About a year ago there was a really funny question and answer session on Reddit that we just came across. It’s hilarious. The question was “What is the worst thing about being an adult?” Although the actual title of the exercise was a little less safe for work than we’d like to share, thousands of readers weighed in and I decided to share some of my personal favorites with you. Here are 15 people describing the worst part about being an adult.
1. It’s hard to explain, but for me it’s that the sense of being part of some story where you are the protagonist kind of fizzles out unceremoniously and leaves you drifting for the rest of forever. As a kid, you’re on a path, there’s a plan laid out for you, and whether you intentionally break from the plan or follow it to the letter, there’s this linear progression of growth, and an ultimate goal to strive for. You have allies, you have enemies, you have trials that you pass or fail, you have moments of catharsis, etc. You feel like part of a beautiful narrative, like the heroes in movies and books and TV shows and stories. You feel like there’s a right and a wrong way to go, and some ultimate fate waiting for you at the end that will sum up what all of it meant.
When you get to be an adult, that illusion crumbles away as you realize that you don’t have a narrative, there is no path or plan, things aren’t always linear, and you’re nobody’s hero. There are no allies, because friends can be both good and bad for you simultaneously. There are no enemies, because frankly no one cares enough to wage a personal war for long. You don’t have a destiny. You make choices that are more a product of random chance than you want to admit, and sometimes the consequences make sense, sometimes they don’t. You may flounder around in a bunch of different directions for many years, ultimately not making any progress, and having nothing of import to show for it. You’re not a good person or an evil person – you’re just an ant wandering around looking for crumbs. No, worse than an ant, because an ant has a purpose in life, to serve its queen and colony. You can choose to align yourself with a purpose, but it may never fulfill you or reward you. And nobody will be waiting with a shiny gold medal for you if you stick to it.
Life as an adult seems less and less like an exciting adventure story and more and more like a delirious, confusing fog of random developments and passing phases that raise more questions than they answer.
Edit: I somehow put my first edit in the middle of the text, which made it weird. But it said thank you very much for the gold and comments. I appreciate all the insights and solidarity, and the disagreement too.
I haven’t always felt this way about adulthood, and I probably won’t always feel exactly this way. It’s not as if everything’s hopeless, or that I’ll never try to find a direction for my life. It’s just that the realization of how small your impact actually is, and that you are not destined for anything great, and how subject you are to forces bigger than yourself – that’s a tough pill to swallow
2. No one wants to go out and play. Your friends aren’t hanging around the neighborhood waiting for you to get out of work. You cant call anyone spur of the moment and say “Hey lets go loiter in a gas station and break glass bottles”. Every social event is planned begrudgingly around everyone’s schedules and usually aren’t as fun as they used to be.
3. That feeling that you spent your whole life tapping the world on the shoulder and when it finally turned around you forgot what you had to say.
4. When you fail, you fail. The world is content to let you die in a gutter. As a child you (hopefully) have parents who are looking out for you and will help you if you need it. As an adult you’re on your own.
5. Ive started to notice the repetition of it all. Everyone doesn’t like being at work (Case of the Mondays eh?) Everyone starts having kids. Everyone says sugar is bad for you. It’s almost like life becomes a bad movie that you can predict the lines to and all the plot points. And for that matter a lot of movies become so much less interesting because all the themes and mores’ have been beaten to death. It’s at this point that you must inject chaos and humor into this sad state of affairs or you will die slowly on the inside. Seriously.
6. Resilience slipping away. I’m 28. I once could sleep on a floor with a rolled up towel as a pillow. Now I have a pillow top bed and need several pillows to sleep well. I could eat pizza all day. Now if I eat it at night, heartburn for hours. If I hurt myself, it doesn’t heal over night. If I get hungover, it takes all day, not just 1/4 of it, to recover.
7. I am now completely in charge of buying my own toilet paper. Any day could be the day that I turn to that unforgiving, empty roll.
8. Honestly, I think it’s the realization that it’s all now your responsibility. There is so much freedom and awesomeness that’s yours for the taking, but there’s nobody else there to back you up anymore. You have to make your own decisions and then stand by them. But the thing that I personally really struggled with was that there’s nobody there to cheer you up, or tell you off. When you’re a kid and you feel bad, you might get a hug or a pep talk from a parent. When you’re on your own, you have to learn to look after your own mental well-being. You have to learn to take the knocks and learn from them. And also, nobody will say “Hey man, that’s a lot of dirty laundry there, you’re not gonna have any pants left the day after tomorrow – do some washing” or “It’s 2am, turn off the TV or you’re gonna be tired all day at work tomorrow and it’ll really suck”. You really have to learn how to run a house, and run a life on your own. It took me a while to realize that this isn’t something that just happens to people when they hit 18 or 21. It’s learned, and it needs practice and it takes some work. Looking after your home, and your mind isn’t easy, but it makes all the fun things about adulthood 400% better once you start getting the hang of it.
9. I think for me the simplest summary is the lack of time.
Oh you want to have food and shelter, here let me take over a third of your usable time.
Want food, its not stocked for you, you need to spend 40 minutes to get what you want.
Need to do home repairs? Well say goodbye to your weekend, you’re going to be spending some time at the local electrical/plumbing/lumber shop.
Want to cook dinner for yourself, oh crap, I just finished cooking and now its 8PM.
Want to get a good night’s sleep, oh wait here’s an emergency phone call at 3AM, better take it you need the extra $ to pay for the house repairs, save for retirement, or go on a much needed vacation.
Want to take a day off to get things done, well now’s the perfect opportunity for your body to remind you about all those hours of sleep you missed this week.
10. Just hit 60….The adults were right… they said I’d never have as much free time as I had in college. Nature does not care if you are happy or not. It’s pretty much up to you and completely under your control. How you accept the world presented is all that counts. Life is short. When i was a kid, the ancients were 35 years old and so powerful and wise. I’d never get there. except that was a quarter century ago now. A good life plan (for a guy) is to have adventures, make a buck, kiss girls as often and deeply as possible, love life, dance, protect the weak, learn every day, keep a journal, laugh, sing, create, listen to old people, try and make peace, forgive, be generous with what you have, spend time enjoying what you encounter. decide on a mission at some point… an expedition or a goal and move a little bit in that direction every day and before long…bingo! Taxes, bills, death, sickness, loss, injury, misfortune happen. accept it. Love, fun, beauty, goodness, kindness, growth, happiness, comradarie…. these things happen to. pay more attention to these. Take care of the most important old person in your life when you are young.. That would be you when you are old. Save some, be healthy, build a loving community around yourself. you are responsible for your happiness and security as an old person. get cracking! Did i mention the girl kissing part? all the magic in the world comes from love, Ithink. don’t lose sight of the magic.
11. As a 27 going on 28 year old who now has a career away from where I grew up, I would definitely say it’s slowly losing touch with 90% of the people you care about. A friend gets married here, a friend moves there, a family member passes here, another there. Every time I get a chance to visit home I can’t help but notice that the list of people I want to visit, and the people that want me to visit gets a little shorter each time. Life doesn’t wait for us, and it seems like every day one good friend or another is slowly drifting towards being just an acquaintance. It really stinks.
12. Realizing how often important results can ride on chance, not effort, lack thereof or what is inherently fair or not fair. But you have to let that go. Don’t let it make you bitter or give you a reason to stop trying.
13. Bills everywhere, insurance, rent, taxes, car payments, the costs of living never stop. This means you have to keep working just to maintain the status quo.
14. How quickly physical fitness can slip away from you and how much harder it is to get it back.
15. Routine, you do the same damn thing day in day out because you have to. No more spontaneous adventures, you want to do something?? Better plan it for a weekend or your vacation.