How many times do kids say, “When I grow up…”? And how many times do we wish, at times, they would be a little more grown-up? (Mostly the latter is about trips in the car and helping around the house, I’ll admit.)
Today we’re celebrating my daughter’s 18th birthday. I find myself the parent of an adult, thinking about what it means to be a grown-up—and what advice for adulting I can offer to someone who, sadly, cannot “be six now for ever and ever.” (And probably doesn’t need any of this advice as much as I do.)
Here’s my best advice for adulting:
Choose to be kind.
Always. When I tell my grown-up friends how important this is to me, they ask, “But aren’t you afraid people will walk all over your kids?” I’m not. Kindness is not about being a doormat, it’s about respecting and caring for people—all people, including yourself. And letting people walk all over you isn’t kind to anyone.
Remember when Jewel sang, “Only kindness matters“? And Maya Angelou noted that “people will never forget how you made them feel”? PR guru Peter Shankman even wrote a whole book about how Nice Guys Finish First.
I can quote more songs and experts and books, all of which will tell you the same thing about kindness: not only is it “nice,” it’s in your best interest. So be friendly and considerate, because it’s free and it really does matter.
Own your mistakes.
As a 40-something, I know people who still blame their dog for their missing homework. Well, maybe not dog (or missing homework), but you know what I mean. Everything is always someone else’s fault.
From houses to cars to debt, a lot of adulthood is defined by ownership, and owning your mistakes is just another part of it. When you claim an error as your own—instead of blaming someone else—you can start to fix it right away. Making excuses is just a waste of time that you could be spending learning better ways to do things. And let’s talk about learning for a minute…
Never stop learning.
Living in a dorm can be uncomfortable. So can meeting in-laws, starting a new job, having kids, buying a house…lots of adult things. If there’s one thing I can guarantee, it’s that as an adult there will be situations and changes that make you really uncomfortable. But if you can view them as opportunities for learning—learning about different families, new companies, toddlers, interest rates—those changes can be exciting instead of scary.
OK, they’ll still be scary (especially the in-laws) (and I know you can relate to the anxiety thing), but they will also be exciting. Count on life to be one big scary exciting learning experience and there’s at least one thing you won’t be surprised about.
Ask for help.
The more independent you become, the more I’ll pat myself on the back for a job well done. And then cry because I’ll be out of a job. Just as you’ve started driving yourself everywhere, you’ll start doing all the deciding, too. Don’t forget, though, that you will still need help. Everyone does. Professional help like lawyers, tax preparers, doctors, therapists. The help of friends and family (I know, but we’re not going anywhere). Even though you’re a “grown up,” you don’t have to go it alone. And you shouldn’t.
Embrace the ripples.
Some people are all about the big splash. They fill every room, everything they do seems newsworthy, and all eyes are always on them. That is definitely one way to be in this world, but it’s not the only way.
Other people are about entering quietly, doing their thing, and leaving ripples. Maybe they smile and make someone’s day. Maybe they encourage and change someone’s outlook. Don’t for a minute think that this is less important than the splash. Sometimes these ripples go further and deeper than the big splash, and make an even bigger, more lasting impact. Whether you make a big splash or a little ripple, know that your contribution is important.
This is all of my advice for adulting. What advice would you share with an 18-year-old? What’s the most important thing to remember about being an adult?