How do I ‘adult’?

Graphic by Ahlam Ibrahim

As university students, most if not all of us are officially adults. But do we even know what we are doing?

Students that no longer live with parents are trying to figure out how the world works. This twisted little world has so many expectations of us and we are always questioning whether we are meeting those expectations. The world expects us to navigate life perfectly, yet gives us no starting point or guidance. You should be able to fend for yourself in every possible aspect, and, while I don’t disagree with this, some help would be much appreciated. You are in doubt, so you call a friend, but instead of finding a solution you now end up with two confused people instead of one. It is quite obvious that the majority of us do not know how to be an adult and the answer to that is because we were never truly taught how to.

In my experience, many parents are not too concerned whether their children are learning how to cook or do laundry at an early age since they assume the interest will develop once the child is older and can actually start carrying out these tasks without sustaining any injury. The interest may or may not develop, but at a certain point survival instincts kick in. This is why most university students are capable of making their own meals, no matter how simple, and doing their own laundry.

However, survival instincts for new adults don’t necessarily include filing taxes. I have never been taught how tax-filing works, or what it even is. I have to pay a tax agent to file my taxes every year because there are so many terms I’ve never heard of. One mistake and I might as well be committing an offense. Never once in my entire high school experience have I been educated on property value and tax, mortgage, how to take out a car or home loan, or even how to invest in stocks. The truth is the educational system has spared no effort in ensuring we know how to plot a graph, or even build a resume if we are lucky, but we have never been taught how to navigate life. We are all just going in blind and hoping we figure everything out along the way.

However, this should not have to be the case. Not every situation should be a “cross that bridge when you get there” situation. We should all know how to be an adult before we become adults. We should not have to cross our fingers and hope we get it right. I agree that there are many things we start to understand better once we are of a certain age, when we start developing a better sense of right and wrong. But it is never too early to educate children, especially on matters they should be familiar with once they reach a certain age. 

Children are like clay. They must be moulded instead of left dry and scattered. And, if moulded correctly, they themselves will be grateful to their parents when they are older that they become knowledgeable at an early age. I know I certainly would be.

Of course, “adulting” does not just mean knowing how to file one’s taxes. As a young adult, I want to know how to budget and develop an amazing credit score overtime. I want to know about the best student bank accounts and benefits. I want to know how to vote, how to build a career, and how to juggle my studies along with a healthy lifestyle. There are so many things I am curious about, but I just don’t know where to start. I know for a fact my parents were once similar amateurs who eventually figured life out. So, do I just imitate their journey?

Adulting should not have to be unexplored waters. It should be the beach you go to with your family every Sunday. After all, if you spend a fraction of your life going to the same beach with your loved ones, you won’t be scared to go alone one day.