Rent is due at the end of this week, and so is my electric bill. I just found out my first student loan payment is due in December. My Internet plan is all messed up, the tub won’t drain properly, the kitchen smells funky, and the fridge leaks. I spend my weekends grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, and filling out college applications. I work 50 hours a week. There is always something that I should be doing. It’s a wild, stressful life, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.
Last year, in my developmental psychology class, my professor asked all of us when we thought a person really becomes an adult and if any of us felt like adults. The collective answers to those questions were “no idea” and “no”. Pretty much everyone knows that college is not the real world, and that is especially true when you go to a small, rural, liberal arts college. I had responsibilities at school last year, sure, but my responsibilities weren’t really about keeping myself alive. I had unlimited food in the dining hall, and I would have to do something really awful to get kicked out of the dorms. I had a job on campus, but it was super chill. I was a student, not an adult.
This year, if my psychology professor were to ask me those same two questions, I’d tell her that I don’t think there is any one size fits all way to become an adult, but I would tell her that I do feel like an adult now. I support myself and it’s really cool and not as scary as you’d think. I’m definitely still figuring things out as I go- it took me hours to figure out how to transfer the electricity account for my apartment to my name and I’m not super good at budgeting (I just try to spend as little money as possible), but I am figuring things out. I’ve been on my own for four months now, and I’m still alive without any catastrophes to report.
I love being an adult. Actually supporting myself is such a powerful and empowering thing. I don’t even mind paying bills because it means that I’m capable of existing in reality. There is no bubble protecting me from anything. I have my own real job, my own real apartment. Not to mention that I’m in Detroit, halfway across the country from all my family. I’m discovering just how capable I am of taking care of myself. I feel self-possessed and able. When something needs to get done, I just go and do it. I figure it out. While I definitely appreciate the intense care packages my parents send me occasionally, I appreciate my own independence more than anything else.
Being an adult means that I decide when and where to do what. If I want to get up at 7 and go sit in a coffee shop for four hours, I do it. If I want to go to the super cool independent movie theatre near my house, you bet I do that too. I’ve discovered that grocery shopping is my one true love, and that although I always thought I hated cooking, when I’m in charge of the shopping list, I love it. I’ve figured out that yoga is my preferred form of exercise (I have upper body strength for the first time in my life!). All of the things I have to do don’t restrain me- they’re a part of the freedom. I’ve proven that I can handle the rough stuff, so I’m privy to the perks.
I get that entering the real world can be scary. Joining the ranks at eighteen was never in my plans, but it has done so many amazing things for me. The idea of providing for yourself and keeping yourself alive and relatively healthy is a mountain, but it’s climbable. Don’t psych yourself out. You can Google how to make a budget and pay off your credit card (I’ve still never had to balance a check book- I’m convinced that’s just a really scary myth). Your landlord will fix broken windows if you nag them enough. Also, realize that you don’t have to stop being a kid to be an adult. You still get to laugh and call your mom three times a day and throw the occasional tantrum. You just get to do it in your own space and on your own terms. It’s all good.
Now, please excuse me, I have to go figure out how to defer my loan payments. That’s the one part of adulthood that I will never be ready for (my back account agrees).