When did it hit you that you're REALLY grown? Women tell us about their experiences with adulting

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  • We often joke about the challenges of adulting but it can lead to serious life stresses. 
  • Could acknowledging this as a shared struggle be the answer to helping us cope?
  • From managing personal finances and attempting to run a functional household to dealing with family responsibilities, women at W24 share when it dawned on them that they are grown-ups.

The concept of growing up is as philosophical or maybe as arbitrary as time itself. Different countries have different laws that dictate what qualifies you an adult marked against various aspects of life. Whether it is consuming alcohol or applying for credit right through to participating in sexual acts, if you live under a centralised government there likely is a law that governs at what age you are ‘adult’ enough to do certain things. 

We joke a lot about adulting and how gruelling it can be but the concept of adulthood can be as elusive as how we perceive youth, especially the older you get. For one, living under this pandemic is a factor that's likely to age a person. In my case, I think I might have aged at least three years in the past six months. Having said that, when a colleague of mine said 2020 has just been a very long January (aka Januworry) I couldn’t relate more. 

READ MORE: In a world where anti-ageing creams are the best-selling beauty products, why does Face App have us posting our future wrinkles on social media? 

The most grown-up I’ve felt was probably when I was 16 when I was arranging to go apply for my ID for the first time. I had my younger brother take my headshot, we went to the nearest shopping centre to print out the pictures at Kodak and, as soon as I could, I went to the nearest Home Affairs after school to submit my application.

Since then, I swear I have been growing in reverse. I’ve never felt more like a child like when I was left at my University residence in my first year of study. The rest is history, because at times I still succumb to eating cereal for dinner.  

Adulting is a strange phenomenon but we laugh it off because we have to, there’s no other option really. But, could the acknowledgement of the shared struggle and seeking a sense of “I’m not alone” be part of how we cope? 

Online forums on Reddit, Quora, Twitter and in other pockets of the internet are dedicated to embracing the shared trials and tribulations associated with adulting. Perhaps it's like adopting a new lifestyle and seeking community as one would with veganism, for example.

READ MORE: #LockdownDiaries: 4 South African women take us through their emotions during lockdown 

There has been a lot of focus on financial independence when it comes to adulting, we are continuously reminded to save for retirement, have a budget and so on. Rightfully so because we want to avoid making grave financial mistakes

When it comes to managing personal finances, many of those entering the job market are often faced with financial responsibilities from their first salary. This can range from student loans, family dependents to retirement. 

Personal finance experts often lament the statistics that show women aren’t able to save as much as they could be when it comes to retirement because of the gender pay gap. 

“If you earned that much less — and it’s not like your expenses are any fewer — that has a direct impact on the amount of money you have saved for your retirement,” Avani Ramnani, director of financial planning and wealth management tells CNBC.

There’s no harsher reminder of adulting than when you’re trying to keep up with your bank balance. Many of us have had to learn hard lessons because of this.  Newly graduated, Ayanda shares when the pin dropped for her that she had fully arrived to adulthood: 

I would say I realised I was grown AF when I had to start looking for a job. I knew this time was coming and I was really excited. I mean it's every graduate's dream to find work after graduating but I don’t think many of us realise what it takes emotionally and psychologically. I had to do the job-hunting by myself; mommy and daddy could no longer assist like they have in the past. Another time is when I started getting debt orders on my account. A debt order can really shake a person.

READ MORE: Spent too much money living your best life? Here's how to right the financial wrongs you made in your 20s 

But when it comes to adulting, grown-up responsibilities go beyond finances.

Maintaining a home is another aspect that is not giving the credit it’s due when it comes to being a grown-up. While it is harshly laborious, running a household is a lot of work but can have its rewarding moments. For example, as somebody who enjoys shopping, picking out bed linens, cookware and home décor items is a treat. 

“You don't need bougie salt and pepper grinders but they are gorgeous, I love using them and they literary bring me joy,” U.S. YouTuber Janea says in one of her many relatable moments.  

One the other hand, Australian influencer Sarah’s Day says, “You know you’re an adult when you get excited about the new ceramics you bought to make aesthetic dippy eggs.” 

This is the definition of relatable content. A few weeks ago I was shopping for all-black baking utensils – because, aesthetics – and fell in a rabbit hole of comparing cast iron cookware, gas stoves, expensive china I would save for special occasions and elaborate milk frothers. Upon reflection I can help but wonder, have I become my mother? Needless to say, my online wishlists are very long. 

On the other hand, running a functional household is not only time consuming but is incredibly expensive as well.

I’m reminded that I’m an adult every time I buy groceries. The price of cheese fascinates me, and since when do Corn Flakes cost R40+ plus? Being an adult who has to feed herself is a lot to get used to.

There've been so many moments where I've stopped and realised 'OMG, I am that old.' I can't quite remember an exact moment, but every time I go shopping for homeware, it hits me hard. To think there was a time when shopping meant shoes, handbags, and gadgets. Now I get excited by becoming the owner of the latest grater on the market, yep. Earlier this year, I had another 'aha moment' when a close friend shared that she felt too young to be arranging her gran's funeral - we both laughed (the nervous, 'what-the-hell-is-going-on' kind of laugh) at how hard reality slapped in that moment, there was just no denying that we aren't young anymore. I've had to arrange two funerals since then. It stabs.

Family responsibility an aspect of adulting that probably many of us never wished for, even in our impressionable days of youth. I love those long, tedious family meetings – said no one ever. Regardless, this is an unavoidable aspect of life if you have an expansive family and in the world of adulting, this aspect seems to be the one that comes knocking often.

That said that, I think I’m going to need an adulting influencer or a support group or something. I might just sign up for those adulting classes and live up to my Millennial title.

When did it hit you that you're grown AF? Share your story with us here.

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