It is usually a noun. Sometimes an adjective. It was never meant to be a verb. But in language, change is constant.
The word is “adult.” According to Google’s dictionary:
1. a person who is fully grown or developed.”
But my generation (the infamous millennials) and the next (generation z), don’t always play by the rules of grammar.
Instead, we make new rules. And new words.
Which is how “adult” became accepted as a verb and then circled back as a gerund (that’s a verb functioning as a noun) in the form of “adulting.”
Preceding generations didn’t and don’t always play by the rules either, but our increasing use of technology – text messaging, for example – exasperates the situation.
The gerund actually goes back at least to 1998, when it was used by Martin Rutte, author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work,” who discussed “the adulting of the workplace,” according to merriam-webster.com. But the word didn’t become popular until more recently.
At first this new use of the word “adult” annoyed me. Then I grew accustomed to it, and it still annoyed me, but it started to slip into my vocabulary.
I still think of it as new, but now, according to Merriam-Webster, “the verb ‘adulting’ is all grown up.” (see what they did there?)
“To ‘adult’ is to behave like an adult, specifically to do the things—often mundane—that an adult is expected to do,” the website explains.
This can include grocery shopping, scheduling your own medical appointments, working a full-time job, paying bills and just about anything else we have to do as adults that isn’t expected of a child under his or her parents’ domain.
With college graduation season in full swing (both Keystone College and Clarks Summit University held their commencement ceremonies this past Saturday) and high school graduations right around the corner, I suspect we’ll be hearing and seeing a renewed surge of the word “adulting,” especially on social media where it thrives.
It will appear as a hashtag accompanying celebratory statements such as “I just signed the lease on my new apartment. #adulting” or “I aced my job interview this morning and I start Monday. #adulting.”
But it will also be used in a sarcastic and/or negative sense: “I can’t adult today” or “why is adulting so hard?”
We can all relate to both sides of that coin.
I remember the moment after graduating college when reality set in. I realized my time was up and I had to start being an adult. That was only seven years ago, but it seems like longer.
Adulting stretches time.
I can’t claim to have the wisdom of someone who’s been doing this “adulting” thing for decades, but I do have a few tips to offer new grads. Here are three things I’ve learned since graduating college.
1. Your diploma is just the beginning of your education. If you think you learned a lot in college, you might be surprised at how much you learn in the school of life – and how much is left to learn.
Jump at the chance to gain new experiences, especially in your professional field and career path of choice. Seek out people who know more than you. Observe and ask questions of them. Never stop seeking knowledge.
2. Keep your friends close. You probably won’t keep in touch with all the college friends you intend to, and that’s okay. But don’t let your closest friends and the people who matter to you most slip away. We all need other people to confide in and rely on. Being an independent adult doesn’t change that. Value your relationships and make time to spend with your friends, even when you’re busy adulting.
3. “The real world” isn’t as rough – or different – as it sounds. Elementary school students are told they are being prepared for middle school. Middle school students are told they are preparing for high school. High school students are either getting ready for “the real world” or for college, which also prepares students for “the real world.” As if they’re living in some alternate reality and after the cap and gown are removed, they’ll suddenly be zapped into another dimension where it’s all about survival.
Spoiler alert: This “real world” seems daunting, until a plot twist reveals you’ve been in it all along. Sure, you have more responsibility to it now, but you’ve been preparing for this your whole life.
Do you feel like you’re in a doorway, gripping your newly-earned diploma or degree, afraid to take the next step into the world? You may not feel like it now, but you’re ready.
So move the tassel, toss the cap in the air, and go adult.
For readers who have already “been there, done that,” what advice do you have to add to this list? Send your adulting tips for the Class of 2019 to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in a future column.