Adulthood can look like whatever you want it to.
Recently, I listened as a friend processed her toil and lament over whether she should “finally get matching furniture,” like what some of her friends were buying to fill their new homes. She admitted that all of her furniture was obtained for free, given to her from friends or family at one time or another, and she wondered if people would judge her for the mismatched collection filling her home. It’s as if she “wasn’t” actually an adult, unless she had matching furniture.
And you better believe I cut her short.
I gave her my best, “Giiiiirrrrl, your life doesn’t need to look like someone else’s life. If you want to have free furniture filling your house till you die, that’s 100% your choice. And if they’re going to judge you, that’s on them, not you.”
But seriously, no one cares.
There is no mold for adulthood — regardless of how your parents lived, what the movies tell you or how you imagine life “should look like” in your 20’s.
I’m here to tell you — you can ditch the imaginary list of “What it means to be a successful adult.”
Pass Go, collect $200 and keep moving.
Not the Typical Adult
To clue you in on my life:
I do not own a couch.
I live with two roommates.
I own a used car.
I’m paying down my student loan debt sooner than required (for these reasons).
I have $3000 in savings.
I go to concerts, eat out with friends, buy CDs and drink black coffee.
Your life probably won’t look like my life (though I’d recommend the coffee part, for good measure). And you know what? That’s okay.
My life doesn’t look like a “typical” young adult’s life, because there’s no such thing as a “typical” young adult. And to be honest, there’s no “typical” adult way to live either.
Choose Your Own Adulthood
What “adulthood” looks like varies based on different personalities, different values and different circumstances.
Our choices will be influenced by our values, like whether we like to travel, or we want to plant a garden, or we want to create our own Beauty and the Beast library, or we want to live close to our parents, or we want to move far far away from our parents, or we want to live alone and have 15 cats.
Our choices will be influenced by our circumstances, like how much money we make, or what we owe in debt, or the hours we have available outside of work and chores each day, or if we’re helping pay family bills, or the cost of living.
These influences vary from person to person, and they can apply themselves to situations every day. For instance:
Say Mary is super laid back, she values time with her extended family and she has the money to purchase a direct flight to her hometown, getting her there 10 hours earlier than the option with a layover.
And perhaps Andrea is fairly frugal (she just hates spending more than she has to), she has time to spare and she’d prefer to save $300 by taking the flight with the layover.
Either option is 100% okay. Either option is a totally fine choice.
Make Your Own Choices
As you grow and develop and “become an adult,” you’ll be making your own choices. Not your parents, the ads on TV or the car salesman. Your choices are your own — and you’ll shape your own version of adulthood.
You don't have to have new matching furniture.
You can buy a brand new car or fix up the one your grandma passed down to you.
You can live frugally and travel often. Or you can travel never.
You can maintain a home for hosting, busting out the fancy plates to serve fancy cheeses. Or you don’t have to invite anyone over, ever.
You can buy the things or you can not buy the things.
You can invest in brand new clothes, get thrifty and shop at Goodwill — or, heck, do both.
You can live in the Big City or move out to Small Town USA.
You can drink black coffee or a vanilla latte. You can buy them every day or once in awhile.
You can pay to park in a downtown garage or walk a few extra blocks to save money.
If I want to buy $200 Taylor Swift tickets and choose to eat Ramen twice a week, that’s my own prerogative. (And sure, part of that is based on my circumstances — I don’t have a family to feed and I had Christmas money to spend. But I still chose to spend my money that way, because T Swift.)
Really, there's no prescription for what adulthood must look like. I’m proof. You’re proof.
Owning Your Choices
Now, with everything you decide to do or not to do, the key to “becoming an adult,” is owning up to your choices.
If you rack up credit card debt, spend more than you make or put others down for how they’re choosing to spend their money, the results of those choices are going to be a burden you’ll need to carry. As a result, you could develop poor credit, cultivate discontentment with everything because it’s no longer new and shiny, and you may lose friends (or find new ones who are shallow and disingenuous).
Real life examples of choices gone bad:
Not paying toward your student loans [at all] = defaulting on your loans, which means they can take all sorts of real [and real-intense] action against you, like garnishing your wages or your tax return
Not having a budget (knowing what you're making & what you're spending) = buying a vanilla latte every day, but not sure if you can actually afford that kind of [delicious, though expensive] lifestyle
Not having money in an Emergency Fund = relying on credit in a stressful time, but it gets worse because you don’t actually have the money to pay it back when the statement balance is due (gives me an ulcer just thinking about it!)
Not understanding credit cards = racking up bills you can’t repay, mixing together a bad combo of revolving credit and high interest rates (ugh!)
But certain choices could have positive results too. Like learning to be proactive, to be early for meetings and checking again for errors in your resume before sending it off.
Financially, this could mean:
Setting up an Emergency Fund (because accidents happen)
Saving for retirement
Only spending money that you actually have
I’m here to tell you: You can spend money and not go broke. You can buy lattes and cut back other places in your budget. You can move away and then move back home again. It’s allowed.
Ultimately, you carry a personal responsibility for the choices you’ll make — the good, the bad and the ones you’d “do over” if you could (we all have those, trust me).
From me, to you:
Know what you value. Know what you value most.
Have an honest view of your circumstances, your means (those dolla dolla bills, yo).
Create boundaries, but give yourself the freedom to experience a well-lived life within those boundaries, whatever a “well-lived life” looks like to you.
What are some of the things you value most?
(Mine: living near friends, unhurried time and peanut butter m&ms!)