What makes an adult? Is it just a question of age? Is it a matter of turning 18 and -bam- you’re a fully grown human now? Legally, perhaps, but how many legal adults do you know who you would swear are still children going by how they behave? It’s alright being young at heart – nobody wants to be serious all the time. But grown-ups who behave like constant children in need of constant care and attention are not cute, they’re tiresome. Here’s a list of things you must absolutely be able to do in order to properly call yourself an adult. Feel free to add more in the comments.
1. Feed yourself
I don’t understand how people can reach adulthood without knowing how to feed themselves. They may not enjoy cooking, and that’s okay, but how can you not care about what’s going into your body? I don’t mean stupid diets and obsessive calorie-counting, but surely you realise that eating fresh food = good for you, and eating processed food = not. Look, I know there are nights we come home from work and we’re exhausted and all we want to do is shove a frozen pizza in the oven and get on with it, and that’s fine. But you can’t expect to survive that way. It’s not that hard to learn a few recipes, a little repertoire. You don’t need to be making lobster thermidor, but you should be buying fresh vegetables and fresh meat and including them in your diet. This isn’t about weight loss or anything like that; it’s about respecting your body and keeping yourself healthy.
2. Dress yourself
I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘dress for your shape’ nonsense, because frankly, you should be wearing whatever makes you feel like a superhero, no matter what shape or size you are. However, you ought to know the difference between casual and smart casual, business casual and gala, and be able to fit your style into that dress code when the occasion calls for it. Also, if your jeans/shirt/dress/panties don’t fit anymore, throw them out and buy new ones. Stop hoarding. This doesn’t concern other people; it concerns yourself: if you’re out, meant to be having fun, but all you can think about is how your jeans keep falling down, you’re doing it wrong.
3. Write a letter
Doesn’t matter whether it’s handwritten or digital. You’ll need to write a lot of letters as an adult – important ones too. Emails. Covering letters. Resignation letters. Letters of apology. Letters of thanks. Letters of complaint. Even love letters, if you’re lovely. It’s important to know how to properly format a letter, how to address it, how to sign it. You need to be able to know how to put your thoughts to paper (or keyboard) in a comprehensible way.
4. Save money
I believe it’s worth encouraging children to do this in order to teach them about the value of money. You don’t want them to become stingy, of course, but setting aside a small percentage of what you earn every month is a good habit to form, and you’ll be thankful you did when something comes up and you don’t need to borrow stupid amounts of money from other people to get by. Learn to be discerning about what you spend your money on. Stop buying crap you don’t need and will only end up throwing away. Yes, indulge yourself once in a while. Yes, treat yourself here and there. But take 20 per cent of that paycheque and save it first.
We’ve all got the gift of the gab when we’re with our friends, but I’ve a great deal of respect for people who can strike up a conversation with a stranger. Sure, it’s uncomfortable at first, but you’re going to have to do it – parties, job interviews, networking events. Yes, some people are shy, and that is fine, and nobody is asking you to tell anyone the story of your life, but as an adult, you should be able to speak to a new person for five minutes without it turning into an awkward scene worthy of a Todd Solondz film – i.e. One-word answers are a no-no.
6. Say no
We all know how important it is to say yes. If you’re looking to make friends, have adventures, travel the world, you want to be able to say yes when opportunity comes your way, and then follow through. BUT. There are going to be times when that opportunity just does not feel right. You’ll feel it in your gut; there’ll be a persistent voice in your head telling you this is not right, stop it now. Part of being an adult is being able to recognise that and say, kindly but firmly, “Thank you, but no”.
7. Break up with somebody without being awful
You’ve been on a few dates with somebody and you’re just not feeling the magic. Or you’ve been in a long relationship, maybe you thought this person was the one, but it’s becoming more and more clear to you that they really, really aren’t. If you’re anything like me, the temptation is to change all your numbers, move house, ignore all their emails, wear a disguise in public… But you owe it to this person to tell them it’s over, explain why, and do it in a humane way. Be nice, but be firm. There might be tears, there might be attempts to persuade you to stay, but if you’ve made up your mind, stand your ground. And then invest in a tub of ice cream and a couple of weepy films to watch under your fluffiest blanket because break ups suck no matter how old you are.
8. Know when other people’s opinion matters and when it really doesn’t
Disregard these: Other people’s opinions on what religion you choose, who you decide to pursue a relationship with, the clothes you decide to wear (unless you’re at work and have to wear a uniform), opinions about your body (unless they’re being expressed by your doctor), opinions about how you choose to spend your money, opinions about whether or not you decide to have children… you get the gist.
9. Say please and thank you
It honestly doesn’t take all that much to be polite, does it? If you’re asking for something, say please; when it’s given to you, say thank you. If you don’t, you come across as a spoiled child, and nobody likes a spoiled child. Oh, and here’s a personal pet peeve: people who are rude to waiters. They are doing their job. Yes, you are paying for a good service, but unless the service is awful, it costs you nothing to thank them for bringing your food or clearing your plate away.
10. Be responsible about your health
Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with chronic illness for over five years now, and regular check-ups are a part of my life, but it still always baffles me when friends of mine in their mid-20s admit to never having had a medical check-up. Annual appointments: dental, gynae, GP – schedule them and stick to them. More than that, learn what’s normal for your body, and if anything feels NOT normal, go have it checked out straight away. Strange lumps, new moles, odd aches, persistent headaches, head-colds that linger too long… get that stuff checked out. You’re young, but you’re a human, meaning your body is a fragile machine, no matter how invincible you think you are. You owe it to your loved ones and especially to yourself to take care of it.