I set a bagel on fire in the cafeteria my freshman year at Gannon. I know exactly what happened — I did a terrible job cutting it in half and a jagged piece of bread got stuck in the back of the weird rotating toaster. I had to call out to the staff, “My bagel is on fire!” Clearly, everything turned out fine. But this incident is a sort of metaphor for something I see all over social media and hear from younger friends: “adulting.”
There’s a small fire: your rent is due, you have to buy dress pants for your internship, your mom is visiting and you haven’t cleaned your apartment bathroom since, well, the last time she visited. Then, when you get it done – woohoo! You’re adulting! Time to celebrate!
I hate to break it to you, but what you’ve actually done is fulfill pretty basic responsibilities. Paying your rent on time is good, and it can be hard to scrape that money together, but doing so isn’t showcasing any special skills. Neither is trying on dress pants (though women’s sizing sure makes that challenging).
That’s not my biggest problem with #adulting, though. It’s that the reality of being an independent individual, dare-I-say an adult, can’t be condensed into a hashtag. “Adulting” is simply setting super low expectations for what can be considered a “difficult” responsibility. It in no way prepares you for the realities of life beyond Gannon’s campus.
Many undergraduate students hear about the crushing student loan debt of peers, but that’s not real until they’re staring down the possibly $500-a-month — or more — payment. They’re so excited about graduate school that they don’t think about whether the degree will yield a better job in the end, because they’re #adulting by going.
Some of you are reading this and shaking your heads. You’re feeling belittled. You’re wondering why this old lady doesn’t get that “adulting” is just a joke. I can understand that reaction. I probably would have had it myself.
But the reality is undergraduates and other young people aren’t given proper guidance on the really big topics of adulthood until they have to go through them: money management, resumes, job searching and interviewing or even applying for unemployment. When I was a student, I had to be self-motivated to seek out help with my resume. After I attended graduate school, I lost more than $1,500 because of student loan paperwork my loan provider filed improperly. I want other students to be more prepared than I was. It may sound boring (it is!), but anyone who has a grasp on these topics has a leg up when other truly tough “adult” situations happen – you have a child, your car dies, your parent dies, you want to buy a home, etc.
Students, take advantage of the services provided on campus! Career Services can help you with building resumes and fine-tuning interview skills. The Financial Aid office can help you understand your loans and assist in seeking out repayment programs that fit your economic situation.
Pursue help while you are on campus with someone in person now, rather than spending hours on the phone with a loan company later. Because the goal isn’t to look like you’re an #adult, it’s to be an adult.
For me, that meant that when I set a bagel on fire at my first job (true story!), I could put it out myself.
KRISTEN RAJCZAK NELSON