adult·ing/əˈdəltiNG,ˈaˌdəltiNG/ noun : “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.”
Clearing up the confusion.
Recently someone asked me about what “adulting” means. I have the word in my website under the list of things that I can help with. It does sound a bit cryptic, and it may confuse people not familiar with the term. Basically, “adulting” is about completing the developmental tasks that turn us into adults.
In Canadian society, a few markers show that you have become an adult. One is becoming a citizen with right to vote. Another is having formed a more or less self-defined identity. There is more!
As an adult, one is expected to be a productive member of society and have mature long-term relationships with other consenting adults. Adults can “manage,” do our laundry, buy food, and take care of ourselves, and even others.
What is the path?
In traditional cultures, when you reach a certain age, you follow a ritual or rite of passage that clearly marks the change from one status to the other. In many cultures, once you are sexually developed, you are an adult. It’s all about the plumbing!
In such a culture, your place in society is pretty much planned for you. If you follow the plan, you will do just fine. It is different in less traditional cultures, where the path for “adulting” is not so easy to figure out.
In our less traditional culture, even though we may already have the “plumbing,” we are not considered adults. We live for a period as adolescents, stuck between being a child and being recognized as an adult. What is worse, in our contemporary society, the path to adulthood can feel like a mystery.
If you are lucky, you get parents who are good at raising you and providing you with the tools you need to grow up and be happy. They have managed to get there, and they know how to help you get there too!
For many, it is not like that. Their parents might not have been so sure about how to grow up. Different events in their own lives may have prevented them from finishing their growing-up journey in certain areas. Many were touched by events larger than themselves.
Past to present perspective.
A huge change in expectations framed the experience of those growing up after WWII, in the 1960s and 1970s, where ideas about what one should be changed radically.
A huge change impacts those leaving their native countries. Like many Canadians, straddling two cultures has impacted them.
Cultural changes brought about by technology, and mindsets like “globalization” have also undermined what was left of models for how to live. Today, most people grow up facing a potentially confusing and bewildering set of circumstances.
Where in the past you had a prescribed path, now you have to find it yourself. Changing sexualities, work conditions, shifting economies, and information overload conspire to add to our bewilderment.
Ideas like leaving behind oppressive forms of patriarchy and secularism leave us bereft of clear positive models after which to mold our lives. It can feel very unclear!
Learn to see opportunities.
While the idea of adulting can be unclear, there are resources to help us. We may be lucky to have friends or parents with more insight. A teacher may be happy to mentor us. Someone in our family, like an uncle or aunt, may be there for us, if we ask. We don’t have to do it alone.
Changing conditions can be an opportunity to let your imagination thrive. It is an opportunity for exploring possibilities and engaging with one’s internal image. It can be a chance to meet the world with our unique amazing gifts.
For those who have not looked at their particular gifts, it can be an opportunity to take steps to find your niche. You can take steps to find what makes you “tick” and root your ideas in the world. It can also be an opportunity to build a better society.
Some traditional customs in many cultures and religions were not exactly “people friendly.” We have the opportunity to embrace the shifts of our times and direct them, as leaders or professionals, in the direction of a more just and compassionate world.
It may feel a bit scary, or too adventurous, but it does not have to feel lonely. There are people in this world that can be your resource. Look around, and you will see organizations of folks that embrace ideas that may match yours, or mentors, or people like me, who have made it a career to contribute to society by helping others get there.
If you are willing, you will find someone to help you figure it out and stand by your side!
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For those interested in the “adulting” idea or feeling they can use support, Ariel Blau has appointments available to start the conversation.
Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and served as Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.