I guess it finally happened. They always said it would.
You’ve graduated and left the warm and safe embrace of student-hood. It is a difficult adjustment. Suddenly you find that it’s February and you graduated six months ago and you’re still not much closer to that illusive career goal. You discover that 9am starts at your new job are not quite as optional as your 9am lectures, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have a job – any graduate can attest to the relentless rejection that seems to come at you from every direction. Job hunting is largely a depressing and soul-crushing process, one worsened if you haven’t settled on a direction or concrete career path (although how you’re supposed to know what you want to do with the next 50 years when you’re 21 is beyond me). Graduates find themselves floating in this limbo where they are too qualified to work a minimum wage job yet too under-qualified to get a ‘real job.’ You need money to keep the dream alive, and it doesn’t matter what employers say: experience doesn’t pay the bills.
Half of me feels filled with a childish sense of rebellion, insisting on sleeping in late and avoiding responsibilities as if I’m not the one who will suffer because of it. Part of me wants to sack it all off and move to Alaska or spend the rest of my years as a sun-worn vagabond, offering soundbites of wisdom to young backpackers like some portable fortune cookie, before wandering off mysteriously into the horizon.
Then, a louder – and somewhat smarter – part of me starts saying serious phrases like ‘think of your career’ and ‘your future’ and that this is an ‘investment.’ Chuck Palahniuk said in all his nihilistic glory that we are all haunted by the idea that we are wasting our lives and that is certainly true for me. We all battle feelings of inadequacy and failure, yet in this age defined by incessant social media shares our achievements and aims have become warped by an imposed reality that holds no truth. We know that no one’s life appears in actuality the way it does online, yet we still grapple and grasp for it, forever chasing the unattainable.
But here’s the truth: no one knows what they’re doing. That’s one thing I’m certain of. Even people who look like they do really have no idea – and there’s comfort in that. We are all babies in adult sized bodies wandering over to the photocopier and talking to Frank in code words about last night’s game. We may dress in big kids’ clothing and order our coffees with five extra unnecessary instructions, but secretly, deep down, we’re all still terrified and lost and just hoping no one else notices or blows our cover.
But fear not. Your twenties are a decade designed for making mistakes and taking chances, learning who you are and realising that life is not one straight line from here to success. We’re going to mess up and there will be times we fear that we have done so so badly that there is no way back. But there is always a way back. I fully expect I will be making merry messes well into my 70s, 80s and then some.
So without further ado I give you the first instalment of my ‘How to Survive Adulthood’ Series, called ‘Signs you’re Becoming an Adult’ which comprises of yet another list of revelations and signs that maybe we need to accept that we’re not sixteen any more. I don’t know about you, but a part of me is always going to be an awkward 14 year old emo, even when I’ll be dressing in pants suits (or whatever real grown adult women wear). Enjoy!
- You have dreams about paying off your overdraft
Real, actual dreams from which you awake elated, only to be crushed by reality when you roll over and check your online banking.
- You realise that finding a fulltime job that is both paid and relevant to your career aims is like finding a life-sized solid gold unicorn-phoenix hybrid on your way to Sainsbury’s.
It’s just not going to happen
- You become the queen of list making and self-directed pep talks
Nothing like making a list of things to do to avoid doing the things you actually have to do. Clinically proven to be the best method of doing nothing while maintaining that you are being productive: this is procrastination perfected.
- The twang of pain you get the first time your out of date student card is rejected
What do you mean it’s not June 2015 anymore?
- Your mind’s inner dialogue is simply the repeated mantra of ‘you’ve got this, you’ve got this, you’ve got this’
And you know what, that’s fine. Who cares if you need to mentally talk through every possible scenario or conversation that might occur before you step out the house? You’ve got this, trust yourself and your methods.
- You find yourself looking with scorn at students
Look at them with their stupid faces, all full of happiness and hope for the future, bah!
- You make an attempt to clean up your social media
After all, my future employers definitely do not need to know when I’m a chundersaurus rex.
- You start to buy better alcohol and more and more of your money is spent on cushions, candles and cheese
The everyday essentials of course
- You realise that sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader
This is a biggun’, especially if you’re like me and fall heavily into the positive reinforcement category. Learning to be self-sufficient and self-confident enough to work with little to no ego-stroking can be a difficult change to make. We, the beautiful baby snowflakes of generation Y, expect to both get our dream job and immediately become instrumental there but unfortunately, life isn’t as easy as Hollywood would make us believe. It’s okay to feel undervalued or stagnant, you just need to keep going (on these days I usually walk around with I am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel blurting out my headphones, which sometimes helps).
- You’ve bought non-fun items for your house and actually take pride in keeping it clean
Whatever happened to buying complete crap in freshers and filling your room with things you’ve stolen on a night out? Who needs a hoover anyway?
- You have started using your nectar card
After three years of being ignored in your wallet, it has finally made an appearance. You’ve even started saving the little vouchers you get with it (extra points if you actually remember to use them though). Who knew getting £2.25 off your next shop could be so exciting? Is this the first step to becoming a housewife?
- You have felt the betrayal of when you have to pay taxes for the first time
We’ve always known the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, but navigating the intentionally perplexing bureaucracy is enough to make anyone want to run away to the woods and live like a hermit for the rest of their life.
- Words like ‘Credit Ratings’ loom in your mind the way you once feared witches and vampires.
In fact, I’d take a date with a vampire over talking about my finances full stop.
- You’ve learnt how to cope with the near daily existential breakdowns Triggers include but are not limited to: money, thinking about the future, your love life, career, or the impending doom of earning minimum wage forever and dying empty, barren and alone.
- You have begun to scare children
It is a very sad and solemn day when you scare a child unintentionally for the first time, what’s changed since yesterday? Am I getting wrinkles?
- You have started the slow and agonising process of transforming your wardrobe from hippy-hobo-chic to smart-casual-business-woman-bitch
What even is appropriate work attire? Where can I find it? Why can’t I afford it?
- You realise you cannot be in control of everything and that’s alright
Maybe it was your dissertation that prepared you for coping with multiple stressors, but you’re doing better than you think and no one has all the answers, especially not at 22. It’s okay to stay in bed and do nothing all day or want to leave tomorrow and build a rocket to the moon, there are no rules to this thing.
Treasure the boredom and the freedom because one day everything will be stable and secure and you’ll have little terrors to chase after and you’ll be wishing for one more day spent wasting time with your best friends or simply binge watching TV. All these little bumps will make good stories one day, or at least that’s what I’m saying about why I’m working at a mini golf course. Point is, it’s not all bad. You’ve got this, buddy.
What were your ‘oh my god I’m an adult’ moments? Let me know below in the comments section!