I’m not even five months out of college, and the word “adult” seems to have taken on an entirely new meaning. It appears that the idea of being an adult is boggling post-grads, such as myself, night and day – even over mundane things. Facebook status updates don’t lie, especially when recent grads are excited to update the world about their climb into adulthood:
“I just cooked dinner for myself, and I didn’t even wish it was dining hall food.”
“I’m paying my bills on time this month – like a real adult!”
“I’m turning into my mother now that I’m out of college.”
“How adult of me! I went to a job interview!”
I can’t lie; I’m guilty of putting this idea of being an adult on some kind of pedestal. In fact, if my vocabulary was monitored like songs played on iTunes, it definitely would have the phrase “how adult of me” or just the word “adult” on the top of the charts. Here I am, dabbling with my big toe (not even my whole foot) into whatever adulthood really is, and I’m making a big stink about it.
For example, when I wear heels to my internship (hello – it’s not even a job!), I check myself out in the elevator door reflection and think to myself “How fashionably adult of you.” Funny enough, when I take the heels off after a long red carpet outing, I make fun of my old-college self, “Oh look at you, switching into your trusty Rainbows – the ones that accompanied you to nearly every class senior year.”
And trust me; you don’t even want to hear my adult-o-meter going off when I do household things, especially cooking. Whenever I make dinner for myself, I toot my horn like I just climbed the Mt. Everest of Italian cooking. In fact, I get so worked up over being this LSAT student by day, intern by choice, and wannabe chef by night, I spend hours searching for new recipes and I make out grocery lists ahead of time, so I can continue to evolve into a ‘real’ adult in the kitchen.
The other night though, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. How silly is all of this “adult” talk. Seriously. So many things that I am now calling “adult” are things that have been the norm for awhile. Like, my boyfriend and I cooked on a nightly basis all throughout college, but here I am, making the same meal that he and I have been making for over two years, acknowledging that I’m an adult simply because I made a meal for myself. Huh? What’s changed? Oh wait – nothing, really.
I have a diploma, and yes, I’m learning the ropes of the real world outside of college, but this doesn’t mean that I haven’t had an adventure or two into adulthood sometime in the last four years, so, why do my post-grad friends and I seem so amused with our new status? I don’t really know, maybe being out of that grungy college house makes it all feel more real. Or maybe society is changing.
Our parents’ generation regarded 18 as being a full-fledged adult. People used to leave the house once they turned 18, whether they were going to college or not, and whether or not their parents were going to support them. It was the way things were. Now, it’s the norm for 20-somethings to move back in with their parents after college, and it’s entirely more commonplace for parents to help financially support their kids – even ones that have jobs and no college debt! When I interned in New York City throughout college, I met so many women in their late 20s and early 30s who had their parents paying their rent, giving them allowances, and helping support their shopping habits. 30 years ago, parents would not be footing the bill for their 32-year-old daughter – no way!
So, does this make adulthood appear later in one’s life? Sometimes it seems like post-grad is the official wake-up call, but it doesn’t mean the idea of being an adult is something that happens overnight. It’s a gradual process, and maybe our generation is taking longer to make their way to adulthood than generations before us. Either way, I still think it’s funny how I can be so scared about “becoming an adult,” but yet so excited to charge into that realm when it feels right.
Maybe post-grad life gives us the best of both worlds – the cushioning of our parents and the exhilaration of kinda-sorta being on our own. Or maybe, because I’m scared/confused/lost/really missing college, I’m just trying to find something to get excited about.