Why Millennials Hate Adulting
“When I was a child, I thought like a child; I spoke like a child. But when I became a man, I put childish things away.” — Apostle Paul of the Bible.
I originally wrote and posted this article in 2021. I’m reposting it here on Substack with minor updates and corrections. Enjoy!
For most millennials, it’s safe to say we hate Adulting. Adulting is defined as doing grown-up stuff, like paying bills, getting health insurance, owning a home, and fixing a car.
All things that are similar to these “adulting tasks” mentioned, we hate. We hate everything that has to do with adulting.
Therein lies an enormous problem.
When we say we hate adulting, we're saying that we hate responsibility. Adulting is nothing but responsibility.
Being responsible for your house, your health, and taking care of yourself. We hate that.
But why? Why would we hate taking care of ourselves and being responsible for our livelihood?
As children, we all wanted to grow up, so what happened?
One thing separating children and adults is schooling, so what if we’ve been taught to hate responsibility?
The purpose of this article is to show how we have been raised to be children forever.
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The Problem of Extended Adolescence
Extended Adolescence is the term, and this presents a problem because when it’s time for us to grow up and take responsibility, we shy away from it or do it half-assed. However, that period of time is drawing to a close; it’s time to gain a sense of responsibility and stop playing the blame game.
I draw attention to this issue because, in 2030, the millennial generation will be responsible for the United States.
If we hate real responsibility, what does that say about the country’s future? What negative consequences are awaiting us?
This article attempts to draw attention to this issue and what we can do to become better adults.
So let’s strap in!
Our Two Selves
Within every one of us lies our two selves. We know this as a good angel vs. bad angel, light vs. dark, or higher vs. lower self.
Long story short, we have two aspects to our entire being.
The higher self can be described as that self that yearns for growth, understanding, and maturity. This is the self that pushes us to strive for great things, making us the best we can be. This is the self that puts in the hard work.
The lower self can be described as the part that always wants to be lazy. This self wants to be a bum, a slouch. This self chills all day and loves entertainment. This self stays away from anything work-related. This self loves to be comfortable.
We'll call the higher self our "soul" for a simpler analogy, and we'll call the lower self our "mind-body."
Higher and lower are relative terms and do not imply that one is better than the other. We need all selves to be in unison.
Unfortunately, society focuses more on one than the other. Society focuses on the lower self, the mind-body self that seeks comfort.
As the great Carl Jung said, we shrink from the difficulties of life. In other words, we choose comfort.
But let’s not assume that it is our fault. Humans can be naturally lazy and irresponsible.
Let’s focus more on the obstacles that make us shrink from life, and we’ll start with our first introduction to society: Public Education.
The Schooling Complex
Our public education is a relatively new phenomenon. Compulsory education, which requires children to go to school, only started in the United States in 1920, making our current education system just over 100 years old.
This is important to call out because we think our education system is older than that. But in reality, it’s not.
One thing about our education system is that it doesn’t necessarily facilitate learning. It facilitates repetition.
Students aren’t necessarily taught to problem solve; students are taught to solve specific problems; solve this problem this way, and solve that problem that way.
Students regurgitate what their teachers tell them and whoever can repeat it the best gets an A.
The problem is this is not how life operates. Life is complex, and we aren’t taught those complex subjects.
We aren’t taught essential lessons such as budgets, taxes, businesses, and so forth.
We're taught lessons such as the Pythagorean Theorem, which depends on regurgitation but has no real-world applicability.
In short, our schools are teaching us bullshit. Shit that you’ll never use.
On the one hand, schools were designed like this. The school system teaches students operational lessons (i.e., do this, and get that) that are factorial in nature because when the school system was formed, the factories were developed in the United States.
There’s an interesting connection showing the United States factories creating compulsory education to have workers work at their mills.
We’ll save that for another day, but if interested, Seth Godin mentions it briefly in his TedTalk.
Long story short, we go through 18 years of public education and don’t have anything to show for it.
For the majority of us, we learned how to skate by.
Some of us even go to college and get even more education that teaches us how to solve even more specific problems.
But again, does that prepare us for the complexity of life? Chances are, it doesn’t.
So when we approach life and haven't been prepared to encounter it, we fold.
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that every human is capable of greatness and that there’s enormous potential in all of us.
In his book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, John Taylor Gatto, four-time New York Teacher of the Year, lays out how schooling limits our potential. He names historical figures who all had one thing in common, dropping out of school.
Education’s sole function is to make us all uniform. Unprepared for life and yearning for the easy way out. Coincidentally, or by design, we live in a society that preys on this sensation of comfort.
Our society loves to feel good. We live for comfort. This sensation of feeling good is behind every marketing ploy. But on an individual level, we naturally tend to go towards the path of least resistance.
Enter our lower self : our mind-body.
Our mind-body helps us understand the world and helps us navigate it. It interprets all the information from our five senses and translates that into information that we can use to decipher and move throughout our reality.
It's a fantastic resource that has kept the human species alive until now.
But, unfortunately, it can tend to hold us back as well. As Shawn Achor once said in his TedTalk:
“Our Brain is set to search the world for the bad things first.”
Here’s how this little interaction plays out:
Our higher self (soul) decides that it wants to try out for that new role/goal/position/etc.
Our lower self (mind-body) starts to formulate how we can get that new role.
The mind-body realizes that there will be obstacles and difficulties toward that goal.
The mind-body begins to realize the negative aspects of that goal, such as failure, shame, and defeat.
The mind-body takes all this in and decides that it is not worth the effort for that new role.
This scenario is an internal battle that puts us (higher self) versus us (lower self), and this internal ruffle leads to internal strife and stress.
To avoid the negative feelings and stress from this internal struggle, we look to take our attention off the struggle and place it somewhere else. Someplace numbing and away from the strife.
Here’s where society comes in.
Society introduces us to social media. Society takes us to the News. We also get shopping, food, alcohol, and many others.
These releases, per se, help us take our minds off life's hardships and provide us with much-needed comfort.
But the problem is that that goal, dream, or desire is still going to be there today, tomorrow, and the next day.
And the further we don’t act on it, the more we begin to think of ourselves as failures.
Since we were never trained on how to handle the failures of life, we constantly return to the entrapments of society, drugs, sex, and alcohol, ultimately creating a vicious cycle:
Life Hardship + Avoidance of Hardships = More Distractions from Hardships
This cycle creates a term that I like to call Grown-Ass Babies syndrome.
Grown-Ass Baby (GAB) syndrome is when we don’t want to grow up. We hate adulting and become these adults who think like babies.
We yearn for the simpler times in life when our mommies took care of everything.
We’ve become the most nostalgic generation. We refuse to grow up.
But now we know why. We’ve been taught to fail at the school of life.
Fortunately, there is a way for us to combat GAB syndrome. The answer is simply to do work. Not just work but thorough work.
Thorough is defined as carried through to completion. By doing thorough work, we forge the habits and characteristics needed to succeed in life.
Being thorough prevents us from half-assing any job because we push ourselves to be as detailed as possible. We check every nook and cranny to make sure we leave no stone unturned.
This isn't the same as OCD or micromanaging but instead exploring every potential of our work to ensure it's done in the best way possible.
Thorough work is something we constantly work at, and to do this, we need to be reminded of this daily. Something that we think about when we wake up.
In terms of our lives, we can call this our Life’s Work. Something we want to do with our life. Something that is always on our minds but isn’t burdensome.
Some people devote their lives to a specific craft. To be the best within a particular area. When this happens, there’s an increased focus on that area.
They eat specific foods because it helps them in that area. They perform specific tasks because it helps them in their chosen area. This ultimate goal of theirs directs their day-to-day actions.
And this provides an excellent template for how we should lead our lives as well.
Doing work is the answer Carl Jung came up with to help adults who refuse to grow up. It's simple in theory, but its products of it are phenomenal.
By choosing thorough work, we direct all other actions, thoughts, and behaviors around that desired goal.
Since our goals are derived from our soul, our higher self, we have to choose higher-self actions, such as hard work, versus lower-self activities, such as comfort.
That internal strife still ensues, but instead of the negative association of regret for not pursuing that goal, we experience positive associations from the reward of pursuing that goal.
Time is of the Essence
Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of time. We've already spent the first 18 years of life unprepared, so we're behind the eight-ball. Depending on how long we've been indoctrinated within the working sector only adds more years that we’ve been pushed away from finding out how to deal with life.
So yes, the chips are stacked against us, and yes, one could argue that the rat race is another societal construct, like education and entertainment, to hold us back from reaching our full potential.
But just because our backs are against the wall doesn’t make it impossible.
Time and time again, people have discovered their calling, grown up, made changes, and gone on to do amazing things. So it’s not impossible.
But it needs to be done sooner than later.
Neuroplasticity is the field of study that shows that we can train our brains to do specific tasks, and by doing these tasks repeatedly, we create neural pathways so our brains do more of this specific task.
This is the science of habits. These neural paths allow the desired decision to be made without much thought. This neural forming pathway is an incredible feat that our minds can do, but it can also be troublesome as well.
If we don’t get control of our mind-body (lower self), we’ll continually choose the path of comfortability. And by constantly choosing comfortability, we strengthen the neural pathways toward comfort.
And the longer and longer we do this, the more challenging it becomes for us to overcome that neural pathway of comfort.
So yes, it is not impossible, but the longer we wait, the longer we procrastinate, the higher we raise the odds against ourselves.
Fortunately, we can start now. We can begin to change the tides in our favor.
The first step is to realize what areas of adulting we hate the most. What responsibility are we avoiding? What part of our life is keeping us in that childlike mentality?
Once we identify it, we can begin working on getting familiar with it and understanding it, and once this happens, we can start to overcome that area.
This can be as simple as knowing that we binge-watch TV after work, so instead, we’ll read 10 minutes of a book to combat this habit. The first step is to identify this area and begin to understand it.
“Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” — Jillian Michaels
As bad as we hate adulting, we need to address it and gain a sense of responsibility. This is the life that has been given to us.
The responsibility of the next generation of Americans is on our shoulders. And as always, we have choices.
We can choose to let life pass us because it’s too hard, or we can decide to grab life by the horns.
Class is in session, and life is the teacher.
And to pass the class, we need to grow up.
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