I’ve been thinking a lot this week about this viral article on millennial burnout (shout out to my girl Anne Helen Petersen), reflecting on my experience as an adult and how it resembles the millennial condition. I’ve long felt that millennials (and Gen Z-ers) have gotten a bad rap for being entitled grade-grubbers (@ me next time, AHP) who eat tide pods, dab inappropriately, and swallow entire industries in their void-like maw, but, for the most part, every millennial I know is experiencing the burnout that the article outlines in some shape or form.
Having checked the boxes and gotten the degrees, we’re still largely unsatisfied with the lives we lead; we feel cheated by a system that asked us to follow very specific steps to success, only to rip the ‘prize’ out our hands at the last minute. We’re also the generation that coined ‘adulting’, a term I use on this platform (more sparingly than I used to) because the day-in day-out minutia of adulthood is not only exhausting, it was largely made invisible to my generation until we were truly in the thick of it ourselves.
As a generation, I think we absorb a lot of the criticism lobbied at us by optimizing (or attempting to optimize) ourselves – having immaculate social media presences, getting rewards and promotions at work, even maximizing our self-care routines, and when we can’t optimize every single aspect of our lives (spoiler alert: no one can), we beat ourselves up about it.
This is part of why I didn’t set a traditional new year’s resolution this year, not even small manageable ones. In the last year I’ve really reflected on why I have the goals I set for myself and who I was trying to please with them – myself, or some voice in my head that tells me I ‘have’ to meet some level of success in order to be of value to society. I’m learning to accept the place I’m at in my life now as “successful”, and it’s helped me to take stock of the things in my life that are going well.
If you’re doing these five things in your life, no matter what point of your life you’re in, you’re a real-ass adult and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Here are five ways you have your life together more than you give yourself credit for:
You Pay Your Bills On Time (Bonus Points for Having Bills on Autopay)
Are you holding down a job and stacking paper – at least enough paper to pay for your apartment, your groceries, your car, your phone? With the endless mountain (it seems) of bills that adults have to pay, this in and of itself is no easy feat. Even if that job isn’t what you thought you’d be doing 10 years ago, working and sustaining yourself is nothing to sneeze at or get down on yourself for.
Extra points if you have money in your savings account (which you should – it’s okay if you don’t/can’t, but you totally should!) And if your bills are on autopay, you’re an adulting goddess. Give yourself a pat on the back.
You Know How To Take Care Of Yourself
Self-care is important, y’all, and I’m not talking about the kind of self-care where we’re taking bubble baths and doing face masks (luxurious, yes, comforting, yes, should you do it regularly? yes), but the kind of self-care where you know what you need to do to keep yourself alive and thriving.
You know the correct amount of sleep to get for your specific body, what foods do and don’t make you feel good, what exercises work for your body and your lifestyle without making you obsess, you take the medications you need to be a human person. You know how to cope healthily with emotions and life events. And, if you don’t have all those things down (it’s a lifetime process, y’all) you’re self-aware enough to know where you might be lacking and where you need to focus.
For some people, that lifestyle is a daily yoga routine, starting every day off with a green juice, and being vegan – for others, it’s avoiding caffeine and alcohol and going to bed the same time every night because if you don’t, you won’t get a wink of sleep. Knowing yourself is so important to having a healthy adult lifestyle, and if you’re in the process of uncovering or relearning those basics, you’re doing great sweetie.
You Have Folks You Can Rely On (And Who Can Rely On You)
You know what real-ass adults know? They know they can’t do everything by themselves, whether that’s launching an app, raising a child, or changing the world. If you have friends, family, partners, and communities that you can rely on and that can rely on you, you’re doing a lot to combat the specific loneliness that plagues our generation more than any other, as the internet and social media both connects us to others with our interests and makes it more difficult for us to connect in meaningful ways.
If you have a family who supports you through everything, a chosen family or circle of friends who lift you up and get you through the BS of life, or if you have a partner who loves you unconditionally just the way you are, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of good times, even through the bad times.
You Say No
There is so much goodness and power in saying no to something you know won’t serve you in the end. I think that millennials in particular have a hard time saying no, especially to folks like our families and our bosses at work, but saying no allows us to keep some of our time for ourselves, to really take care of ourselves the way that we should be (see point #2).
If you’re able to say no to things that you know won’t serve you – whether that’s a relationship that’s soured, an extra task at work that you know will drag you down, the social engagement where you know you’ll be triggered – you’re on your way to living a life that focuses on the things that will make you happy, not the things that will make others happy. Which leads me to my final point…
You Do Ish That Makes You Happy, Really Happy
It seems so simple…do the thing that makes you happy, and your life will be happy. But when the thing that makes you happy isn’t the thing that allows you to have a livelihood, it can get difficult to make space for those things – especially when your entire life can get absorbed by the work you do for money.
I wrote a little about this in my last article, but I’ll repeat myself here: It’s important to examine why you’re doing the things that make you ‘happy’. Do they actually make you happy, or do they reward some other part of yourself – the part that wants to impress others, the part that wants to prove to yourself that you’re a certain *kind* of person? Making space for the things that actually bring you light and joy, allowing that to be part of the narrative you’re painting for others and for yourself – that’s some of the realest adult ish there is.
What do you think?
What sort of things make you feel like a real-ass adult? Do you agree with anything on this list? Let me know in the comments below!