I turned 30 earlier this year and with each passing day am only getting closer to 31. I hate to say this but, in a way, I’ve entered middle age. MIDDLE AGE! Yes, 30s is the beginning of middle age. There was a time in my life where being 30 seemed incredibly old (when I was 16), now 16 seems incredibly young. At 16, I didn’t know how to be an adult, let alone anything about growing up.
But officially I’m supposed to be an adult. I do a lot of adult things now like take care of my children, do my own laundry, pay my bills, have a job that pays well with insurance and cook in bulk for the week. This is what I always aimed for, this sort of busy and put together life that I could call success.
Only, sometimes I don’t feel like it’s really success. I didn’t escape the rat race, actually, I fell right into it and can’t get out for the life of me. I don’t have enough time for the things that really matter to me. And on top of it all, I feel like a slave to my employer.
I feel like they missed a lot in school in terms of teaching young people how to be functioning members of society and how we’re supposed to be growing up into adults. Of course trigonometry and algebra could not be missed but teaching you about differences in healthcare plans and how to open a bank account? Totally unimportant. (Sarcasm).
I look at my 6 year old daughter and think, I’ve got to do better, honestly. I hope she’s not as unprepared for adulthood as I was because the learning curve is steep. And at 30, I still don’t feel like I’ve truly caught up.
So here’s what they don’t tell you about being an adult and growing up:
1) There’s no true freedom
Freedom they said. Growing up and being an adult is about having complete freedom. No more parents giving you curfews or giving you a pitiful allowance. As an adult you get to call the shots and make decisions about your life. When I was an adolescent I really thought that this was how life worked. If only I was an adult, things would be so much better.
Actually, it doesn’t work like that. Because of a thing called “Money.” Living with your parents and being “controlled” by them is actually more of a safety net. Children don’t have to worry themselves with the day to day cost of living. Things like food, clothes, shelter and transportation are 100% covered, in most cases, by parents. So even though as a teenager you’re limited in what you can do, major responsibilities have yet to fall on your plate.
Adults on the other hand have major constraints on their freedom in terms of having to make an income that subsidizes their daily lives. They have to go to sleep early to wake up at 6am to get to their job. It’s a money imposed curfew. They can’t buy ridiculous $1500 Gucci shoes because they realize that their going to have to work X hours/days to pay it off.
As an adult I wish I knew that my adolescent years would be the most relaxing and fun times of my life. Even though I had some restrictions, I had youth, time and energy on my side.
2) People only care about themselves
I was raised learning that it was important to care about each other, to share and, in general, to have good virtues. It was such a huge life lesson to see how time and time again people only acted in their own best interest. In some instances it came across as terribly selfish, in others, as an act of self preservation.
It was definitely a hard lesson for me because, in most cases, people were super nice to my face. But when push came to shove, whenever either a coworker or friend saw an opportunity that benefited themselves over me, they took it. If it was only an acquaintance, it was SURE to happen.
Meanwhile, I was raised to put others before myself, be selfless, be giving, and think about others’ needs. It took me a long time to learn that these values are important but I needed to use them sparingly, with people who deserved it from me. Everyone else needs to earn it.
3) Bills, Bills, Bills
I kind of already touched on the reality that adulthood is centered around paying your bills. But honestly growing up I never realized how expensive life in general is. You really need to make $100K a year minimum where I live just to make ends meet. When I was 16 I would have been happy to earn $20k a year, but things are different when you have to pay your own housing, food, transit, clothes and everything else bills.
I used to be like, “Why can’t my parent’s buy me these dumb candies I want or shoes or whatever?”
Adult me wants to smack little me and say, “Bitch! Our parents didn’t have money for that just like I don’t have money for that shit with my kids!”
When you’re unexposed to the realities of the world you kind of really have a sense of naïveté about things and how stuff works.
Now at 30, bills take pretty much all your money. And when I was 16, $200 felt like a windfall, now $200 feels like $5 out of my pocket because life is just too expensive.
I used to think that money was easier to attain or that my parents were just too stingy, but they were actually very smart with money and a lot of my good spending habits are learned from them!
4) Relationships are really hard
Finding the right relationship that could last a lifetime is probably the HARDEST thing to manage as an adult. I started dating “late” compared to other people. I had my first boyfriend at 18. As an adult, building long term relationships are super difficult. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why people broke up suddenly or why LOVE couldn’t win. Couples who were voted the cutest in class would break up out of nowhere. Of course in high school and college, this would be the talk of the school and everyone would gossip and speculate about what happened. “He cheated on her.” “She didn’t like that he was liking other girls’ pictures.” It was kind of like some sort of teen soap opera.
Now I’ve realized that you can just break up with someone because they don’t like the same food as you or aren’t as clean as you. Cheating is just one of the many reasons why relationships don’t work out. There could be a cultural divide. He could be misogynistic or she can be a misandrist. It could be one fight that you never bounce back from. Literally so many reasons why relationships aren’t meant to last.
When I was young I just couldn’t understand this. I sort of had this preconceived notion that there were “soulmates” or one person in this world that could “complete me.” At the end of the day, relationships aren’t meant to complete you, most importantly they should add value to your life and compliment who you are as a person. Toxic relationships do just the opposite. But toxic relationships aside, just finding a healthy relationship and getting through the tough spots is hard as hell! I guess that’s just part of growing up, realizing your ideals are just that-ideals.
So now when I hear that some cute and favorite couple I know of broke up, I just shake my head and think to myself, “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.” Because adult relationships are never easy.
5) You’re never going to feel like you have it all together
It’s never going to happen. I always thought that it would but I never woke up and felt like adulthood hit me. Yes, I’m more responsible now because I have to support a family. Yes, I pay my bills because otherwise I would be out on the street. Yes, I make conservative choices and stick to a routine. But am I this way because I choose to be or because life has forced it on me?
Sometimes I get people in their early 20s who look up to me. I can tell they look at me and see me as someone who has it put together. And I look back at them like, “not really…” Just because someone has a kid, a husband and a job does not mean they are put together. I still have so much on my bucket list.
Like not working a job that makes me hate myself, having a surplus of money to buy a house, having a semblance of a work/life balance, buying new furniture, getting a second car, not relying on my parents still for some financial support and other things like that.
I am NOT put together. Every day I feel like I’m one catastrophic event away from falling apart instead of growing up.
So yeah, if I had my pick I would just live my childhood/adolesence years over and over again because this sh*t is HARD. I wish I would have known that all I have to look forward to growing up is paying bills, not having enough vacation time, the ability to drink alcohol and working long hours.
If you were born after 2001, all I have to say to you is enjoy your young, beautiful, youthful and carefree life now. Adulthood is just around the corner waiting for you and it’s not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.
Check out my other posts if you like “How To Be An Adult & What They Don’t Tell You About Growing Up!”
Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 18