Adulting is Hard Work

The older I get, the more I realize that “adulting” is hard work…and we can’t do it alone.

There is so much emphasis here in the US on becoming a responsible and independent adult.

But maybe that’s actually impossible.

I believe humans were designed for community. So maybe all this emphasis on becoming independent makes us feel lonely and like we don’t live up.

Maybe we’re missing the mark if we’re aiming for independence in adulthood.

Independent or Interdependent?

Here in the US, kids are expected to move out of their parents house as early as 17 or 18 and “grow up.”

Get an education. Pay bills. Develop discipline. Buy groceries. Pay rent.

This isn’t entirely a bad thing.

But it is interesting.

With freedom, comes responsibility.

With responsibility, comes big choices.

With big choices, often comes big mistakes…and regrets.

Annie Wright, a psychotherapist from the Bay Area, writes a great article about the truths of adulting.

She points out that it’s normal for us to feel like we’re failing at adulthood. That none of us a really experts.

That adulting involves a lot of unlearning and relearning.

That life is often comprised of mundane tasks, and we realize this more and more the older we get. Even our dreams are comprised of some not-so-glamorous tasks. Yet social media can be a highlight reel that makes us feel like we aren’t living up.

That it’s often harder to make friends as an adult.

That isolation and even depression can kick in, as we are expected to “make our own way in the world.”

If being an adult means being isolated and lonely than no thank you. I’d rather never grow up. Neverland, here I come!

But I believe there is a balance. I believe there is a step between total dependence and independence.

I believe we were made to be interdependent.

This means you need me and I need you. This means we work together and use our differing gifts for the greater good. This means it’s okay if I can’t be good at everything.

I don’t need to be all things to all people. Instead, I can do one thing and do it well.

One of my favorite things about marriage is the idea that Josh and I are a team together.

Just having a “forever teammate” in life means a lot. Our strengths can help compliment one another. And when we need to face a challenge that neither of us feel gifted in, at the very least we can trudge through it together.

This definitely isn’t just limited to marriages though. Life teammates can pop up all around us if we are intentional about it. Thankfully, my church is full of these kinds of people.

“You watch my kids and I’ll watch yours.”

“Let’s pray about this over the phone together.”

“I can deliver a meal when you’re sick and mow your lawn when you aren’t up for it. What are friends for?”

Sadly, these kinds of relationships just aren’t “normal” in our society anymore. But that doesn’t mean we should let them die out.

Cultivate community all around you – starting right where you’re at. Invite your friends into a deeper level of loving and serving one another: the dance of interdependence.



It’s Okay To Grieve

Even those of us who don’t struggle with depression or anxiety, can face loss, grief, and loneliness as we reach our late 20s.

Annie Wright reminds us that this okay. It’s okay to grieve over those paths we didn’t take. Those doors that are closed to us now. Those careers we gave up. Those dreams we didn’t pursue.

I found that I’ve had to do this several times in my life. I had to grieve the loss of my freedom when I had kids. This was something I didn’t expect, and I felt like a horrible mother at the time for having these feelings. Now I’ve come to grips with the fact that this is a normal part of life. And it’s healthier to grieve than to stifle those feelings.

I also had to grieve when I quit my job to stay home with my kids. What? But I’m so lucky to not have to work. It’s been my dream to stay home and educate my children at home all my life.

Doesn’t matter.

With the dream, came much loss. Loss of my work community. That feeling of fitting in and being productive. Not to mention the paycheck.

Sometimes even decisions we consciously make require a grieving period.

As adults, we know that there’s a myriad of consequences to every decision. We weigh the pros and cons. We give up things to gain other things. We work for the greater good, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t losses along the way.

Goodness knows, the gaining of freedom means the loosing of our own childhood and innocence. Have you ever thought about that?

It’s okay to grieve getting older. To mourn the loss of childhood. The failures of our parents. The things we can’t unwind.

It doesn’t mean we get bitter and hold a grudge. Grief is processing. Grief is letting go. Grief is allowing us to feel those emotions, stare them right in the face.

Grief is working through our problems. Neither burying them nor ruminating on them endlessly.

Grief is allowing ourselves to feel. And with God’s help and a lot of self-care, moving forward.

The Family You Need

Lastly, Wright points out that’s normal to want distance from our family of origin.

That’s right – it’s normal and okay to distance yourself from your family of origin. It doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful. It’s natural.

Part of the unlearning and relearning that I mentioned earlier is to form your own beliefs and identity outside of your family.

This is actually healthy for your family too. I am not my children, and I don’t want my identity to come fully from them. I need to always be working on myself apart from who they are. I am not their friends. I am not their choices. But I will love them unconditionally forever.

Again, this doesn’t mean going it alone. But it does mean that the family you need right now might not actually be related to you.

Do not underestimate the importance of your community – your church family, your small group family, your immediate family, and your family of origin. It is a giant web of connectedness.

We all need a sense of belonging, and we all need that identity that family provides. But part of adulting is getting to define what that looks like for you.

It can be painful, don’t get me wrong. But it can be worked through. And it can be very, very beautiful.

Relationships are messy because people are messy. But the moment we give up on people is the moment that we find ourselves isolated and lost. We need one another – our gifts and even our flaws – in order to thrive.

Adulthood isn’t easy. Wright says that it involves many layers of loss. This isn’t to discourage us, but to encourage us that we aren’t alone! It’s normal to grieve. It’s normal to want distance from our family. It’s normal to feel confused and let down that we aren’t famous like we thought we would be in our teens and early 20s.

But there’s no question that life is beautiful. Even the mundane parts have the power to be extraordinary if we let them. (That’s essentially what all of motherhood has felt like so far!) Maybe living a “normal” adult life among other “normal” children and adults is more magical than we give it credit for.

The magic isn’t in us, but it’s in our connectedness. Especially when the thing that unites us all is Jesus. 


How has adulting challenged you? Do you ever feel let down because of unrealized dreams or paths you didn’t take? How have you grieved your losses and moved on to thrive in the here and now?

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