Adulting 101

As high school students approach the age of 18, it’s worth asking what being an adult really means.


photo by Mike Daninhirsch

18th birthdays are a traditional milestone, but they can be unnerving, too.

Jess Daninhirsch, Photography Editor

When I started writing this piece, I was a child. By the time you’re reading it, I’ll be an adult.

In reality, I’ll only be a couple days older, but the line between 17 and 18 is sharp and bold — so big you could trip over it. I turned 18 on Sunday, October 10, 2021. Officially a legal adult! But I feel so far from being one. 

I have looked forward to turning 18 since I turned 13. I dreamed of going to college, of living in a new place without my parents, and making new friends from all over the world. I thought about having my own space and making new routines. But as that age grew closer, instead of excitement about entering adulthood, I was filled with panic. 18 means responsibilities, decisions, life skills put to the test in the real world. 

I apologize if the title of this article is misleading. Unfortunately, there is no manual or guide on Adulting 101. We’re all thrust into the real world when we make it out of high school, and it’s up to us to make these big, life changing decisions (which is bad news for me because I am the world’s most indecisive person). 

I have all these unanswered questions, the biggest one being, “What does being an adult really mean?””

I have all these unanswered questions, the biggest one being, “What does being an adult really mean?” Why is 18 the year that you’re suddenly called an adult and expected to know where you’re going in life? One month, you’re sitting in a windowless classroom having to ask permission to use the restroom, and the next month, you have to learn to live on your own. I feel that school hasn’t prepared me enough for life beyond high school. It’s all just about getting into college.

The shift between 17 and 18 — or more precisely, between high school and college — is abrupt and jarring. In high school, we learn how to solve complex math problems, but not how to solve day-to-day, mundane problems we may have to deal with in dorm rooms or apartments. 

There are so many things that I still have to learn. For example, I haven’t learned how to deal with my own finances (writing checks, depositing and withdrawing money from the bank, filing taxes), making my own healthcare decisions, how to change a tire, how to cook a full meal (without using the microwave), and how to calculate a tip for goodness sake. I know how to calculate the velocity of a car and the objects inside the car but not a tip at a restaurant!

It’s hard being vulnerable enough to ask these questions or ask for help, but that’s sometimes the only way you can learn and feel comfortable when you have to do these things in real life. 

Nowadays kids are forced to grow up earlier than they should. They’re expected to have learned all of the aforementioned skills at a young age. They’re expected to have their lives figured out before they leave high school — they have to know where they’re going to college and what they want to study so that they can have a career in the future. 

But on the other hand, people are living longer. In some ways, adolescence has been extended. Both of my grandmothers got married at 20 and 21, but many people today delay marriage until they are much older. Lots of college graduates move back home until they can find a job, and some even live at home in their 20s while they are working. Shouldn’t we have more time to figure all of this out and just take some time to enjoy life for what it is? Life shouldn’t always be about work and survival. It should be about living. Experiencing the beauty of the world around us.

But on the other, other hand (you might have to pull out a foot at this point), Generation Z is inheriting a totally messed up world. Situations are turning dire all over the world, especially due to climate change. We have been given the great responsibility of fixing the broken world that the adults before us broke. This provides another layer of stress that children have to worry about. They have their whole futures ahead of them, but how long does that really mean? It’s terrifying and exhausting to think about, especially as a teenager. I’m just glad that I’ll finally be able to vote! Voting is the first step towards making real changes in the world.

I have mixed emotions about becoming an ‘official’ adult. On one side of the spectrum I am excited to leave the nest next year and leap towards that independence most kids my age crave. However, on the other, it’s a little scary to be thrown into a new situation, without a parental safety net. I know in my heart my parents will always be there for me, but the physical distance will be a challenge. Just watching my sister, a junior in college, navigate the world without our parents there with her — I know that there are some days that are worse than others.

But another thing I have also learned from watching my sister grow up is that even though it may seem intimidating, seeing all these grown-ups living their lives, in reality, no one has all the answers for every moment in time. Everyone is just figuring it out as they go.

I have a close relationship with my parents, and I know they will always help me if I need it. But I need to advocate for myself and speak up for what I need. I am forever grateful for all my parents have done for me over these last 18 years.

Moral of the story: The first lesson in Adulting 101 is realizing that no one knows what they’re doing, so it’s okay that you don’t either. You just have to fake it till you make it. And it’s okay to ask for help — you’re not in this alone.




Editors’ note: All opinions expressed on The Uproar are a reflection solely of the beliefs of the bylined author and not the journalism program at NASH.  We continue to welcome school-appropriate comments and guest articles.