I was sitting with my wife in an airport when a fully grown woman with two kids in-tow walked by. This scene is commonplace, banal even. However, the one aspect they set it apart was the mother’s shirt. It was simple and read, “Adult-ish.”
There seems to be a new fad among American millennials. Some call it growing up; others call it “lol adulting.” This meme is common among America’s young adults. They poke fun at the responsibilities and the struggles that come along with adulthood. While the heart and impetus behind the joke is understandable, the ultimate result runs counter to their intent.
A quick search of “adulting” on Google provides plenty of examples. A listicle from BuzzFeed includes repressing emotions, unhealthy eating now that parents don’t dictate our diets, and apathy towards basic chores. The overall message communicates a disenchantment that comes with entering the workforce and independence.
The source of these memes and jokes are understandable. Adulthood is terrifying. In school, if a student slacks on their responsibilities, they will at worst fail a class and let themselves down. With adulthood, failure can mean letting down a company, patients, customers, or other people. Similarly, slacking in personal responsibilities can lead to audits and encumbering home repairs.
“Lol-adulting” jokes can provide momentary comfort, but their ambiguous nature keeps the relief transitory. Emotional health is the awareness and courage to admit feelings of fear or confusion and the wisdom to process them. When these emotions are explicitly addressed rather than through banal internet jokes, they can be managed. A shared struggle produces growth when the difficulty is specified, admitted, and overcome, but only personal responsibility will allow it.
Adulting jokes are vague. They admit that there is discomfort associated with becoming an adult, but never that it often results from lack of trust in self or past pain. As a result, millenials are suffering from poor coping mechanisms like binge drinking, video game addictions, binge watching, and a failure to launch.
A Friday night beer or a round of Call of Duty is fine, but when the consumer is emotionally confused, they can have a tenuous relationship to these things. A discomfort with the culturally perceived immaturity of video games could lead to overcompensation and thereby abuse, an “I’ll show you” mentality. Similarly, it is emotionally unpleasant to admit and work through failure at work, but it is easy to reach emotional catharsis with eight episodes of Stranger Things.
Coping mechanisms can be beneficial in small amounts. A beer with a friend or a playing video games after a stressful day can do wonders to relieve stress. I’m no counselor, but having been through it, I can recommend a few things to help the transition to ‘adulting.’
When you talk to a friend about your fears, look them in the eyes. Passive, depressive jokes on social media just won’t cut it. Once the insecurity has been acknowledged, find ways to overcome it; ask for help. I admitted to myself that I needed to improve my job performance, but I didn’t wallow or quit. I asked more experienced teachers to help. Finally, if you’re really struggling, see a counselor. The most put together people I have ever met are only that way because they had the humility to ask a professional for help.
I understand why adulting jokes exist. It is incredibly difficult to be an adult. However, absolving yourself from adult obligations because “lol we all struggle” is dangerous. It will lead to mediocrity at best, a shirking of responsibility at neutral, and aggressively unhealthy habits at worst.
Being an adult is hard. That’s okay.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.