Adulting can be challenging, but you don’t have to be perfect to embrace this journey.
First, we both know you are no fool. One cannot “adult” in 500 words. But we might be able to highlight the concepts in that space, and the concepts can become life projects!
Secondly, an illustrative story—I’m a psychologist. My clients, for whatever reason, believe me to be “perfect.” While I disabuse them of that notion at every opportunity, the notion persists.
Working remotely allowed me to pursue adulting in a new way. I once sat in an office, and if clients forgot to arrive, or arrived late, well, they felt bad. Now, I send a “meeting invitation” and we both show up. Except on occasion, I send the right link—but the wrong email heading (“See you WED!” but our appointment is on Friday). At that point, my clients gently but directly tell me they can’t meet at that time. And they are right. They have class. I made a mistake, they watched me, offered corrective feedback, advocated for themselves, and, ahem, “adulted”. Let’s drop that into some adulting bullet points.
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Affordances of adulthood
Flexibility is your friend
The past year has required us all to be more flexible than we ever imagined. Adults develop the skills to make a plan and then revise the plan as needed. Sometimes we have a lengthy timeline to revise the plan. Sometimes we need to revise the plan on the spot.
Those therapy sessions that happen by computer? Sometimes the internet shuts down, or the audio is awful. At that moment, we need to make a new plan: use a phone, reboot, reschedule. We work as a team to make a new plan, without panic, and while being flexible. That is adulting.
Perfection is not a real goal
It would appear that my clients hold their breath in relationships, white-knuckling life, hoping to be perfect. They feel reluctant to engage until they can be assured of a mistake-free event. Actually, imperfection can cement a relationship. I cannot tell you how many times my cats have walked through my therapy sessions (unprofessional, I know! So imperfect!), sparking a conversation with my client, allowing me to learn something I never would have known otherwise. Imperfection is the pathway to connection. Imperfection is also adulting.
Offering corrective feedback is ok; so is receiving it
My clients have offered so much corrective feedback during this pandemic. Some feedback was technical (“Adjust your lighting, try XX with your computer”), and some of it was factual (“This time won’t work for me”). They were able to offer me corrective feedback, watch me handle it in real-time, and then start to see that their teachers/therapists/parents are also adults/people who make mistakes. As a result, my clients are able to receive feedback positively. They understand receiving feedback is a normal, natural process, something that adults do.
Advocating for yourself can be as simple as an email or text
My teen clients have never had more responsibility for scheduling and attending their own appointments. Nobody has to drive them to therapy; they just show up at their computers. As a result, my clients sometimes email or (gasp!) text me about scheduling. I highlight this as advocating for themselves, because it is, but they never think of it in that way. That acknowledgment allows us to host a conversation about other ways they advocate for themselves and what advocacy skills they have yet to develop.
Adulting is happening now. You are already doing it
Adulting is a skillset that is built over a lifetime. It does not magically start or stop at a certain age. Fully grown adults (ahem, me) continue to develop skills. Part of the key is knowing who to ask for help, when, and how. There is no special formula for asking for help. Your needs will continue to change, and that is perfectly okay. You will make mistakes, and those mistakes will probably allow for empathy, support, and a better connection with others.
In sum, adulting in 500 words. And guess what? This article is more than 500 words, so I guess I just made a mistake, and that is ok!
This article was featured in Issue 123 – Autism In Girls
Autism Parenting Magazine aims to deliver informed resources and guidance, but information cannot be guaranteed by the publication or its writers. Our content is never intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician with any questions you may have and never disregard medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this website.