We’ve all heard the word these days. It’s on funnies everywhere, usually involving animals in less than eager positions. Usually with their heads buried in various bits of furniture or looking like their own pet just died. [This is my favourite.]

So what is adulting? Well, it’s a nice made up word that basically denotes what happens when most adults try behaving like adults. You know, doing the boring stuff, like paying bills and working for a living. An excellent resource for those of us (i.e. all of us) who are rather bad at adulting at any given time is the Adulting Blog and the book that blog author Kelly Williams Brown published in 2013. Have a look, because chances are, you need help at adulting; everyone does at some point or another.

Adulting is a fun word that a lot of PhD students have gravitated towards in the last couple of years since it first started cropping up fairly regularly in memes, tweets and on Facebook. I know the first time I heard it I felt like ‘where have you been all my life?’ Suddenly, everything made sense. I had a word to describe all those moments when I felt like an abject failure, and what was more, that other people felt the same way!

The biggest part of a PhD that people find difficult to adjust to is the sense of being alone. I’ll post an entry about that at some point. I found, though, that one of the hardest parts about being on the journey ‘alone’, my own journey, was feeling so detached from all my friends around me who seemed to be fantastic at adulting. Here they were, having children, getting married, buying houses, holding full-time careers, and here I was, reading books, sitting in my PJs all day, eating take away, living in student accommodation, checking FB 20 times a day, etc. I felt like such an abject failure at adulting. And I felt like I was the only one going through that. Like everyone else around me had their life figured out.

They don’t. I’m not kidding; they don’t. And everyone else in your PhD department definitely doesn’t. You are not alone, even when you feel that way. Your supervisor has another student who is feeling just as alone and just as bad at adulting as you.

I am still bad at adulting, but most days I manage okay and really, that’s all that you need. You just need to be okay. I’m still not a great adult yet, having only just completed my PhD. I live at home right now, and I’ve only just gotten a job as of yesterday (and it’s short-term contract only), and I don’t pay bills, or have kids, or a partner. But this is my adulting, and that doesn’t make it any less adult than anyone else. Yes, having a family and working a full-time job has a lot of adulting issues to overcome. So does being unemployed, living at home, and trying to start a career after finishing the hardest thing in your life.

There are so many levels of adulting. No one’s is better than anyone else’s. And no one is really better at adulting than anyone else, they just like to think they are. We all have challenges in life, and those challenges are individual, just like your PhD is.

So my advice is, don’t worry about adulting until after you’ve finished your PhD. If you want to spend the day in your PJs and only write 20 words of your thesis, go ahead. I won’t judge you, because I’ve done it myself. And your friends who are all off adulting won’t judge you either, because they are SUPER impressed you are doing a PhD. And your supervisor’s other PhD students won’t judge you either, because they’re doing the same exact thing you are, in their own way.

Really, the only one judging your ability to adult is you. So stop it.


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