On Grown-up Jobs

There’s no question that I’ve been feeling crappy about one of my current part-time jobs. It’s the job that’s been keeping me secured in school since it pays for my tuition. To some people, having this type of arrangement is ideal and would not warrant any complaining since, at the end of the day, school is getting covered. But I have come to a point where even that reason alone does not justify acts of borderline exploitation to be acceptable. A colleague reminded me the other day, that despite my frustrations, this is what “adults” do in the “real world.”

Photo of animated girl with lines connected with height. Different height levels show different jobs.
I don’t think being an adult means having to sacrifice your dreams, especially if your dreams are not equivalent to a traditional “adult” job. (Source:

The first mistake was divulging too many of my work frustrations to a perceived trusted colleague. This doesn’t mean I don’t trust the person anymore, but it does mean that I have to recognize boundaries again. I’ve been holding emotions of my discontent about this job since nearly the beginning of this academic year, and it was bound to happen that little bouts of internal chatter found its way out of my system. So I took the first opportunity to be open about my feelings with a colleague and instead got a lecture on what adults do in grown-up jobs.

I’m not a traditional student. It took me about 7 years to graduate from undergrad due to a heavy workload in order to keep me in school. I even worked a professional job for a brief period, working as a dispatch specialist and executive administrator for a copier company. This is not my first rodeo. So you’ll have to excuse me if I get a little ticked off when someone tells me that I’m unaware of how to conduct myself in professional settings and that I may be too young to understand all of this because I’ve never held an adult job. PUH-LEASE.

If the theory goes that “grown-up” jobs mean that you have to endure an exploitive management and work conditions as a mandatory rite of passage, then we can assume that some jobs are not considered “grown-up.” I’m thinking of creatives, in particular. Sure creatives of all genres suffer stressors just like any other job would have, but they are different in nature due to the job itself. There are even more unique stressors if the creative is a freelancer or an independent artist of some sort. But I point out this particular occupation for the purpose of exemplifying the fact that not all jobs that follow my colleague’s interpretation of “adult jobs” follows that specific criteria that they laid out. If one is not agonizing over being overworked, the bureaucracy of the institution and unrealistic expectations from management who don’t know how to manage, then are we to assume that that jobholder is clearly not working in an adult environment? If we were to follow that thought process, then creatives would not be considered adults (or they’d be considered big kids. Which actually might be accurate). But is it too much to think that jobs don’t necessarily need to be held in traditional institutions for it to be considered legitimate?

As I continue to work out my career objectives and where I fit in the grand scheme of things, I think back to these comments, and I tell myself that I am up for the challenge. To me, it is possible to aspire to jobs that may not fit the “adult” criteria. Maybe I won’t be considered an adult, but for anyone who chooses that path, they are usually intelligent enough to see the path as a viable option. To scrutinize otherwise questions the abilities and talents of these people without any kind of context, and it’s also a failure to recognize the variety of careers that are relative to one’s dreams and aspirations. If having a grown-up job means sacrificing the ability to see what can be and instead focusing on what already exists, then I don’t want any part of that.

By Luann

Feminist, Pinay, coffee lover, boba aficionado and pop culture enthusiast. Current graduate student in Peace and Conflict Studies. Dwelling in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon but always California dreaming. You can also read more of her articles at

9 replies on “On Grown-up Jobs”

Is it possible that what your coworker meant was that “grown ups” keep it together to pay the bills? Because I’ve been guilty of saying that many times. Not that grown up jobs mean you have to be happy about things, but that until you find something that’s a better fit, you pay the bills, you hold down the job because dirty dishwater is better than none at all. So not so much that there are “grown up jobs” and “childlike” jobs, but adulting is often about doing what you have to do, rather than what you want to do.

But I am sucky at adulting, so I could be very, very wrong.

He could’ve meant that. He could’ve meant that you have to stick out the BS type of work in order to find the work that fits. But he said it in such a condescending way, in a “you don’t know how it’s like out in the real world” type of way, that I shut down after that. He just made it sound like this is what all adults have to do and that there’s probably no such thing as job happiness.

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