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Amplify Blog - Getting It Together: Reflections on Adulthood

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Amplify Blog - Getting It Together: Reflections on Adulthood

Amplify Blog

The below is a guest blog by Bri, a QFCC Youth Advocate

When do you expect to have it all ‘together’? How old do you think you’ll be by the time you can independently manage your life – finish study, find a career, fully look after yourself and have time and money to enjoy the things you couldn’t before you got it all ‘together’? What does having it all ‘together’ even mean? Is it more than a concept, a set of tangible things, or the qualities that help us manage the ‘togetherness’?

December is a pivotal month for many of us – we finish mandatory schooling, complete high school and finish our university degrees. Suddenly, we’ve entered the mythic ‘real world’ the adults in our lives warned us about for so long. As children, many people have a glamourous view of adulthood: freedom to drive, drink and dance at any hour of the day. We think of the homes we’ll make for ourselves, the careers we’ll use to fund them. Wait, home ownership?! In this economy?

At 24, my friends and I get stomach aches whenever we think about things like owning a home, having a wedding, having children… but adulthood is a spectrum of experiences, not a one-size-fits-all the way it seems like it was for our parents and grandparents. So how do we define adulthood?

Well, legally speaking while young people are between 15-25 years of age, 18 is the point at which a ‘child’ becomes an ‘adult’. It’s the age when we stop needing our parents’ or carers’ permission, the age at which we’ll be tried as adults in court, the age at which we need to start voting, the age at which we can buy cigarettes and alcohol, and the age at which we can make a valid will. Our lives become legally our own at 18 – but does that mean we automatically have it ‘together’?

Many young adults will tell you, “Ha, are you kidding?! I have no clue what I’m doing.” And not just at 18, but in the years following too. And sometimes even in the decades following! While 18 seems to be the international marker for adulthood in most countries, research continues to recognise that the brain does not blossom from kid-size to adult-size overnight. In fact, while our cognitive and social-emotional processes become more sophisticated in the age range of 12-20, it is not until middle age (40-60) that are brains are said to reach stability and peak expertise (Burton et al., 2019). Growing up is a looooooong and imperfect process!

Knowing this, how can we keep ourselves accountable for our efforts to become independent young adults? After all, just because we may not have things ‘together’ until we’re retired doesn’t mean a step towards ‘togetherness’ is meaningless even before we’ve finished school. Can you book your own doctor’s appointments, cook a healthy and delicious meal for each night of the week, create and stick to a weekly budget? Is there a challenging goal you can work towards – getting into a new university or TAFE course, deciding who to vote for, applying for youth allowance? These are just some indicators of independence to help you when you’re preparing for adulthood. But don’t think you have to do them all by yourself either! Seeking help from a parent, carer, helpline or friend doesn’t mean you lack the skills to do it alone, but recognising the need for support, experience and guidance – that’s very mature, if you ask me!

Personally, it’s taking time to settle into adulthood for me. There was no urgency to leave home and the support of my parents, a privilege I haven’t taken for granted. When I did move away, I had the dual burden-luxury of living with my sister which helped combat any onset homesickness and gradually ease me into independent living. Now I’ve been by myself for over a year, but I’m still lazy, untidy and disorganised. But occasionally I’m compelled to pull those loose strings together into a neat rope. Set a routine, do the boring jobs when you’ve got a spare minute, schedule in the activities you do just to make yourself feel happy or at peace. We can’t control all the stressors weighing us down, but the ability to control some at all can be a great comfort and moment of togetherness.