Next Level Adulting

My friends and I from Bryn Mawr have this phrase we use on a regular basis: “adulting.” Infinitive form (I presume… we’ve never actually agreed on this): “to adult.” We employ this terminology to describe anything we feel woefully unprepared/unable to do by virtue of our not having accepted our age.

“My husband and I are looking for a house. We visited five different properties today and I can’t handle how much everything costs! Adulting sucks.”

“Interviewing for an actual 9 to 5 job today. I’m wearing a suit. This is some hard core adulting.”

“Took my cat to the vet today; just the tests they want to run are going to cost $700. And I’m only working part time! Gonna have to do some serious adulting to figure this shit out.

“I tried to refurbish a cabinet a la this thing I saw on Pinterest and totally screwed it up. Also, I’ve been living in the same apartment for five years now and there’s still nothing on any of my walls. Adulting fail.”

“My day’s going to be spent adulting: I’m filing my taxes, and refinancing my car.”

**NOTE: The friends in question and I went to Bryn Mawr College. Many have advanced degrees, and others are holding down solid jobs. We are privileged. That privilege doesn’t always translate into financial security, but lord knows have a lot to be thankful for. These examples reflect that privilege, but they need not. For example, in my first year of graduate school, I was too overwhelmed/confused by the process of applying for food stamps to bother. So I lived on peanut butter. Which was stupid.**

As a graduate student, I get to avoid a certain amount of adulting. I live on campus in the concrete wonderland that is Palo Verde housing. It’s a nice place, all things considered, but despite the crying babies and company cars in the parking lot, it’s very hard to think of this as a grown-up living arrangement. Those of us operating sans-significant other have to live with a roommate, and pets, well… the policy on pets confuses me. Suffice it to say, I won’t be a puppy parent any time soon. The only thing I parent is my beloved Mr. Tibbs, a 2009 Hyundai Elantra that I bought (with my own hard-earned money, thank you very much) the day after I graduated college.

This is far from uncommon. I’d say most twenty-somethings still regard themselves as children on some level. It’s not even necessarily a problem, until one’s perceived state of suspended animation becomes an impediment to achieving personal greatness.

There are a lot of things I don’t do because I believe I’m not mature or responsible enough to do them. In some cases (i.e. having a child) this is a really good thing. In other cases (i.e. finding more affordable car insurance), it’s just freakin’ stupid. One of my goals for the coming year is to level up, to adult as I have never adulted before, just to prove to myself that I can.

I’ve done this successfully before with cooking. My mother and my brother are both amazingly-ridiculous-out-of-this-world cooks, so I never worried much about what dinner was going to be, what it was made of, etc. When I got to grad school, accordingly, I ate a veritable boatload of crap. I was also exceedingly poor (as in, at one point my total net worth was $0.18), so I couldn’t be healthy if I’d tried. My friend Thomas will never let me live down the night I enthusiastically invited him over for dinner, explaining that I’d be making spaghetti… with Ragu! Over the past couple years—thanks in no small part to student loans—I’ve begun teaching myself how to cook. The results have been damned impressive. My cookies are now History Department famous, and I can host a 10 person dinner party without breaking a sweat. It took time, but I now believe that I can cook like an adult.

So I know I can adult. I have it in me. So what’s next?

I’m treating the start of the academic year as New Year’s Day Part Deux, because—for whatever reason—I tend to be more successful if I ruminate on and mentally prepare myself to tackle resolutions months in advance. I also know you have to start small; trying to adult five times over will only lead to finger-painting in the corner. So I have two different starting lines in my not too distant future:

September 29, 2014: Start of the Academic Year

  • Adulting goal one: open a credit union account
  • Adulting goal two: figure out the whole “budgeting” thing (I’m going to use

January 1, 2015: Actual New Year

  • Adulting goal one: pay off remaining credit card debt
  • Adulting goal two: take a personal finance class

If I can accomplish even half of these goals, I’ll be super proud of myself. Better late than never.

So now that I’ve made myself accountable to you, the (possibly imaginary) reader, it’s your turn: what are your adulting fails, and what small steps can you take to make adulthood your bitch?


“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.