What Does It Mean to Be "Adulting"?

Tuesday, April 92 min read

Being an adult is typically harder than anyone expects. 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. Introducing "adulting," the perfect Internet Age word to describe the tedium of this endless cycle of responsibilities.

What Is Adulting?

Yes, adulting is a very real word. 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 (the latest edition updated to 535 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.

Are You Adulting?

Adulting as a verb can be achieved pretty easily. In fact, you may be adulting right now. Are you well-fed and wearing reasonably clean clothes? 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 person to come figure out why the air conditioner isn’t blowing cold air. Consider those who use adulting as a verb as generally positive people who look for the silver linings in life.

Of course, as with any term coined by Millennials, there are naysayers who think adulting is silly, and that the everyday grind needn't be celebrated. To these folks, celebrating self-sufficiency is akin to celebrating breathing — a waste of time.

Whether you regularly use the term, as a point of pride or an insult, one thing we can all agree on is that being an adult is not easy. In a world where work-life balance feels like an elusive myth, sometimes it's okay to stop and celebrate the little accomplishments you collect along the way.

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