And don't go spending Grandpa's pennies buying into the game
You gotta keep your heart young
Don't go growin' old before your time has come
-Brandi Carlile


gerund or present participle: adulting

behave in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially by accomplishing mundane but necessary tasks.
Example: “It feels really good to take a step back from adulting and have someone else cook dinner for me.”

“Adulting,” a popular word among Millenials, will hopefully be less so with Generation Z; even so, it’s weaseled its way into online dictionaries as a dreaded gerund. (All English teachers may weep now.)

Arguably, the word does the opposite of its intended meaning, and only points out a stifled sense of maturing.  Since when did attending to our basic responsibilities become a means of celebration? Pop the champagne! I made my bed!

That’s how we treat puppies that we’re training, “good job! You went to the bathroom outside! You’re so good! You’re so amazing!”  

We treat toddlers this way too. “WOW! Good girl! You helped Mommy clean!”  

If you’re an adult, receiving such praise should be nothing short of embarrassing.

Imagine if you got back from using the restroom and your date said, “Wow, you’re so great– you went potty!”

Regardless, it’s worse when the individual doing the act is the one flaunting off the task under the guise of, “I was a successful adult for five minutes because I bought groceries!”

“Cleaning the house today! #adulting”

Anyone else feel the need to ponder our understanding of responsibility and adulthood?


Let’s hop on a time machine for a moment and revisit a pivotal turning point.

Quick trip through 1940-60

The concept of the teenager truly hit the scene in the 1940s; instead of leaving childhood for adulthood, you became a teenager.  In the 1960s the faux problem of the “generation gap,” was making headlines. What may be a fascinating time in history, is also an interesting look at the retardation of maturity. 

Ah great solution! Let’s just lengthen youth. 

“You are angsty, misunderstood, and adults don’t get you– ah yes! this mentality will help society.”  A la the iconic, live fast, die young, James Dean.

“You’re tearing me apart!”

Anyway, all good in the hood as we still continue in that vein today; now thirty is the new twenty, and you are doing great if you remembered to pay your bills. #adulting

Once again, the solution seems to be the retardation of our maturity. 

It’s easy to look at the situation and be sardonic, “hey! We are surrounded by Peter Pans!” Yet, if anything, it’s a tragedy of the bleakest kind. Right up there with Hamlet.  And truth be told, Peter Pan is a pretty tragic character if you read the book.

Next time we go searching for a solution, we should first inquire what the issue is.  What is lengthening immaturity actually fixing?

The most incongruous element, however, is that many people live under an ironic guise of adulthood.  Often there is a facade, it looks like responsibility, but if you touch it, you watch it crumble.

  It reminds me of a quote from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited:

“You never know how ignorant people are. . . . these young people have such an intelligent, knowledgeable surface, and then the crust suddenly breaks and you look down into depths of confusion you didn’t know existed.”

Whether or not you find the term adulting odious or ironically amusing is one matter, the damage is not the word itself, even if it hints at one of the issues, but instead, the problem is something so much deeper.  It’s the fact that we’ve lost sight of what actual maturing or growing up is 

Instead, we’ve built up a guise or maybe even a checklist as to what it’s exterior looks like, but we do not understand its “what.”  It’s purpose. It’s esse.

“It helps if you date someone. Or move.”
A young woman was advising an even younger woman on how to grow up. 

Move! Date! Travel!

The entire conversation pivoted around external elements.  It had nothing to do with anything deeper. Anything internal. 

Why is that? 

Much of today deals with celebrating.  And by that, I mean everything and anything.

Paying our bills. 

Grocery shopping. 

Jumping a car. 

Learning to love your 600lb body. 

Not shaving. 

Posting a picture of your pimple on social media because you love you

These things somehow make you, “mature,” “brave,” “real,” maybe even “an inspiration.”

Very little has to do with overcoming vice and encountering suffering.  Why? Probably because those things are hard; they take patience; some terrifyingly, painful humility; you might not get a pat on the back; and…

…oh wait.

That requires maturity.  

As little kids, we were supposed to learn lessons to help us understand those “overcoming and encountering moments;” so, we can take them with us, and develop into functioning, competent, contributing adults, who are not a nuisance to society.  

When we forget that, we just foster a community of overgrown infants, who use people, booze, and technology as toys. It is no surprise so many want to keep real “growing up” at bay.  It’s hard. You have to face your shortcomings. And you have to accept that you are the not the center of the universe.

Remember in Corinthians 13: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

Instead we’re stuck in “cheers to 30 being the new 20, and yay me I ate some kale today #adulting #self-care” world. 

We’re not actually “adulting.”  We’re Benjamin Buttoning

Here is the part that especially pains me, when we Benjamin Button our way through life we lose our childlike senses and instead become childish

Let me expound, when we persevere, suffer, and can face each day with a humble heart, we acknowledge that there is so much in this life we don’t know. It gets us out of ourselves and that’s so exciting! That is your free ticket to “WONDER.” That is your passport to infinite possibilities, and that is your gentle reminder not to take yourself too seriously.  Do your best, be honest, and humble of heart. 

If everything you do is a means of instant-yay, how in the world are you going to remember all that?  You won’t. Because you are banking on constant validation, instant gratification, and ego to get you through life.  That blinds and stifles.

You’re going to miss out on a lot of the simple joys in life.

That’s a sad lot.  I bet it’s why so many people are not really happy — they’re stuck on a glitzy carousel ride that Might look snazzy, but it isn’t taking them anywhere. 

Amor Towels states in the best-selling novel, A Gentleman in Moscow,  “Just remember that unlike adults, children want to be happy. So they still have the ability to take the greatest pleasure in the simplest things.”

What he is talking about is that childlike element that, honestly, you are allowed to (and should) keep as you morph into an adult.

When we learn to grow and truly mature as adults, we, as Brandi Carlile sings (and click on the link– it’s the cutest video) get to keep our hearts young and take pleasure in the simplest things. 

Maturing should simply be a natural development, stemming from traits we learned in our childhood. We encounter and we overcome. The real test is if we can continue to grow until our dying day and remember we’re still allowed to wonder.


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