A story on the Merriam-Webster website tells the history of the word “adulting.” Used as a verb, it means “to do the things that adults regularly have to do.” This usage began on Twitter in 2008 or 2009, as shown by this sample tweet: “[He] cannot possibly be an adulterer. [He] barely knows how to adult.” Many people learned the term in 2011 when a popular blog called Adulting began publication. Written by journalist, Kelly Williams Brown, its success merited a book in 2013: Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. The term continued to surge in popularity in 2014 when “Grammar Girl” named it her word of the year. From there, usage exploded. Digiday Media says there were more than 87,000 online mentions of “adulting” monthly in 2016.
Kelly Williams Brown’s book seems pivotal to the trajectory of the word’s popularity. Researching it, we see it was intended for millennials – “those who wear a business suit to job interviews but pajamas to the grocery store.” Wanting to help these kids function as autonomous adults, it contains topics such as: “What to check for when renting a new apartment – not just the nearby bars, but the faucets and stove, among other things.”
From this start with millennials, though, every age group has appropriated the term. There are said to be three stages of adulthood: early, middle, and late. Each stage has its own physical, cognitive, and social challenges. Let’s look at adulting tasks through the decades and ultimately learn why we should be grateful for all of the tasks we master even if folding fitted sheets is never one of them.
An article in the Skills You Need website features a story called, “How to Adult: 9 Essential Skills to Learn as a Young Adult.” It is aimed at people ages 16-25 and covers these topics:
- How to be healthy
- How to budget
- How to vote
- How to do first aid
- How to be safe and sensible on the internet
- How to cook
- How to get a job
- How to get friends
- How to respect others
Psychology Today features a story called, “8 Ways to Be an Adult: We Were not Born with Adulting Skills.” It is written by John Kim, LFMT. The author is 43 and says he is still learning to adult even as he offers 8 topics of discussion:
- Don’t be a jerk
- Take full responsibility for where you’re at in your life
- Love hard and responsibly
- Stop lying
- Check your ego
- Call people back
- Take care of your own stuff
- Be grateful
In response to Merriam-Webster adding “adult” as a verb to the dictionary, an article in NewRetirement.com featured a story called “How to Retire Like an Adult: A 10-Point Checklist.” This article by Kathleen Coxwell addresses people in their 50s and 60s. It says, “being an adult means being responsible, dependable, self-sufficient and maybe even knowing when it is a good time to throw these rules out the window.” Instead of hoping for the fountain of youth, it tells us to do financial planning. It goes on to talk about retirement income, expenses, debt, inflation, investing, and estate planning and is no fun to read – or to think about – whatsoever!
Thus, let’s throw all that out the window and let me represent the 50-70-year-old age group with this adulting advice: Life can be difficult, so always laugh when you can. Toward this goal I offer these 10 chuckles:
- Dear Universe, I missed the “How to Be an Adult 101” classes. Send help. And my mom. And wine.
- You is stressed. You is tired. You is adulting.
- Successful adulting is not stabbing someone when you really want to.
- Being a functional adult every day seems a bit obsessive.
- So it turns out that being an adult is mostly googling how to do stuff.
- No one tells you you’re old. You have to come to the realization yourself while reading Amazon reviews of light bulbs.
- The adult version of head, shoulders, knees, and toes is wallet, glasses, keys, and phone.
- The most expensive part of being an adult is the amount of wine I need to continue being an adult.
- One of the weirdest things about being an adult is having a favorite stovetop burner.
- Who knew the hardest part of being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every single night for the rest of your life until you die.
I have just talked about every age group from 16 to 70 but that’s the middle of the life spectrum. There are things to learn from the far ends of the spectrum as well. For example, one of the first tasks of adulting for kids is potty training. And think what an accomplishment that is and how proud they are of the fact that they can wear big girl/big boy underpants!
Adulting tasks on the other end of the spectrum take on an ominous tone when we call them activities of daily living (ADL). Older folks get measured against these activities to see if they are capable of living independently, or if they need assisted-living, or even skilled nursing care.
Frankly, the concept of ADL scares the big girl underpants right off of me! It makes me want to live in a healthy manner! Keep a budget! Call people back! Take care of my stuff! Save for the future! Prove I can do it all!
It also makes me recognize these many adulting skills as accomplishments for which I am proud even if it is a pain in the rear to have to do them regularly.
In closing, what is there to say but this: Meatloaf…I think I’ll make meatloaf for dinner tonight.
If you like my writing, did you know I have four books in print? They are all available on my Etsy shop. My newest book, Love, Loss, and Moving On, is also available on Amazon. Please have a look and tell a friend!