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What is adulting? - Richard Godwin

Blog | By Richard Godwin | May 09, 2022

From spontaneous holidays to paying Council Tax: Richard Godwin discusses the reality of "adulting"

Adulting means existing in the world as an independent being.

You have probably been adulting for most of your adult life – even if you were unaware that ‘adult’, a hitherto respectable noun and slightly less respectable adjective (see ‘adult movie’, ‘adult fun’ etc), had acquired verb status.

It’s in the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘I’ve finished all my adulting requirements for the week.’

Adulting ought to connote fun adult things, like dashing off for a weekend in Florence; or having sex with strangers.

In fact it describes those mundane, strangely under-publicised activities that end up taking up the greater part of adult life. Remembering to buy loo roll; familiarising yourself with a car-insurance comparison website; removing a build-up of lint from the filter of the washing machine; that sort of thing.

For Generation Z, the newest cohort of grown-ups, adulting comes as a major disappointment. Recently, I interviewed Holly Humberstone, a 22-year-old pop star from Lincolnshire, who has just won the prestigious Rising Star Award at the Brits.

You might imagine that moving to the big city, signing a record contract and winning the same award that set Adele on her path to stardom would be a pleasant introduction to adult life – but Humberstone wasn’t convinced. She had ‘no clue’ how to be an adult: ‘I should be more responsible and ready for adulting but I’m just not! You don’t really get taught these things at school. One day, you just get pushed out of a door and you have to just survive.’

Here is a selection of social-media posts from young people around the world: ‘Adulting is expensive’; ‘Adulting is confusing’; ‘Can I go back to the time when I was just a baby? Adulting and feelings are hard to cope with’.

What’s that weird scrapy noise? Coming of age in the midst of a global pandemic on top of a housing crisis on top of the longest sustained period of falling real wages in the UK on record is tricky.

Who can blame today’s early-20-somethings for looking back wistfully on the days when they didn’t know what Council Tax was and food magically appeared in the fridge.