic budgeting, you will have a better sense regarding your flexible income and can pursue financial mentorship for more complicated concepts like 401(k) planning and saving for graduate school. You need to know what you're working with so there are no surprises.
What are some of your adulting struggles and strategies? Tell us in the comments below.
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