How to adult

Our son turned 20. Our daughter will be turning 25. Our kids are no longer kids.

They are in one of the most challenging phases of their lives, or as they would describe it, adulting. It’s a time when we ask the most important questions, “Who am I, and what do I want to do with my life?” What makes those questions hard is that the only people who can answer them is ourselves. Parents can only offer advice and support.

What advice can I give? There are several things I’ve learned from my own experience. I’ll talk about one that may sound cold, but it’s actually liberating.

The world doesn’t give a damn about you.

I learned this from my mom’s stroke — and all the times I had to deal with Social Security, irate customers at Carl’s Jr., and indifferent professors with inflexible deadlines. None of them cared that I was a class valedictorian or Eagle Scout. None of them wanted to hear about my car problems or that my mom had a seizure the night before because she wasn’t prescribed the right medicine. They wanted forms filled out, meals served, and term papers turned in. You are owed nothing. You are judged by what you do.

I now know how this harshness liberated me.

When you realize that the world doesn’t care about you, you’re free to choose your own path in life. You don’t have to satisfy someone else’s expectations because they don’t have to live with the outcomes of your choices. You do. When you mess up, you suffer the consequences, learn, and move forward. When you succeed, you savor the rewards because you earned them. You enjoy your life because it is your own.

There will be times when you’ll find yourself crying (as I often did), “Why is life so unfair!?” Because it is. So what? You make the most of what you have. Plenty of people made the best of a bad hand in life, but only because they stopped wallowing in self-pity and started looking for solutions. When you take ownership, you gain the power to shape your situation into something positive.

Knowing the world’s indifference drove me to make something of my life. It pushed me to find a career in writing because I knew I was the only one who could build the life I wanted. I couldn’t depend on anyone else to do it for me. There were setbacks, rejections, and disappointments, but that’s part of the process. Nothing of value comes quick or easy. The world doesn’t give you what you want if you ask nicely enough. You put in the work, pay your dues, bide your time, and do your best.

Adulting can be hard, but the freedom and opportunity is exhilarating. You can take yourself and your circumstances and create something wonderful.