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There may be much debate over what a “millennial” actually is, but it’s simple to say that a lot of us are currently in our 20s and early 30s. There are memes and Twitter jokes abound on how different “adulting” looks like when our parents were our age (I mean, most had at least one kid before they were 25!) and how it looks like for us now, but really, the progression can be summed up (somewhat) in the following stages:
Stage 1: The College/University Experience
While it’s questionable as to whether students in tertiary education can be really categorized as adults, for most of us, this was our first experience of staying outside our childhood homes and the first true breath of freedom. This is the stage where we start really experimenting with travel, nightlife, alcohol, drugs, and romantic relationships, away from the restraints that were once in place when we were teenagers living at home. And well, the freedom we have in college together with the wild experiences, gives us hope for the future and maybe even the thought “being an adult is so much fun!”. The adultier adults keep telling you this is not how it’s going to be later, but you brush them off thinking, “how bad can it be?”.
Stage 2: The First Adult Job
Not long after the dust of your graduation ceremony settles, you know things are going to get more serious, but you are hopeful. You clean up your resume, enthusiastically buy spankin’ new outfits to use for interviews, and look up “tips on acing the interview” online. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you get a job within the first three interviews. The rest of us attend interview after interview, only to find out people either pay peanuts or want more experience. At the same time, rental rates which are going through the roof make you cry inside, but you just tell yourself, it’ll all be okay after the initial struggle. At some point you get a job, and you may just decide that the rent isn’t worth it and stay with your parents instead.
At your job, you try to be enthusiastic and learn, though your baby boomer colleagues don’t understand you and scoff at your need to return home on time because you want to have “work-life balance”. You also start off blowing your first few paychecks, before realizing finances are a lot more complicated than you thought and taxes are a whole other ball game.
Stage 3: Starting to Live On Your Own
This may occur simultaneously with Stage 2, but once you move out of your parent’s home, things really start climaxing in terms of your adulting experience. Suddenly you start to wonder how your mum managed to get laundry, dinner, and cleaning all done in the same day while having to take care of her children or while working. You try to stay on top of things but most of the time, housework is not the first thing you want to do when you come home tired from work.
When electrical items and/or plumbing starts acting up at your place, you almost have a mini mental breakdown as you desperately ask your parents (or Google) for advice on what to do. If you have roommates or housemates, you learn how living with people isn’t easy, and start to crave your own space (which probably eventually leads to you getting your own place). On the other hand, if you are single and live alone, you may start to crave company at home. Stage 2 and 3 combined eventually lead to….
Stage 4: The Quarter-Life Crisis
Forget the midlife crisis; nowadays our crisis mode comes much early on. At this point you are questioning yourself over your career choices, and also struggling to act like what you think is a “perfect” adult. Your everyday responsibilities feel like a burden on your shoulders that you can never shake off. You feel like everything you are doing is sub-par, and you may even despair that you are probably going to be average forever. You compare yourself extensively with your peers, and though logically you know what they display on social media are just their life highlights, emotionally you are bitter and a tiny bit jealous because everyone seems to have it better than you.
This stage can last for a very short period, or a very long period which may drive you to be really depressed and demotivated to carry on. A lot of impulsive behavior tends to happen in this stage, in an effort to cope with repressed negative feelings of mediocrity. Over time though, a breakthrough happens and the millennial moves into…
Stage 5: Accepting the Ups and Downs of Life
At some point, you decide enough is enough and take a step back to examine if all your emotions over “failing” were really warranted or not. You may start to see the bigger picture, and are more thankful over the little blessings that life offered you. You also start to rethink your long-term plans, and get out of your head long enough to take bold steps to improve your life. The difference this time is that you are aware that you may fail, but you start to be okay with that. You start to look at the world with more human goggles, and see that everyone, in one way or another, is struggling as much as you.
It’s not that misery loves company, but it comforts you all the same. You are more at peace with the ups and downs of life, and you start to put yourself first knowing that what people think of you doesn’t mean anything.
Stage 6: Finally Feeling Like an Adult
As you pass through Stage 5 and you go through your daily routine, one day, you look in the mirror and finally feel like you are actually an adult. You may still struggle from time to time, but now you realize struggles are going to be a lifelong thing which you’ll learn so much from. You take care of your responsibilities without much complaint, and you have a general direction you want to take in life, be it career-wise or in your personal life. You are nevertheless aware that change will be a constant, but it helps to have a goal. You don’t have a huge circle of friends anymore, but the ones you have, you treasure. Weekends are no longer about partying it up, but more for recuperation and reflection. Congratulations, you are finally nailing this “adulting” thing!
Of course, as much as millennials are stereotyped to be all the same, the reality is the stages we go through is different for each one of us. Some of us go through all the steps above, while others skip a stage or two, or experience the stages in a different order. Everyone’s timeline is different, so never ever feel like you are lagging behind or that you are weird. Regardless of where you are in the process, just know that one day you will be at Stage 6, happy with how you are progressing in life.