There are a lot of things you realize during your 27th year—rent also means bills, you have to make appointments to meet friends, and by 25 you should be getting pap smears. The last one took an awkward conversation with my mother to realize. But they all had two things in common—time and money, two things that I often cannot balance. Especially, when social media doesn’t make it any easier.
There are days I can’t help but compare my adulthood to others. Days I ask myself if I should be engaged, married, starting a business, or investing in crypto. Even though there are bills and grocery receipts that are begging for more attention right in front of me. I used to think living in Manila (the big city here in the Philippines) was peak adulthood and the standard.
But that standard soon became an unlivable situation—especially when you’re only moment of privacy is shitting and showering. I once shared a room with 12 other girls and paid Php 5,000 ($97.03) per month with 4 other strangers in a small apartment. With all the spending on bed space, the word “adult” started looming over me on my 25th birthday. Was I an adult?
The electric and utility bills would tell me that I’m an adult. So, I scoured through Buzzfeed and other online publications on how to be considered a full-fledged adult:
Am I An Adult Yet? Let’s See If The Internet Agrees
Buzzfeed Quiz says I’m doing pretty okay
Well, this is a surprise. But then again this is a Buzzfeed quiz and the results don’t mirror real life. I mean washing the dishes isn’t really “adulting” it’s a standard for everyone. As a 27-year-old, I know when I should do my laundry and pay my bills (no one likes paying late fees). If the measurement of being an adult means basic chores then that’s just asking for the bare minimum. Then I’m doing pretty okay—if I take Buzzfeed quizzes seriously that is.
Business Insider Judges If I’m A Functional Adult
So, Business Insider dubbed these signs as “non-obvious” based on a Quora thread about the most useful skills we should know. And if I mastered every skill they’ve listed then I definitely deserve a certificate for being a functional adult. I went through the list and it’s different from what Buzzfeed considers to be adulting. Business Insider focuses more on how we handle our careers and people—from small talk to negotiating your salary. While Buzzfeed leans towards a more Millennial and Gen Z audience, Business Insider adds a few skills that highlight career progression.
However, both sites mention a few similar factors of becoming an adult:
- Cook basic meals
- Waking up early
- Sticking to a budget
Again the bare minimum, but essential. Honestly speaking, it’s not rare to find a 20-something who doesn’t know how to cook basic meals. I’ve met a lot of people my age or younger who depend on food delivery services for their basic meals. I knew someone who had to learn how to cook an egg through YouTube. Not Gordon Ramsey eggs, just a nice fried egg. So, I could actually see why this is a special mention.
If we just base it on the top 3 mentioned, then I can say I’m almost an adult. Depending on the day, I can wake up early and I know how to cook a basic meal. How about sticking to a budget? I do have a money tracker, I’m just scared of putting actual numbers on it because I don’t want to see the amount. Now, I am trying. Heck, I’m even trying to see how investments work because inflation is kicking my ass.
The Atlantic Tells Us When We’re Officially Adults
The article is 6-years-old, but it still makes valid points. Rather than listing down things like cooking and making a budget, The Atlantic talks about the transition to adulthood and how it’s more than just a collection of milestones—getting a job, having your own apartment, and getting married. They emphasize that there’s no predictable way of becoming an adult, especially when many of us still feel like kids cosplaying as adults.
The article digs a little deeper into what we should consider adulthood—age, bodily transition, and milestones. Many of these things can overlap, but are they really markers of being an adult? To cut it short the article basically said, adulthood is a social construct.
Growing up we’re told that adulthood starts at a certain age or that we’re supposed to be something extraordinary before we turn thirty. Often, we feel ashamed because we don’t feel like an adult. There’s no fancy car on the driveway or even a driveway! As soon as we turn 25 or 29, we panic when it feels like all the pieces of who we are are scattered. It doesn’t help when there’s a ticking clock above our heads constantly reminding us we’re running out of time.
The Definition of Adulthood Can Get Lost In Translation
There’s also a cultural context when it comes to being an adult. America defines adulthood quite differently from people who grew up in Asia. Based on a lot of movies, it’s not normal in the Western part of the world to live with your parents. That’s a sign you’re not ready to be an adult. Meanwhile, in Asia, it’s quite normal—and expected—to live with your parents. Of course, you have to pull your weight when it comes to bills and chores, but it’s not a bad thing.
It’s also different if you’re forced to grow up quick as a kid and given responsibilities that should be given to a parent. Adulthood isn’t one-size-fits-all. Neither can it be summarized in bullet points.
Social norms continue to change. Our parents may be horrified that we don’t want to get married at 25 or have kids, but it’s normal for most people our age to deviate from those ideals. People are opting out of traditional roles and prioritizing things that bring value to their lives. Maybe that’s why most listicles involve career, health, and financial goals. Millennials and Gen Z’s definition of adulting is independence.
We’re living in an age of utter chaos—inflation, war, and climate change—the only control we have is how we live. We have our own definition of milestones, be it learning to cook your favorite dish or saving up for an apartment. The definition of adulthood or “adulting” is changing, especially in our fast-paced digital world.
So, if you feel stuck and as if everyone knows the secret to become an adult, don’t worry. They are chasing their own path and have a different definition of what an adult actually is and so do you. As long as you can cook, clean, and make your own doctor’s appointment, you’re doing fine. You don’t have to follow the same checklist as everyone.