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‘Adulting’ hard, right

More than any other occasion we Filipinos are known to celebrate, I think most fondly of graduation. I can look past birthdays, Christmas, and every other holiday as soon as each graduation I have been part of comes to mind. I relish the idea that all persons walking out of the ceremony — and not just the graduates — probably feel as if they earned something after putting time in. I think of the medals, the handshakes, and the recognition of hard work, until I am interrupted by the thought that we all stop feeling acknowledged at some point after that. New graduates come along, while the rest of us struggle to find new ways of celebrating our fortune.

We develop a desire to name our successes even when a promotion or a raise is nowhere in sight. We pat ourselves on the back for paying bills for the first time, paying income tax for the first time, and finally doing laundry right this time. We wanted to name the dreadful and unkind work hours, the long wait times at government offices and clinics, and the budgeting we now have to do for food and travel expenses. Hence, we crafted “adulting” to collectively refer to anything and everything that make us feel like we are making progress. Somehow.

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The problem with this narrative might just be linguistic in nature, because it sounds like we now reserve the supposedly laborious, exhausting activities for an entity other than the self: our lonesome, boring, but more responsible adult counterparts. In our heads, to “adult” means to assume an adult’s tasks, which can end once we have “adulted.” Unknowingly, this creates a barrier between us and the person we already are. We forget that we became adults the moment we decided to form our own ideals and act upon them; from then on, we could not stop.

“Press on” was the narrative I took away from my parents’ generation—also known as the pre-Facebook generation. I always thought that because they were the last to enjoy the outdoors without the option of posting the experience on a wall, they may have never felt the need to articulate their sentiments about their tough first jobs, chores, and bills. After all, they seem to have adjusted to adulthood quite well, and their only desire was for us to not suffer their fate. I never would have known that they had complaints about “adulting” as well until I asked my own parents what they did with their first salaries. My mother was a working student, so all of her paychecks were allotted for school tuition. My father, on the other hand, was told by his parents that he should save. Fortunately, he did, so he and my mom were able to get married after a year of “dating exclusively.”

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My parents did not know it then, but they were “adulting” — and they adulted hard. But like many others of their generation, it was a way of life that never sought to be noticed. Nor did it allow them to emphasize its difficulties in many ways. Even if they wanted to, there was no platform for them to express it, anyway.

In contrast, our wide array of accessible communication channels allow us to use “adulting” as an excuse for all the times we find ourselves miserably failing at menial tasks or feeling forced to do anything less than fun. I myself was oblivious to the fact that the experiences I get to enjoy are a result of my own “adulting” — and only then did I stop approaching it with disdain. I became aware that like many other people my age, I had fallen victim to the idea that duties to ourselves and to our society (whether or not in the spirit of compliance) are something to either complain about or constantly glorify. As a result, I helped reinforce a culture of affirmation where we long to be praised for enduring little things. While that is definitely not our generation’s intention, it might be worth studying how it got this far.

The “adulting” phenomenon is simply a result of the things we did not start young. It was a byproduct of the idea that learning valuable life skills is optional until absolutely necessary. At the same time, it was an evolved form of the idea that grown adults can somehow, for lack of better terms, “suck at life” for the shallowest of reasons. In an attempt to reduce the difficulties of adulthood in this day and age, we forget that transitioning to this exciting new phase goes beyond testing the waters: It requires diving head first and moving forward in order to enjoy staying afloat.

Don’t get me wrong: I still believe that there is always a child in all of us. I know this because I am a teacher, and I must keep myself youthful to be able to deal with children every day. But what we cannot let our inner child do is get upset over the changes in our lifestyle or our priorities. We cannot lash out at the world just because we can’t get things right the first time. The truth is, our generation which is in the process of “adulting” is also in the position to raise the adults of the future. Sooner or later, we will be forced to confront the ways in which we have responded to the freedom our degrees afforded us and be asked: How did we react when we tried something out for the first time and realized we are not good at it? How did we navigate the constant feeling of not knowing what we are doing while also being happy for the people who we assume are #winning?

One thing is certain: Our generation will have the most documented “adulting” narrative, and each of us is responsible for upholding the fact that every person’s timeline is different. It would be ridiculous to propose that a child is better at being a child than another, based on a finite list of things. Why do we insist on communicating the same message for us?

Perhaps, what we need is an internal graduation of sorts: a recollection of what it was like to acknowledge achievements alongside new and more challenging responsibilities. We all left college knowing that henceforth, there will be no more Latin honors for a job well done. The reward will be in knowing that we put our money where our mouth was since Day One.

I invite you to imagine a world where our children know the value of a hard day’s work. Imagine them “adulting” in ways that have been ingrained in their learning. They will fold their own clothes, clean up after themselves, and save money in a piggy bank with no complaint. They will spend money wisely, do things with efficiency in mind, and actively engage in their civic duties.

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This is what our narrative should be. Adulthood is the universe’s way of giving everyone the stage again, so that the bar is collectively set high for the next generations to exceed.

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Christelle Del Rosario, 23, is a graduate of University of the Philippines Manila and a Rocketship Education teacher.

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TAGS: Adulthood, adulting, Christelle del Rosario, Inquirer Opinion, Young Blood
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