The great thing about being an adult is that nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing either—life is just a matter of guessing until somebody tells you that you fucked up, and then fixing that fuck-up. And you keep going, and you keep guessing. Some people just seem better at it because they’ve been doing it longer.
So, the best thing for now is to just do all the tiny things that make you look and feel like you’ve got your shit together.
1. Don’t eat anything left in your fridge for over a week and a half. And I mean anything. If it has been sitting in your fridge, it has something growing on it (even if you can’t see something growing on it). You’re done going to frat parties every night, so there won’t be loads of alcohol to cleanse your bacteria-ridden stomach. This goes against every ultra-liberal’s insistence on saving food until there’s a fungal forest growing on it, but let’s be honest—we live in a world where the preservatives are bad for you when you buy it, so you damn sure know they’re even worse for you two weeks later (no matter the $4 markup for an “organic” sticker slapped on the package). The times of picking around the mold on the bread and saving fast food salsa containers are over.
2. Classic adulthood tip: separate your dark clothes and your light clothes during laundry. I still don’t do this because I’m lazy and not great at being trendy (and I wear mostly dark clothing), but I feel like it’s important. As soon as I don’t have to pay $2.75 per load of laundry in the basement of my tiny Hollywood apartment anymore, I won’t have any excuses.
3. Freaking travel! Everybody thinks it’s so expensive but if you look hard enough, it’s really not (TheFlightDeal.com is my recent go-to site). Spending money on experiences is always better than spending money on material things and, plus, traveling will teach you loads more about being an adult. If you absolutely can’t travel, force yourself to explore new places in your own city.
4. Read. Listen, I was an English major and it still takes a lot to convince myself to focus on a book. I know the struggle. Our world is so fast and flighty and constantly updating with push notifications but sitting down with a book will give your brain some nutritious food and you’ll feel classy, refreshed, and productive. Make yourself do it.
5. Take time to cook. I know, it sucks—it takes time, you have to do dishes, half the time you don’t have anybody to eat with, microwaving things is so easy. But you can’t eat microwaved rubber forever so you might as well start being healthier now. (Pro-tip: your oil is too hot if it’s popping up and burning the shit out of you. Thanks, Grandma.) Extra credit: drink a glass of wine while you cook and you’ll look especially put-together.
6. Spend money on yourself! Stop thinking of money as something sacred, piled miraculously in the hands of old people around you. Money is just something that you have to responsibly trade for enjoyment. If you want to feel like an adult, you’re going to have to be okay spending hard-earned cash on adult things (after you’ve already taken care of the basic conveniences…aka bills). Buy a nice purse on your bonus paycheck. Go to the dentist (as you’re supposed to). Get a coffee that makes you look successful and metropolitan and cool as hell while you’re walking downtown. Just don’t buy too many of them.
7. That being said, you also need to save. One major mark of adulthood is being able to pay for sudden expenses on the fly. If your car gets a flat, you should have enough money to be able to both pay for the replacement and to get your regular haul of groceries without too much of a flinch—that’s responsible. And, saving is easier than most people assume. Simply put, think of your savings as a bill that needs to be paid just as much as any other bill needs to be paid. You’ll get used to putting a certain amount aside and, in turn, you’ll get used to thinking of yourself as an adult. Saving comes before the purse and before the Starbucks (but arguably not before the dentist).