As a recent college grad, and a new law student, I find myself going “so this is adulthood? Interesting.” When we’re little we all think people in their early twenties are so old and mature and must have their whole lives planned and figured out. Well, we are sorely mistaken. Most young adults don’t know what the hell they’re doing. And even if we do, we’re just faking it because we don’t know what else to do. A guy I go to school with said the other day, “I think I’m winging law school.” And I quickly responded, “Aren’t we all?” None of know how to kill law school. We read, we brief, we read, we brief, we go to bar review, and we repeat because we’re just trying to get it done. Elle Woods made law school look like something you can master quickly and without guidance. While I love Legally Blonde, I now want to yell at the screen, “It’s a trap!” because Elle Woods would not have transitioned so easily into such a new, scary environment. Don’t think this is only true for law school, either, most young adults are struggling to some degree to fully know what’s up.
For those still in college, be sure to enjoy the freedom. You’re an adult, but you aren’t as expected to have your s*it together. Come spring of your senior year, the question “so, what’s next for you after graduation?” becomes as common as “how’s the weather?” You’re expected to know what you’re doing. You’re expected to have it all figured out, when in reality it’s completely okay to say, “I have no idea.” I think for a lot of graduates who move home after they cross the stage in their cap and gown, and don’t immediately find employment, it feels like adulthood hasn’t started. There’s a weird limbo period between college and adulthood. Adulthood still seems like its far away. It’s like when we were little and we’d try on our mother’s heels, waiting for the day we could wear them for real. I still don’t feel like I’m really ready to wear those heels yet. Sure, we’re making moves toward adulthood, but it still doesn’t feel totally real yet.
I keep seeing people my age getting engaged and married, and I have moments where I think, “but we’re still so young…” and then I think, “Maybe I should be looking for someone to settle down with?” And then I laugh because I am in no way ready to have a full fledged, marriage status relationship with another person when I’m still figuring out myself. Adulthood begins at 18, technically speaking, but I think in many ways true adulthood sinks in for people at different times. The years in college are like a grace period, where we can stumble around in those too-big shoes, and try to pretend like we’re so mature and self-sufficient, but we’re still a bit limited by familial obligations and expectations. College allows you to figure a lot out, but it by no means lets you figure out everything. The years immediately after college, depending on your path, feel more like adolescence, when we can pull off our mom’s shoes, but they still don’t totally fit. It’s about solidifying all that college taught us. It’s about figuring out what we even want to do. A good amount of people don’t put their college majors to immediate use in their first job. You don’t have to. Spent four years studying philosophy to go work for the government? Totally fine. While you can pull off the shoes, it’s okay to exchange them for other shoes until you find the right fit.
I think, to stick with the shoe analogy, adulthood is fumbling around until you find the perfect shoe (whatever that looks like, whether the shoe is actually the perfect job, or the perfect marriage, or the perfect city). Once you find the shoe, you have to spend some time breaking it in. Shoes aren’t normally comfortable right away, but they get more comfortable over time. So, all of this to say that adulthood is not turning a certain age, and waking up to find all your sh*t together, and that you’re working your perfect job, in your ideal city, with a beautiful home, and the perfect spouse and kids and picket fence. No, adulthood is a stumbling process that takes time, and that never really ends. Haven’t you heard all the new parents who say, “what did we get ourselves into?” “Am I doing this right?” Every time we think we have something under control, another variable enters the equation that throws off all calculations, and gives us a blister that we have to figure out. We can plan, and we can anticipate, and hell, we can even tell people we know what we’re doing, but it’s okay if we don’t.
How are you dealing with adulthood?