Peter Pan never wanted to grow up, and as a child I respected that. The boy knew how to have fun. He could fly. He was friends with mermaids and Indians. Wendy on the other hand had a mature-frown, had a knack with shadow sewing and an ability to cut through the bullshit. Peter and Wendy are the yin and yang of childhood and adulthood.
In 2014 Blogger Grammar Girl coined ‘Adulting’ as her word of the year. Urban Dictionary defines adulting as “doing something grown-up and responsible” – aka be a Wendy. Adulting is the transition for Peter Pans to sprout adult-skills like chest hair and learn how to keep safe from the Hooks of the world (i.e Real Estate Agents and bosses).
When I was younger I did want to grow up, but like Peter’s expectations that life could be all fun and games, I thought life would be all fun and games and power suits. I have consulted my fluffy orange diary which captured my dreams of adulthood from age 8 to 11.
Expectations VS Reality
Expectation # 1: Married to a man called Andrew by 26, have two kids named Fiona and Elizabeth and own a house and farm.
Reality: No ring on my finger, no Jane Austen-like offspring with ringlets, rent a “quaint” inner-city apartment and have claimed square metre of outside balcony for plant space (my next-of-kin). Have a partner, but his name is not Andrew, so clearly not soul-mate.
Expectation #2: A shit-hot career, wearing a power-suit, shouting into a mobile phone about Tokyo.
Reality: Not sure what ‘career’ means still, have had multiple periods of unemployment from instability of contracted work. Mum rings me, but I don’t think she’d like me shouting at her. I’ve never been to Tokyo.
Expectation #3: Still hanging out with best-friends from primary school wearing matching rainbow friendship bracelets and being wise on rocking-chairs.
Reality: We’re Facebook friends. Don’t own a rocking chair, but still want one. A banjo could go well too …
Expectation #4: You won’t ever worry about stupid adult stuff like taxes, superannuation, grey-hairs. Boring!
Reality: I have no idea how to do my tax still and I’m worried about superannuation. I think I found a grey hair the other day, but it was just dandruff. Note to self: buy anti-dandruff shampoo.
Most of us have more in common with Peter and are resisting or unable to become fully functioning Wendy’s. There are a few reasons behind this out of our control (classic millennial – blaming others!), we can’t afford houses (unless you mean the monopoly type), we’re staying at home longer and having kids later, or not at all.
But even with social and economic evidence, you don’t want to be phoning your Dad at 50 asking for help with your broadband connection (or flying car – here’s hoping!). We can adult gracefully.
How to adult gracefully (like good cheese and wine)
1. Understand that no-one knows what they’re doing either
It may seem like others have their shit together, but beneath their glossy Facebook photos of filtered home-baked muffins is insecurity and self-doubt of where one belongs in this weird world. Accepting this means you don’t need to put on a song-and-dance and can be open and honest with your friends and family.
2. Fake it till you make it
Having said that, sometimes you have no choice but to pretend you know what you’re doing. Tax, no problem! Open up a new bank account, alright! Buy a car, let’s dance creepy car salesman! Some things aren’t as hard as they look. Except tax. Maybe get an accountant.
3. Financial independence – get your money in order
This is the most Wendy thing you can do. Having money and splashing it on wining and dining is fun, but remember you need to pay your rent and bills. Young Aussies are actually really great savers. But to continue saving, money experts recommend the 20% rule, one-fifth of your income should be set aside for big things like holidays, a new car, maybe even a house? One can dream.
4. Don’t let your parents do everything for you – but it’s okay to ask for help when needed
If you want to be treated like a responsible adult you need to break free from the nest. Even if you live at home find ways to be independent. Things your parents shouldn’t do for you: do your washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, shopping. Things that are okay to get help on: how to deal with a tricky life situation, how to do your tax.
5. Look after yourself
It’s probably not the best idea to eat cereal for dinner every night. If you’re not sure what to eat – try What the Fuck Should I Make For Dinner. Take yourself for a walk or go to the gym, see friends, chat to family. Look after your mental wellbeing. If you’re feeling like shit follow this mental health self-care chart on what to do.
Adulting is hard. There’s no way around it. Sometimes it feels like we are thrust into the adult-world with little introduction on how it all works. If only there was an easy step-by-step guide or instruction manual on how to deal with the mundane and the difficult. Nobody is born an expert adult and nobody truly graduates from adulthood completely. Despite the seriousness of bills, tax and eating your daily intake of vegetables per day, being an adult doesn’t have to overrule the fun stuff. You can find the balance between Wendy and Peter.
This was first published on The Vocal