Adulting Sucks, Yes. But Fellow Millennials, We Need to Stop Whining About It

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Adulting Sucks, Yes. But Fellow Millennials, We Need to Stop Whining About It

Illustration: Siddhakanksha Mishra

The first time I had to set up an AC servicing appointment all by myself, it took me weeks. It was an Olympian feat of procrastination. Every time I dialled the number on the visiting card my landlord gave me and heard a busy tone, I hung up. I even took a five-day vacation, promising myself that I’d fix the AC when I got back. When I finally did make the call, the technician showed up the next day and finished in 45 minutes. I remember arrogantly congratulating myself for getting the job done so efficiently, despite how I could have had my AC serviced dozens of times in the same period if I hadn’t tarried. In my mind, I was adulting, thereby fulfilling the greatest responsibility the millennial generation has been tasked with.

“I just can’t adult today.”

“Ugh, adulting is so hard.”

“I. Cannot. Even.”

We’ve all heard some variation of this common complaint. It’s made so often that today, successful adulting has acquired a mythical status, on par discovering irrefutable proof of extraterrestrial life. Everybody wants to do it, but nobody seems to know how – the great conundrum of our time. The legendary difficulty of adulting is used as an excuse for everything from putting off filing your tax paperwork until the last minute, to preparing Maggi for dinner five nights a week. The millennial generation is on a quest to crack the code of adulting like the Arthurian knights were to find the Holy Grail.

Unfortunately, our time might be up.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we’ve all lost the opportunity to grow up, and are now going to age backward like a generation of Benjamin Buttons. But now that we’re all adults, can we still claim to be figuring out adulting?

The widely accepted age-range for the millennial generation is people born between 1981 and 1996. That’s a generation whose oldest members are 38, and even its youngest are way past the driving and voting age at 23. We’re no longer the young, hip demographic that everyone, from marketers to drug pushers, wants to target. That baton has been passed to Generation Z. Millennials are yesterday’s news. And tragically, adulthood has claimed each one of us.

The legendary difficulty of adulting is used as an excuse for everything from putting off filing your tax paperwork until the last minute, to preparing Maggi for dinner five nights a week.

The definition of adulting is “actions and behaviours that are considered typical of adults, not children or young people.” So the bad news for millennials is that there are no children or younglings among us. Sure, some of us still let our parents iron our clothes or pay our phone bills, but we’re adults nonetheless. Perhaps the most damning proof of our fading youth might be that the above definition for adulting – a slang term we millennials proudly invented – came not from Urban Dictionary or some meme-riddled corner of the internet, but from the stodgy old Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Even Merriam-Webster put the term on its list of “Words We’re Watching”, which tracks words being considered for official entry in their dictionary, way back in 2016. Nothing says youthful and fresh like a nice, fat book bought exclusively by English teachers and copy editors, right?

So the bad news is that time’s inexorable march has carried us past the ages where we were supposed to be figuring out how adulting works. The good news is, now that we’re adults, it doesn’t matter anymore! As card-carrying Grown UpsTM, whatever we do is now the new standard in adult behaviour. We no longer have to struggle to appear mature or as if we have our shit together to successfully adult; all we have to do is exist. Yes, adulting can still refer to Type-A behaviour like becoming CEO of your own start-up by 25, or having a six-figure follower count on Instagram, but circumstances demand that its ambit be widened to become more inclusive. You want to watch Netflix all weekend while eating only take-out? That’s adulting! You want to get shitfaced drunk and sing Britney Spears at a karaoke bar on Tuesday night, even when you know you have an 8 am meeting the next day? That’s adulting too! 

A millennial claiming, “I just can’t adult today,” isn’t just offering a weak excuse for acting childish, they’re stating a mathematical impossibility. To reiterate: We’re all adulting, simply by virtue of being adults. We just have to figure out whether we’re functional adults, or dysfunctional ones. And once you’ve figured out which one you are, then you can decide which one you want to be. As a fellow traveller of many millennials currently stranded in the shadowy valley we call the Quarter-Life Crisis, there’s no shame in being dysfunctional either. Shine on, you crazy diamond and all that. Let’s leave delusions of maturity and the quest for adulting to Gen Z, and grow old while drinking microbrews and playing “Cards Against Humanity” like we were always meant to.

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