For some, adulthood includes a rite-of-passage that involves providing food for the community. For others, it comes at a certain age, and from then on one enjoys the privileges and bears the responsibilities that come with the territory. For the United States, and many other nations, it means wearing a strange hat and robe, walking across a stage, and racking your brain for the most clever year-book quote you can manage.
High school graduation is the end of “standard education,” or the finish line of society’s minimum expectations. Whether your future includes higher education or a specific career path, from graduation on you are expected to know enough to float on your own… Or so one would think.
I’m sure everyone has seen the memes. They’re usually along these lines: “Well, I may not have any idea how to pay taxes or balance my checkbook, but I know the Pythagorean Theorem!” Relatable? Yes. But is that all there is to it? Why do so many high school grads, including myself, have such a hard time “adulting”?
I think it’s important to realize that nothing truly prepares you for
becoming an adult…It’s a process, and the majority of “adult” lessons can’t be taught in a school setting. Learning how to live independently and communally should start early on, and continue throughout your life. Not only does adulthood come with age, and with a certain amount of knowledge/wisdom, adulthood comes with a conscious, daily choice to become more adult-like.
In today’s society, it has become a common idea that the point of adulthood has been continually pushed to an older age, and while I don’t disagree, I think that this might have more to do with what modern culture says adulthood is than how “ill-prepared” teens are when being thrust into, as one of my favorite authors once wrote, “a world with strange rules that no one will explain.”
Day after day, year after year, our minds are being bombarded with the idea that adulthood is a dull, repetitive cycle, and if we allow ourselves to get sucked into this cycle, or “machine,” we are giving up part of our identity. In most cartoons (notice I said most for a reason), parents/adult figures are either portrayed as annoying and ignorant, or nauseatingly immature and childlike. The most popular reality shows glorify “adults” who maintain their success while stagnating in an adolescent state. Adulthood is no longer moving from one stage of life from the next, it’s finding a way to continue living a responsibility-free lifestyle while making money at the same time. Is it because this generation has become lazy? Maybe to an extent, but more-so I think it’s because we’re BORED, and not only that, we’re afraid of being bored.
Let’s face it, society today has rather low expectations of young adults, and guess what? We’ve caught on. Sure, every once and a while we’ll find a teacher or a certain class that we can’t get enough of, but for the most part school involves meeting set goals every year in order to move on to the next. It has become less about how it all relates and why it matters and instead more about meeting standards that have been written by politicians who are only concerned with cosmetics. Once teens find the “bar”, they make sure to do the bare minimum in order to have more time for what they want to do, and who can blame them?
With this in mind, remember that most teens have been given a tool. Technology today has placed an endless supply of entertainment at our fingertips. Whether you’re in the waiting room at your doctor’s office, sitting in a boring class, or at a family dinner, the second you lose interest in your environment you can open up your favorite app and avoid the horrors of boredom once more. Now, there are moments (like waiting in line for the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ride) when having a game on your phone is really really convenient, and can save you an hour or more of mind-numbing nothingness. But, I suppose what I’m saying is, because of this ingrained idea that TRUE adulthood– the steady job, the saving of money, long-term relationships, etc– is boring, life-sucking, and avoidable, the young adults’ natural reaction is to run. Why settle down when there’s so much hard work involved, and so little benefit? Why sacrifice their lifestyle for something that they’ve been told isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
My first year of college was quite an experience. You don’t realize how quickly money leaves unless it’s money you’ve worked hard to earn, and trust me, phone calls with financial aid can often leave you more confused and angry than before. It’s safe to say that I missed not having to think ahead for every meal, and plan and budget, so the idea of coming back home was beautiful. However, one of the first lessons college students learn, a lesson I learned my senior year in high school, is that moving back in is much more difficult than moving out. For me it wasn’t because my parents tried to restrict me, or because I fought with my siblings, it was because… I felt too big. All of the growth, learning how to do things on my own, being completely independent and making my own schedule suddenly couldn’t fit in the house I left last summer.
There is a satisfaction unlike any other that comes with being an adult– not necessarily because of all the freedom, but because you learn discipline, and self-control. Even if things aren’t as great as they could be, you now have the opportunity, the full creative license, to make it better. Working and studying hard makes play-time even more sweet, because you’re not meeting a standard that means nothing to you, you’re making and meeting your own. True adulthood is learning to balance not only your work and social life, but yourself. Refusing to slip back into an adolescent mindset of “just getting through” and instead embracing every moment. Every moment in life should be lived, not completed.
Being an adult means learning how to make the most of life where you are.
It’s not as if a magic button is pressed and suddenly you are able to do and be all the things you couldn’t before, it’s learning the art of adapting gracefully.This is a lesson I learned partially through The Office– yes, Michael Scott drove me absolutely crazy, but he desired more than anything to make the workplace more than just a workplace. He was making it a community.
So, Graduates, stop living for the weekend, and start living in every day. High school did it’s best to teach you, so take what you can and then move on. Don’t be afraid of making community where you are. Don’t be afraid of adulting, there is a reward, and it’s more fulfilling than you’ve been told.
(I hit several of my soap boxes, and because of that my blog took an interesting turn. I’m tempted to apologize but I won’t, and instead I’ll just say I hope this all makes sense in someone’s head other than my own.)
Thanks for reading!
“Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child’s eyes, is that the child is usually looking upwards, and few faces are at their best when seen from below.”