How to Pretend to be a Functioning Adult

If there’s anything a Millenial knows, it’s that the future is scary. We all went to college assuming the economy would get better. We all went to college thinking that in doing so, we would be protecting ourselves from the scary things we were hearing in the news about recessions and possible depressions. We went, we learned, we partied, but what happens after that? How do we find work? How do we find a place to live? Now that we aren’t forced to socialize with people, how do we strike up conversations with new people? In short, how do we become or, at least, seem as responsible and put-together as our parents? These are daunting topics but I’ve got your back.


Gif from Fight Club of Edward Norton looking bored while making photocopies

In our youth, it may be fun to fancy ourselves as The Narrator from Fight Club. I know. I know. “It’s your life and it’s ending one minute at time.” We don’t want to be like those cubicle drone parents of ours. We want to travel the world and meet new people. We want our lives to have meaning. Unfortunately, being alive is expensive. You are not going to Paris if you can’t pay for a ticket. You can’t hop in a car and road trip it with your friends if you have no money to pay for gas (unless you want to be that friend). So you’re going to have to put the Chuck Palahniuk novels down (they all bleed together after a while anyway) and find a job.

Finding a Job and Dealing With the Wait

There are several ways to go about finding a job. You can go to a temp agency and have someone find work for you. You can go to the many job searching sites such as:,,, and (if you’re a bleeding heart liberal like myself) However, finding a job is always easier said than done. To help you with the wait I have created a list:

  • Don’t go on Facebook: You’ll either feel really bad about yourself or for your entire generation of people.
  • Avoid family functions when possible.
  • Watch your favorite movie.
  • Bake cookies.
  • Hang out with your friends.
  • Drink.

So you’ve found a job!

And it’s not in your field and you don’t necessarily enjoy it. Congratulations! You are now officially a Millenial!

Gif from How I Met Your Mother of Robin crying and drinking wine under her desk

Your job isn’t the best, but there are people working unpaid internships. Just remember, that not being able to do what you want now is no excuse to slack off at your current job or to give up on the possibility of one day being where you want to be. So be happy or at least grateful! You can afford things now!

Moving out

You’ve saved up your money, you’re tired of hiding your alcohol from your parents, and you’re done tip-toeing through the dark at 3:00 in the morning so as not to wake your folks. You’re ready to move out! Here’s what you’re probably expecting:

Screencap from Sex and the City of Carrie's fancy apartment
(Image credit: HBO)

I know you. I know what you’re doing. Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment is lovely but here is the thing: In real life, Carrie Bradshaw wouldn’t be able to afford Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment. I know, Google told me so. So put those Sex and the City dreams on hold for a bit and let’s look at the facts. If you’re going to move out you must take into account the following:

  • Where in the world do you want to live and is it realistic for you to move there?
  • What is your price range? Will you be able to pay the rent and still have enough of your paycheck left over to pay your bills, go grocery shopping, and pay for transportation?
  • Will so much of your check go towards your living expenses that you won’t be able to have an actual life?
  • Will you need to get a roommate (or two or three) to afford your place? And if so, do you have people (responsible people) who will move in with you? Or will you use a roommate service (not Craigslist)?
  • Is the neighborhood safe? Or at least safe enough?

Upon answering these questions you may find your situation looking more like this:

Screenshot of ender's apartment from Futurama

But that’s okay; the freedom to walk around in your underwear, have sleepovers, eat cake for breakfast without judgment, and drink out in the open is worth the tiny apartment. It’s even worth hearing your neighbor’s carnal adventures through the thin walls and avoiding eye contact with them in the halls.


You’ve got a job! You have an apartment! You can drink like a real adult! And then you notice it. They’re everywhere. People are holding hands and kissing all over the place. You’ve started getting invitations to weddings. You’re friends are having children (children they actually planned to have). You think, “Hey! I have a perfectly good hand. Why is no one holding it?” Some of your friends may say, “Well, at least we have each other!” and while that’s true,  you want someone to snuggle and that is okay. Here’s what’s not okay:

  • Dating someone who makes you feel bad just so you have someone. (Don’t listen to Ali MacGraw; love does mean having to say you’re sorry.)
  • Dating a loser because you’re scared of being alone. (Being single is a lot better than dating a mooch who eats all your food and has made a home for themselves on your couch.)
  • Changing yourself into something you think is more “lovable.” (Do you want someone to love who they think you are and be forced to pretend for however long the relationship lasts? Or do you want someone to appreciate the lovable weirdo that you are?)
Miranda from Sex and the City, wearing a baseball cap and puffy jacket, captioned, "Do any of you have a completely unremarkable friend or maybe a houseplant I could go to dinner with on Saturday night?"
Don’t listen to Miranda Hobbes.


You did it! You stuck to your standards and you’ve found someone just as lovably weird as you! The only advice I have is: do what works for your relationship. Stay together long enough and people may constantly ask when you’re moving in together, when you’re getting married or when you’re having children. Don’t do any of it until you feel the time is right, or don’t do any of it at all if that’s your thing. Remember, it’s your relationship and you have to feel comfortable in it, not everyone else.

Single Ladies

Beyonce doing the Single Ladies dance

Maybe, some of you don’t care about dating. Perhaps, you want to play the field; maybe you’re letting love happen whenever it happens. Good for you! We’re young, now is the time for us to go for broke. Here are some pluses to being single:

  • You can do whatever you want without checking in with someone.
  • You don’t have to pretend it’s cute when your partner takes food off your plate.
  • If you want to save your money and go to Vegas with friends, whatever happens stays there because there’s no one to bring it back to.
  • When you order food for two it isn’t because someone else is eating with you; it’s because the food is yours. It’s all yours!
  • You don’t have to compromise with your time. No hearing about books you say you’ll read but never will. No watching a sports game because you made them watch a Wes Anderson film that one time.  It’s all about you.

Enjoy flying solo! And if you’re having casual sex, be safe. No excuses!

Other Aspects of Adult Life

When one thinks of being an adult they usually think of the things covered above but what about your personal or emotional decisions? Also, now that you can’t talk about tests and how “busy” you are, what can you talk about?


Do it! And don’t just vote for the President, vote for your other politicians. Don’t complain about the President being unable to get anything passed when you didn’t vote for anyone in the House or Senate. Also, maybe don’t bring up who you’re voting for at parties, or at work, or at friendly dinners. No matter your party, someone will say something you think is stupid, or there will be that guy convinced he’s smarter than you for not caring about any of it. You’ll want to flip over the table like Left Eye in the “Red Light Special” music video.


Figure it out for yourself. Probably don’t bring it up at dinner unless you’re willing to argue with people and defend yourself. I have seen a few dinners wrecked because someone just had to bring up that Flying Spaghetti Monster. One minute it’s all jokes… until it isn’t and steam is coming out of your ears.

“Ugh! As if!”: The ’90s

So what is polite conversation? What is generally neutral territory? The ’90s*. No generation of people has ever been more upset about their childhoods being over than the generation of young people who grew up in the ’90s. I mean, people are selling their Tamagotchis on eBay. The easiest way to make new friends is to say, “You know you can watch Hey Arnold! on Netflix?” “Remember All That?” Whomever you’re speaking to (and maybe the whole room) will gasp; a flurry of excitement will enter the room and, as if they’ve never had the conversation before, everyone will soon find themselves immersed in ’90s nostalgia. Before you know it, everyone’s singing “Tearing Up My Heart,” discussing JT’s ramen noodle-like hair, and you have more new friends than you can shake a stick at. The ’90s: Millenial Kryptonite.

Justin Timberlake's hair totally looks like dry Ramen noodles
(source: Memebase)

*Provided you don’t bring up certain old rivalries: N*Sync vs Backstreet Boys. Britney vs. Christina. Biggie vs. Tupac. Don’t do it, kids. You’ll be there all night, and you have grown up things to do, like watch Scandal with a glass of wine and cry over the beauty of Olivia Pope’s wardrobe.


So there you have it! You’ve found a job, you’ve found a (tiny and overpriced) place to live, you’ve avoided dinner time conflict, made new friends, voted, and you’ve found someone to cuddle with (or not. That’s cool too.). You are now, sort of, an adult. Sure, you occasionally have cake for dinner and you still watch The Powerpuff Girls. You still have heated conversations about Harry Potter and you’ve realized that maybe you did need a bedtime after all; but you’re here. You pay your own bills, you bought your own dinner cake, and you are an adult! Cheers to you!


4 replies on “How to Pretend to be a Functioning Adult”

I’m in a two jobs and graduate school and live with my mom which is sometimes ok sort of adulting. When I finish this degree (in December 2016) I’ll be on the “find one full time job” bus and hopefully the “homeowner” train. I hope I’m not a permanent member of the “perpetually single” club, but it sure looks that way. I’ve got two great dogs, though.

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