Being an adult is harder than anyone expected. Working a nine-to-five job while staying on top of household chores, paying bills and maintaining a social life is a dizzying balancing act that our parents made look easy.
As the generation raised on the Internet matured into adulthood, the difficulties of adult life gave birth to new terminology to discuss the tedium of this endless cycle of responsibilities. Enter the word "adulting."
Yes, adulting is a very real term. In fact, Dictionary.com defines it as “an informal term to describe behavior that is seen as responsible and grown-up.”
The term first appeared in 2008 and took off in the early 2010s with the publication of Kelly Williams Brown’s Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. These days, "adulting" can refer to anything from doing laundry without leaving it sitting in the dryer for a week to making a doctor's appointment over the phone.
Since no one is giving out gold stars for cleaning your kitchen past the age of 14, exalting the completion of mundane tasks, generally over social media, is the new equivalent.
“Adult isn’t something you are, it’s something you do,” Brown says in the introduction to her book. And she goes on to explain many, many ways that one can adult.
Adulting as a verb can be achieved pretty easily. In fact, you may be adulting right now and not even realize it. Do you feel well fed and have reasonably clean clothes on? That’s adulting.
At its core, adulting is a positive way to celebrate boring tasks. It's about cheering the small stuff that often goes unnoticed by others, for example scheduling an HVAC guy to come figure out why the air conditioner isn’t blowing cold air. Think of people who use adulting as a verb as generally positive people who look for the silver linings in life.
Of course, as with any term generated by the Millennial generation, there are people who think that adulting is silly and that people shouldn’t need to celebrate the everyday grind. Celebrating self sufficiency is akin to celebrating breathing — little more than a waste of time.
Whether you regularly use the term or not, one thing we can all agree on is that being an adult is not easy. In a world where work-life balance seems like an elusive myth, sometimes it's okay to stop and celebrate the little accomplishments you collect along the way.