When you are a child, you want to be an adult. Then when you are an adult, you want to speak to the manager to insist that you get your childhood back. 

It was an absolute shock, at the age of 18, when I realised that perhaps adulting is not all I thought it was when I was younger and progressing through high school.  

When I was a child, I always looked at adults as though they had all the freedom in the world and knew everything. It seemed that being under someone else’s care was not the best, I suppose, at the time. When you have a care-giver you are constantly guided: What to do at what time, when to come back and so forth. Basically, all I wanted was the freedom to decide for myself. 

When you grow up, there are various aspects of life you must familiarise yourself with. I had to learn to stand up and face difficult conversations that could be uncomfortable with, among others, parents, friends and colleagues. There is the practical, daily growing up and formation of character, as well as the acquisition of everyday life skills. When you no longer live with your parents and guardians, you assume that everything you need to know you had already learned at home. Not. 

The daily assistance you once got from your parents in high school, and perhaps for a little while at university, comes to an unexpected end: You realise, indeed, that you should be prepared every day to take big leaps in curating your own life as an adult.   

The unexpected nature of adulting is the initial shock, after the assumption that all the freedom you dreamed about was the best thing in the world: The freedom to decide for yourself when to come back and when to do your own things.  All that freedom comes, however, with responsibility and daily learning. Consider monthly budgeting, for example; as you step into adulthood, you realise that maybe you have much more to learn. 

The need to make difficult decisions daily that affect you in the short and long term is not the most exciting ‘‘freedom’’. Every day, a young adult must make practical yet self-disciplinary choices, such as whether to eat out or save money because there is food in the fridge.  

All the time, we are faced with challenging situations where character building is necessary; where our voice, discipline and life skills are put to the test. To build and sustain relationships takes courage: To talk about your grievances, discomforts and what you would like to see happen. This is something I have been practising. I would like to argue that the challenge of adulthood is more than just a daily dread of chores and responsibilities such as bills, maintenance and functional relationships. It is about what you are learning and putting into practice.   

Trusting oneself to be up for the challenge, and getting things done by oneself and for oneself: This is perhaps more important than all the preparation we think we might need. Navigating adulthood includes finding solutions to the problems that may arise. This is what I have learnt. Perhaps venturing boldly into adulthood is not that bad after all; it just takes a little practice every day.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Mhlontlo Geleba. Photo: StillsbyTom