Being adult about it

“I don’t want to adult today.”

It’s a complaint we make when the pressures of life weigh us down and we want to escape for a while. The stress, apparently, is enough to drive us to verbification. I don’t mind that we’ve collectively made an action word out of adult, but I object to how we’ve defined it.

Certainly there’s more to adulting in the 21st century than paying bills, cleaning house, and tending responsibilities. Although a generation or two of elders might not agree, when I spend a day in my sleeping bag cocoon watching Who’s the Boss reruns, I am adulting.

I adult every day, and you probably do, too. And because we’re doing it in a time of relative emotional enlightenment, we take care of ourselves like proper adults ought to. We sometimes give ourselves days off from the pressure of keeping up with unreasonable expectations we were taught to imagine the world is imposing on us.

I’m an adult capable of measuring the consequences and benefits of time away from life’s harsher realities, and choosing when to go home early and put a record on instead of catching up on bookkeeping. So sometimes I do, because I take responsibility for my own mental and emotional health. Like an adult.

The other day I ate cereal for dinner at 9 p.m. — by taking handfuls straight out of the box. And chasing them with gulps of milk right from the milk bag. According to Internet memes, I definitely was not adulting. But the part where I’m not gonna be embarrassed about something that makes no difference in the world and doesn’t hurt anyone, but saved me two dishes and felt weirdly satisfying? That’s adulting.

You see, it’s not that we don’t want to behave like adults. It’s that we aren’t going to accept being trapped by a version of adulthood that’s mostly about conforming to nonsensical norms and meeting our own unreasonable expectations. We’re going to adult like people have never adulted before: with compassion for ourselves. Because it’s smarter and makes us better humans.

Next time I need to run out to the grocery store for onions while I’m making dinner on a lazy Sunday, I’m not even going to debate with myself about whether I need to change out of my track pants to go FreshCo. I don’t. You can totally adult in track pants, and sometimes you can do it better. These days, adulting like a boss means recognizing that your own comfort is important, and also that nobody really cares what you’re wearing in the produce aisle.

I’m not saying that being an adult is all about laziness, underdressing, and shirking responsibilities. Not at all. I’m saying it’s about finding a balance between bearing the weight of the world and nurturing our own good health and happiness. And — maybe most importantly — adulting today is about not being ashamed of the good choices we make for ourselves every day.

So I won’t be deriding myself over how I adult anymore. “I’m wearing track pants to the grocery store,” I’ll say instead, “because my adulting is so frigging on point today.”

Originally published in Our London on September 29, 2016.