Five Pieces of Advice for Graduates: To ‘Adult’ or Not to ‘Adult’

Five Pieces of Advice for Graduates: To ‘Adult’ or Not to ‘Adult’

“Know what you want to be.”

As graduation time comes, many graduates will be making major decisions about their future. They must decide how to pursue their careers with the diplomas they have. They must transition from the more carefree student life to that of one in the workforce. Finally, paraphrasing Shakespeare, they must decide whether to adult or not to adult. That is a fundamental question.

“To adult” is a new verb that is circulating these days. It sounds strange because “adult” is a noun, not a verb. Moreover, “adult” usually defines a state of being not one of becoming. But in today’s fluid postmodern world, there is no noun that cannot be verbed. No one can be surprised if one can now “adult.”

Thus, “to adult” means to do something grown-up or hold responsibilities common to those of elders. A young man “adults” well when he appears on time for work or is well groomed. The word does not necessarily mean that he has abandoned his childish ways but only that he did something adult-like at one point in time.

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For this reason, so many young people adult today. They do not grow up but rather live in a state of eternal adolescence. Adulting facilitates this world by allowing these young people to act like adolescents most of the time while pretending to be adults part of the time.

And so to answer the question of to adult or not to adult, here are five pieces of advice for graduates that may prove helpful.

  • Don’t adult. If you understand the term to mean simply doing adult things without abandoning childish things, then it is better not to adult. The temptation of adopting a murky middle ground between adolescence and adulthood merely prolongs the first and ruins the second.
  • Don’t adult. Leave your childhood behind. Be only an adult. Put away the things of a child or teenager. Understand that milestones like graduations, whether high school or college, are rites of passage from which there is no return. There are certain things that adults do not do. They do not play child (or video) games. They do not treat life as a big party. They should not spend countless hours on social media. They should get rid of their toys.
  • Don’t adult. Assume the great responsibilities of your adult life. Understand that the decisions of where you live, what you eat and how your family survives now belong entirely to you, and to no one else. You have only to gain by accepting your duties. Being childish about your obligations will lead to a miserable life of resentment, entitlement and blaming others.
  • Don’t adult. Ponder in your mind what it means to be an adult. Know what you want to be. Spend some time plotting out your future. Take some time out now to ponder alone and in silence those essential life questions about your purpose in life. Pray and listen to the voice of God who calls everything to know, love and serve Him. Being an adult means establishing a relationship with God to aid you in the challenges of the path that you need to choose now.
  • Don’t adult. Prepare yourself for the misfortunes and sufferings that are part of being an adult. When you were a child, you were shielded from many of these misfortunes. That shield is no longer there, and you deceive yourself if you think the contrary. Everyone must face tragedy and suffering. Now the time has come for you to embrace your crosses along the road of life. When faced with Christian resignation, these hardships even become a source of satisfaction and accomplishment

These are five counsels for this year’s graduates that reflect the common sense of living in the real world.

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However, today’s postmodern world has a contrary set of counsels. People are told instead to avoid definition and embrace contradiction. One should not develop a stable character but rather self-identify to whatever fantasy one happens to create. Life is all about freedom to do whatever one wants even when this “freedom” often has consequences that enslave (as in the case of substance abuse).

The tragic result of this worldview is an immense throng of young people who cannot find their way as adults. They live at home and depend on parents for housing, living expenses or spending money. In fact, adults between 18 to 34are now slightly more likely to be living with parents than a spouse (or other) in their own household. Nearly sixty percent of parents provide some financial support to their adult children.

That is why many such children prefer to adult. That is, to make forays into the adult world without living in it. They prefer to live a life oriented toward fun and infantile pleasure and detached from meaning and purpose.

The best time to prevent these adulting forays is well before graduation. Parents need to understand that childhood is a preparation for adulthood, not a permanent state. Being an adult is the final goal of development not a mere option among many. Parents must instill in their children a strong sense of purpose in life—and a great concern for their eternal destiny in the afterlife. Only then will they be able to develop good habits and strong character to confront the difficulties of later life. In this way the transition to adulthood is not abrupt but seamless. One adapts. One matures. One does not adult.

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Until saner times prevail, however, many will condemn themselves to adult in a world that is ever more childish.

  • rpnshearin

    Since the meaning of “to adult” is here defined as the reciprocal as the accepted meaning of being an adult, the end result is a mind-contorting exercise which I abandoned half way through.

    • Fish More

      The purported meaning of “to adult” here could be summarized as “to act in a way that is like an adult, while deliberately being a child at the age of normal adulthood”. The point of the article was not the term itself, but rather a commentary pointing out the harm of the mentality embraced by those who would apply the term to themselves. I thought it was clear, and liked the article.

      • Spelunker

        If this is what “to adult” means, then people have been “adulting” for over three to four decades now (possibly ever since the Woodstock era). This is nothing new, yet after generations of “me me me”, now youth are being asked to BE adults? I find this article grandstanding and self-indulgent, and seems to miss one very important point. Every “adult” who points the finger at a younger generation and calls them immature forgets that each previous generation has the responsibility to properly guide and accompany the following generation into a healthy adulthood: it is not the TV’s responsibility, it is not the video game console’s responsibility, it is not the Internet’s responsibility and it is not the smart tablet’s responsibility. If you didn’t bother sharing time with your kids in order to instill the morals and values you see as most important, you can only point the finger of blame right back to yourself.

        • NeoCrusader09434

          But I only raise my children. I don’t raise others. How can i be held responsible for other people’s poor parenting? I think this article makes a good point.

          • Spelunker

            You’re right. You can only be held responsible for those in your ward. But to put the blame solely on the youth when adults are everpresent and acting like kids (instead of “adulting”, they’re “kidding”) and then insisting youth be adults is missing a very important part of the concept. “Throw away your toys, son”? “Fine, Dad. Sell your sports car, your luxury vacation condo, your golf clubs, and your season tickets to the Red Sox, and put the money into food storage, your children’s university trust funds, your parents’ health care, and renewable energy resources such as solar power receptors.” If this doesn’t sound realistic, then a request to “grow up” won’t sound realistic to youth either.

          • NeoCrusader09434

            Agreed. God Bless.

        • Am

          There is also the problem with teens having so long of a school day; and then more homework. If they are in sports as well there is almost no time for quality family learning time. Where are they supposed to learn how to run their own house, if not in the home? It is sad how many youth don’t know how to cook, sew or even use a hammer and nails. When they go out on their own and need one of these basic skills, what will they have? They will be dependant on their parent, or someone else, to do those thing for them.

  • Daniel Rory Lally

    Some of the colleges and universities are not helping well enough.

    • Dale McNamee

      Actually, they’re encouraging the immaturity…

      • Fish More

        Right. The crayons and coloring books handed out at “wellness centers” around American campuses springs to mind.

        • Spelunker

          Like the ones George Harrison were using during recording sessions for the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour”? This goes back much further than the convenient “now”.

      • jdangiel

        So are the parents – helicopter parenting, allowing their grown children to hang around and remain mentally teenagers, bailing them out, etc.

  • Michelle McClintock

    My brother stayed at home with the folks all his life because in his time single adult children stayed home until they got married. He took care of the folks as long as anybody can remember and because of that they didn’t have to leave home for good until they had less than a week. Now he’s in his eighties like they were and he can’t wait to be with them in Heaven.

    • Fish More

      I view your story as a (now rare) example of a father passing on the reins to his son, both in terms of property and responsibility. Your brother sounds like he led a selfless, praiseworthy life! Thank you for sharing.

    • 1ndependentOne

      Michelle, your brother was most truly an adilt. Didn’t remain at home to escape adulthood, rather to embrace some of its most difficult responsibilities. What wonderful role models your parents must have been!

    • florida1

      Nope…we are not called to be a perpetual SON or Daughter and give up OUR lives. WE ALL have the right to get married, have kids, a home, etc….Noticed your Parents didn’t seem to give UP THEIR rights to marry, kids, etc….Seen way too many parents who expected their kids to be their FOREVER SERVANTS…Horrible!

      • Michelle McClintock

        My brother was the only one of the folks’ own children who genuinely cared about what they thought about anything, including adopting me out of foster care. He almost got married once, but when it didn’t pan out, he never looked for anybody else because of the love he had for his girlfriend. He didn’t use marriage as a way to be selfish like his own brother and sisters. He loved the folks enough to never be as selfish as his own brother and sisters were.

    • Paula Proulx

      It is certainly a different world now. I grew up in an era where homes were multigenerational. Somehow, it became the norm for a young adult to have a place of his/her own. People were not wealthy in my generation, and to be able to afford anything, just a room in a house that you might share with your best friend, was expensive.
      In my youth, I remember the time when single adult chilren stayed home until they got married. I have known people like your brother – selfless, caring and unable to find work – took care of their parents. May God bless him.

  • kstewskisAZ

    The emotional maturity of these young “adults” are declining with every passing decade. Their collective behavior after the most recent presidential election illustrates this sad phenomena. If they are our “future,” we’re all in a heap of trouble. Will the real “adults” step up and slap these petulant brats into reality?

    • Barry Smith

      Maybe you are getting more adultish which makes them seem increasingly hopeless. Or both.

  • Dale McNamee

    I was on my own at 17 and put myself through college by working a 40 hour week and I carried 12 credits per semester… I worked from 11p-7a, then went to classes from 8a-3p, then went home, ate supper and went to bed until 10p. every day for 4 years… I studied on the job and on my days off… I looked forward to the holidays because I could get home by 8-8:30am and sleep…

    I also rented an apartment and paid all of the attendant bills…

    I worked in a steel mill with adult men who didn’t tolerate childishness… Neither did I and I “fit in”… I was rewarded with friendship and respect and I returned the same…

    I grew up in a violently abusive home so I was never a child nor an adolescent, so I was, in my own terms : “60 before 16″…

    I remember some of my more relevant classes, my job, my apartment and none of the “extracurriculars”.

    • Fish More

      My respect to you, Dale. If by God’s grace you make it to Heaven, you’ll get to be child for eternity.

      “… unless you become like little children again, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3.

    • Debra

      Dale, I know exactly what you went through. I went to college for Nursing as soon as I graduated and had my own place and worked like you did. I could not hardly wait for the holiday either just so I could possibly catch up on sleep. I know it was not easy but look where we are today. You can do anything if you put your mind to it and stick to it also. College to me wasn’t about party time, it was about accomplishments at the end.

  • florida1

    Mr. Horvat, I was hoping you would bring in one of the Biggest Parts of this ‘adulting’ issue; Free, casual sex. As a boomer I graduated from High School in 1969 and saw the start of this phase. Our generation had just been ‘bestowed’ with The Pill. We were told now that ‘love’ was ‘free’….I saw many of my own friends just give themselves willy-nilly to the boys of our high school. I remember even back then my shame and embarrassment for them all. I saw the drugs of the 60’s start to be passed about at parties; along of course with whatever booze folks could get their hands on. I was raised by Very strict Pentecostal parents; no dancing, drinking, sex, swimming, women just plain covered Up with lots of long clothes. I tried my best to ‘go along’ with most of those rules from my parents just to keep the peace. I SAW by looking at the rest what it did to them….Fast forward to today-I am now a practicing Catholic. I am SICKENED by MOST Catholic Churches in USA; been to many. I see young girls coming in in SHORT SHORTS; basically their tail ends are showing while their moms are doing their best to show their breasts….AND THE PRIESTS..thanks to this FALSE POPE preach about ‘global warming, climate change, distribution of USA’s Money $$, and why America should KEEP BORDERS OPEN AND LET THE ENTIRE WORLD IN AND ON TO OUR WELFARE AND SCHOOLS…BUT ””Never”” a sermon on Jesus Christ DIED for Repented SINS….so we could LIVE forever with Him….THIS is indeed the Beginning of the END OF DAYS….Folks you had best get ready as Jesus Christ IS COMING BACK and SOON!!! The generation that saw the Nation of ISRAEL; Gods CHOSEN PEOPLE go back and become that nation May of 1948..will NOT pass until JESUS comes back…The Boomers are from 1946-1964 SO IT MAY BE THOSE YOUNGER Boomers but THERE WILL BE A LVING BOOMER ON THIS PLANET WHEN JESUS COMES BACK. GROW UP…GET YOUR KIDS TO GROW UP…REPENT AND TURN AWAY FROM THOSE HORRIBLE SINS….and get ready for Jesus Christ!!!!

    • NeoCrusader09434

      I hope you’re right. I don’t think Francis is a false Pope though – just a bad one. We all sin. Imagine the amount of demonic attention directed at him. He is probably trying to do the right thing but perhaps failing at times, just like I do. Pray for him. God Bless.

    • Spelunker

      Florida1, I think you just wrote the post on here with which I can most agree.

      • Michelle McClintock

        If you mean by criticizing my brother for being a lifelong bachelor and giving me and the folks a life instead of just thinking of his own self, I take exception to that. By rights I should be doing for him like he did for the folks, but my cerebral palsy is in the way. If not for that and the weakness brought on by the seizures and heart attacks he suffered in March of this year, he could be home in our apartment building now and we could be doing things for each other. Florida1 has no idea how genuinely selfless my brother is compared to the rest of his own family.

        • Kevin Crotzer

          Ms.McClintock, there is and was nothing wrong with what your brother did. not all are called to marriage, (and marriage and children are NOT a right!) some are called to be single. this is what scripture and the Church has always taught! it is the children’s responsibility,not the state,the taxpayer or anyone else,to take care of their parents in their old age. it takes sacrificing things in our life in order to do that,but sacrifice you must in order to obey God’s law to honor Father and Mother. it was God’s providence i believe with your brother. that was what God asked of him and God will bless him for his service and love. your parents were very fortunate,most people just stick them in nursing homes and then just abandon them! out of sight out of mind i guess is their way of thinking. PAX CRISTI

          • Michelle McClintock

            Daddy died in the hospital from a heart attack, though the pacer he had in his chest extended his life by several years. Mom died in a nursing home, but by that time the cancer was catching up with her (she and Daddy never smoked in their lives). But my brother let them stay home as long as he possibly could and didn’t abandon them the way his own brother and sisters would have. They were away only a few days before they died instead of months and years. Thank you for sticking up for my brother.

          • Kevin Crotzer

            your welcome. i left my job back in 2003 to care for my grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. i was single,living a chaste Catholic life,which i still am, and the only one in my family not married. so i volunteered to stay with her and care for her until she died,which she did in 2005. i did it out of my love for her and for God. we(our family) promised her years ago that we would not put her in a nursing home. she always dreaded the idea and that was one of her fears,that she would be left alone. it wasn’t easy,bathing her,feeding her,changing her catheter. picking her up out of her bed,sitting her in her wheelchair etc. you get the picture. i never regretted giving up those two years of my life,it helped me grow spiritually two fold! as long as we do what we can,God knows our hearts and minds. he knows what we can and can’t do. the christian life is all about sacrifice. we sacrifice out of love. may Our Lord and His Blessed Mother Bless and keep you.

        • Spelunker

          Um, Michelle, I believe Florida1 was talking about “free, casual sex” and “repenting for one’s sins” in the post I quoted as the one with which I could most agree: I was not referring to any other post Florida1 shared which I may or may not have read. I re-read this particular post twice (which starts off with reference to the ’60s era’s thoughts of “free, casual sex”: I cannot find any explicit or implicit reference in this specific post to your brother (who sounds like he did exactly what the Lord would want him to do). As for Israel, in my beliefs Israel is not limited to a state, nor is it limited to the Jews (wasn’t Israel the name given to Jacob?), to my understanding Israel is everyone who has accepted the Lord and Heavenly Father’s covenant, both “the Jew and the Gentile”. Perhaps if we all focused on how we ourselves can become better people, we could make this world a better place much faster than any advice we can give others on how to improve themselves. That said, blessings to all of you.

          • Michelle McClintock

            I think you refer to Romans 2:29 (@Spelunker). I looked it up to be sure. My brother went to Israel years ago so he could see a lot of the places from the Bible he’d always read about.

          • Spelunker

            That passage definitely does refer to it (one could arguably replace “Jew” with any group of people who have claimed to be the chosen ones without any commitment on their part). Romans 9:24 also refers to it as well. Thanks for sharing that one.

    • Kevin Crotzer

      I don’t mean to be critical,but Jews nor the nation of Israel IS NOT God’s chosen people! the Church does not,nor has it ever taught that! the Holy Catholic Church IS the chosen people of God,it is Christs Mystical Bride,His spouse! nothing against Jews,they need to convert to the True Faith like everyone else.

  • It’s true that many parents allow their children to remain unaccountable–watch any Dr Phil episode. But after their children reach about 12 years old, parents have less influence on their kids than the outside world does. This hyper-sexual culture presses upon them, urging them to all kinds of self-indulgence. It’s all supposed to be FUN! Satan is having a golden era with with expert help of Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

  • Cole

    John, you fail to realize that many, many young adults are unable to move out and start families. The good paying jobs aren’t there unless tens of thousands are spent on a college degree that then ladens them with debt that forces them to stay at home to be able to pay it back. That college degree that they got doesn’t even guarantee them a good job. So many teachers for example will start out at 30k or less, but they had to get a 4 year degree that at a minimum cost them 40k at a local state university. Undoubtedly there are those that don’t want to grow up and take responsibility, but I find this really tends be the exception than the norm. Your article here subscribes to the rash generalization that 20 somethings live at home because they just don’t want to grow up, and you fail to explore the issue any further.

    As far as putting down the video games and all “childish” things, it feels as if though you are saying to be an adult you must give up everything fun and live a depressing life. I see nothing wrong with playing a video game every now and then or having a “toy” or two as long as that person is living up to their adult responsibilities in life.

    • Michelle McClintock

      Daddy never went to college because he had to work, but several of his children got college educations and all at least graduated from high school. He had to move his family from Nebraska to Oregon to find work during the Depression. My brother worked as long as he could, but because he was in his late forties when he lost his last job in 1982 with the equivalent of a high school education (he went to night school while he worked to help the folks) and no driver’s license, he wasn’t considered employable and his experience made him “overqualified”. So he and Mom continued to take care of each other after Daddy died and neither one of the folks had to leave home for good until they had less than a week. He liked to play too when he wasn’t working, though his sentiments tended more toward sports (he played when he was younger). He’s had no objections to my playing video games as long as they’re not “blood and guts”. I didn’t start playing video games until I was about 28 and I still play when time permits.

    • Cole, you make a great point about college debt. And you can hardly get ANY white collar job without that expensive degree. Crazy dilemma for young people.

    • m-slovak79

      “As far as putting down the video games and all “childish” things, it feels as if though you are saying to be an adult you must give up everything fun and live a depressing life. I see nothing wrong with playing a video game every now and then or having a “toy” or two as long as that person is living up to their adult responsibilities in life.”

      I completely agree here as that’s the main part of the article i definitely disagree with as it acts like video games are solely something for kids/teens only, which is obviously not true. some people like them and some don’t. i suspect the older generation (say roughly those a generation or more on me(say roughly late 50’s and older)) see’s them as something a kid does because i would imagine the vast majority from that generation (and older) never cared for them. i am in my late 30’s and i have been playing them since i can remember but i do notice that my interest in video games as a whole took a solid hit by the time i was around 30 years old as there are less and less games worth playing. still, i replay some of the video games i played years ago once in a while but in terms of playing new video games it’s pretty much been years since i last played anything of any real worth.

  • owjw

    Sorry. This really didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It seems that the statements were contradictory of one another. I’m not dense and I’m considered to be intelligent and have been an adult for many years. I understand using the noun Adult as a verb and all that “stuff” but gave up on the article after that as, like I said it seems to be totally contradictory.

    • rpnshearin

      owjw, you and I are on the same page. We do not need another confusing term to characterize childish, self-absorbed, and hypersensitive behavior which is anything but adult. It seems much to “cutesy” to me.

  • Alina Bagniuk

    Agree.God bless.

  • Paul Mitchell

    At a time when government, the politically correct, corporations and especially the newly modified ideas of what constitutes good mental health – the current destruction of important milestones/traditions, narcissistic nihilism and disunity within society – is turning much of today’s generation into a population of people who only consume and be damned with everyone else. They make good consumers, are easily manipulated (by government and corporations and irrational ideologues) masses of people who rely on irrational/emotional ideology rather than logic, practical common sense and an organic wonder of the miracle we call life.
    Mr. Horvat II, this article is a breath of fresh air and common sense. Thank you.
    Paul Mitchell

  • Stanislav

    I have often felt that our society has created a situation in which too many young people have no real function. We segregate them into high schools and teen activities and thus remove them, for the most part, from contact with the adult world. On old-style farms, everyone had obligations and everyone was needed. This is no longer the general situation. Young people find themselves having to “fill in time.” They can protest for or against what is happening, but they are still carrying on without a real function in the world.

  • Joe Right

    Great point made: be a real adult, not a fake one! I’ll be passing this on to a few graduates.

  • I think becoming a full adult is a gradual and messy process, just as growing into the size and shape of one was. I’m reminded of a conversation with my younger sister. I felt grown-up at nineteen since I’d reached my full height and registered as a financially independent citizen of a different State. (The financial independence was temporary–next year I crawled back home with a long-term illness.) Kid Sister said, “You’re *turning into* a grown-up. A grown-up is somebody who reads the Wall Street Journal and never wants to play any game.”

    From the mouths of babies, wisdom…At 50+, I’ll admit to reading WSJ, though not every article or every day. I still make time to play games. But I do live on my own income, however insanely low that may be, from honest work.

    That means no handouts. Welfare-cheating, or even living on an honestly deserved disability pension, is transferring oneself from being a dependent child of one’s parents to being a dependent child of the Welfare State. In the U.S. these days it’s possible to have so-called friends, and I’ve claimed a few, who would rather “help” you develop a disability (like alcoholism) or fake one (like insanity) than support your honest work…I just say no. And so do I expect the young to do, if they want to be called “man” or “woman” rather than “boy” or “girl.”