How to Adult — 101
*Note — I only qualified about three years ago.
I’m actually 25, but I don’t think I actually became an adult until I was about 22. That’s the time I started my job… enter the real life struggles.
Up until then I was at Uni. I can’t possibly call myself an adult whilst I was at University. I was considering it but then I thought back to my time at Uni. I was genuinely annoyed if I had a 9am lecture because it meant that I had to get up at 8:40am. How times have changed. My usual dinner of choice? Chips, nuggets and beans. Now, and I feel very strongly about this, chips, nuggets and beans is an outstanding dinner. I still have it frequently. But it’s probably the mark of me entering my adulthood going from 4 nights a week to every month or so.
No one tells you how to be an adult. In school we are diligently taught how to work out the area of a triangle, I have Pythagoras’s theorem down to a fine art. Yet how to set up direct debits, cook a square meal or how to manage your mental wellness somehow that got missed off the curriculum. Don’t get me wrong, I loved school but I do feel like I could have done with a lesson in finance or seven.
So what have I learn in my three years as a self-proclaimed adult?
Good money management
When I first got paid I was understandably excited. Having just come university where I got paid about -£300 every month, it was nice to see something positive in my bank account. Now, there was an opportunity to go and blow everything. I was living at home at the time, had no plans to buy a house or anything substantial, so why not? And maybe once or twice I spent a little too much. But on the whole I saved a good bunch. It wasn’t so much the benefit of doing that in my early days, it’s more the reward I see now. It’s become the norm to save a good portion of my salary. And that’s important because it means I live below my means. Why is that good? Well more than anything else, it teaches me that life doesn’t need to involve lots of fancy things to give me happiness.
Life and work isn’t actually like Instagram. University is a lot of fun but it does nothing for preparing you for the real world. We start work and it truly is a slap in the face. It’s actual hard work, it’s full of set-backs and frustrations. There is nothing ‘instant’ about work. There are lots of great things but work is a whole load of time and effort — it’s a slow burner. You practice, you fail, you practice, you get better. You won’t nail the presentation on the first go. You will underwhelm at times and will lose confidence too. But it’s a long game. Bit by bit you will get better, figure out what you are good at and become confident in it. Until then, head down, ears out — try hard.
Routine is important, focus on getting enough sleep
It’s not getting drunk on a Tuesday and missing lecturers, it’s not staying up late and sleeping through the next day. It’s every day, Monday — Friday, with between 20–30 days holiday. It’s consistency. It’s chip, chip, chipping away. So you need to get a decent sleep. You need enough energy to take on the day. You won’t be able to sleep through meetings or skip the day. You have to show up every day. Which means you have to have a decent routine to back that up.
In the early days just concentrate on getting enough fuel and sleep. When you get in a bit of a rhythm then you can start to tweak your routines to get better and better.
Don’t compare yourself
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do. Bob Dylan
We are all totally different. Aside from the obvious aesthetics, we are different in the way we talk, dream, think, create, argue, decide, relate, design, write. We are different in every way. That is one of the beautiful things about this world, the difference between us all. Being different in so many ways means we can’t compare. We can’t possibly compare ourselves with a 32 year old with different ambitions, passions and creative flair. They’ve had a totally different life to us.
Even if we could compare, we shouldn’t. There is no value in feeling less of a person because you don’t have big house or fancy car or 7 figures in your bank. Who cares. Like genuinely, if you are happy, healthy and spending your time how you want to… isn’t that the most success of all? Just like Bob said.
Put people first
Life and work is about people. Understanding what they want, where they are coming from and why they want it is key. If you can do that, you will immediately become more attuned to being an ‘adult’. It’s hard to always figure out exactly what people want or why they are being such plonkers but it’s never a bad idea to be nice. Ask how people are, get to know their passions, understand who they are. That will go a long way in understanding why they are like they are.
Do the washing when the basket is full
Look. Feeling good is important. An overflowing washing basket is a subtle reminder that you haven’t got everything together. It’s the same with the pots. Just do them. They are dirty and they need cleaning. You have the ability to clean them. An untidy house, at least for me, leads to an untidy mind. I want to feel like I’ve got my shit together. ‘Feel’ being the operative word. Little things like freshly washed clothes, a clean kitchen, crisp bed sheets, they will go a long way in making you feel like life is just fine, thank you very much.
See the people that are important to you
Family and friends are the heartbeat of our lives. There is probably no time more relevant time than now that is testament to that. It’s quite impressive the amount of happiness a conversation with your dad or a catch up with your best pal can be. Whether we like it or not, and I’m quite introverted, we are social beings. We find happiness in seeing those closest to us. Their opinions matter, their thoughts matter. Just knowing they are okay and eating a good square meal… that matters. Don’t forget to carve out time for them. They are the reason you are who you are. You will lose a bit of yourself if you leave them for a while.
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” — George Bernard Shaw
Introspection (my new favourite word)
Knowing yourself is an art. I know what I like to think I am. Who I like to think I am and what I represent. But whether I am, or whether I am bias, well that’s another question altogether. Over the last year or so I’ve gone on a bit of a journey with self-awareness. It’s all very new to me but it has been such an eye-opening experience. Truly. Eye-opening.
Taking a step back when you are getting frustrated and understanding why is a pretty humbling experience. If you come out a meeting getting pissed off, give yourself a minute and ask why. You might find it gives you some insight into the things you are passionate about. Are you getting racked off because the meeting was slow, none of the points were covered and it means you’ll have to go to another one next week? Seems like you have a passion for facilitation and getting shit done. If you identify it, it means next time you can chair the next meeting and get shit done.
I think we become an adult slowly, one-home cooked meal at a time. I guess it’s part of maturing and growing up. It’s about being responsible, caring and thoughtful with our intentions. But it doesn’t mean you can’t have chips, nuggets and beans once in a while.