“Adulting”. It’s a new verb. It’s a reality that hits us all in the face.
Yesterday, on my way out of work, I called one of my dearest friends from college. On the other line, she scrambled out of the library to talk. Within moments, we were both wailing at the fact that distance had dragged us apart. We had shared so many profound moments last year.
It got me thinking. Going off to college is a strange, modern phenomenon. Most folks throughout history certainly didn’t go through this process. In the Middle Ages, when universities first started to appear, it was the wealthy young man that arrived there to study philosophy and medicine and theology. For mostly everyone else on the planet, until quite recently, you were working on the farm, in the factory, in the guild. You were getting married, having babies, and making bread. Life was pretty straightforward. You knew where you headed in life by the time you were about fifteen.
Fast forward to modern times, and most of us experience this awkward, unique, gloriously fun experience of “going off to school” for 4-5 years. Your life becomes a blank slate, which is a profound thing in itself at eighteen years old. You take your pick out of hundreds of majors. You have endless access to a library filled with thousands upon thousands of resources for which Medieval monks probably would have gladly given their lives . Likely, you are equipped with a new gifted Macbook and sometimes you even receive treats in the mail from Mom and Dad, even though you never call them. Home becomes a shining treasury of free food and an alarm-free zone on the holidays where you are treated like literal royalty for simply coming back. You make the best friends you’ve ever had in your life.
If you’re like me, you also cry a lot because an existential life crisis happens all the time. You slave away at some assignment three years into the process and then suddenly you think, “Crap wait why I am doing this all in the first place again?” You’re surrounded by your best friends, but you walk around feeling lonely and weird. “Why do I feel lonely? I have literally 89 of them within walking distance.” You can be surrounded by living, breathing saints and then come to a point when you legitimately say to yourself, “Nah, I would rather continue to watch this utterly dumb thing on the internet than attend Mass right now; I deserve a break.”
College is a tricksey, confusing, and completely transformative event.
When you on the stage with your diploma you think, simultaneously:
I have never learned so much in my entire life. I have expanded the literal bounds of my soul with truth, beauty, and goodness and am a richer person for it. I have the best, truest friends in the world. I am going to change the world.
I remember less than 5% of my degree and now I have no clue what I’m doing with my life hooray why did I do this I’d rather be working at Ulta with no degree at least I would be debt free help.
Adulting is like college. But without the hundreds of faithful friends, the convenience of naps, sweatpants and jeans and hoodies, and the delay in financial detriment.
And with it comes things like: lots of bills, 1000x more stress, actually getting up in the morning or you will get fired, feeling suddenly like you’re 40 years old, and a vague feeling of being initiated into adulthood without an instruction manual.
If I can say anything to all the new adults out there, all adulting and stuff, it would be this:
You are adulting just fine.
Really. I promise. You may feel like you remember oh so little from your studies, but you remember more than you think. You may not remember facts, but the truth of what you have experienced is has not been captured in the memory bank of your brain. The truths you have discovered have been molded into the very way in which your intellect operates, and the principles which that you had begun to discover in college are waiting to be confirmed, lived out, and tested within the arena of your next seventy year adventure.
The friendships that you have formed are not limited to sporadic messages on social media. The thousand different virtues, humors, and personalities of your friends have left imprints all over your soul. The laughs, tears, and conversations have all molded you into a completely different person than what you were four years ago. You are not the same. You will carry that change with you for the rest of your life.
The goodness you have beheld, the intense wonder you have known, the suffering you have faced, the obstacles you have overcome: these are not contained in your paper diploma or resume.They are not revealed or denied in your awkward attempts to become a fully functioning adult.
These beautiful things, all of the wonderful, raw, and trying truths you have learned, are now a part of you, and you make them tangible when you remain yourself. You don’t have to shine, and you don’t have to have the adulting thing figured out. Just simply living your life one day at a time, making goals, praying, and smiling are all you really need to do. Adulting will come in its own time. You have the rest of your life to figure it out, and who expects you to have it all figured out anyway? Yourself? Well, stop. You’re fine. You’re doing more good for this world than you know. I promise.
I’ve always said that being a normal, fairly well-liked, reliable, virtuous person is the best evangelization you can ever do. And that is something attainable for all of us. The bills, the anxiety, the weirdness of adulthood: don’t let those annoying things distract you from having a happy life. I know so many people who inspire me just by the way they are, and they probably don’t even know they’re doing it at all.
So? Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life. Adulting is a weird adventure. Choose to bask in the wondrous awkwardness of it all, don’t take yourself so seriously, and remember: you really are doing a fine job.