Planning my future
October 20, 2004 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm 27, and getting to the point where I understand I'm not a big kid but an adult in denial. I want to change that attitude. I like who I am (hey, been that way for 10 years!), but apparently that's no good for an adult. I keep saying I like to seize the day, but I'd like to seize my future now (woohoo). I need to become responsible, to think long in advance, to make decision quickly... such things I tend to procastinate through, or let wane until the problem arises again.
So, my question : how do I grow up ? I have found such things as "planning your future" or even the "Life Assessment Quiz". I'm kinda looking for more advices on what I should do next, pointers, ways to kick my own ass, that sort of things.
Please, no "have a kid, that shall do the trick" tips :)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, i think life has to kick some of us in the ass and then we learn from that--a book or site won't do it. (a sudden firing, or a tax problem or something else bad will teach you to keep money in the bank for emergencies, or a health emergency will teach you to always have health insurance...stuff like that).

It's the only way i really learned my lesson, and i'm still learning. Nothing is more effective in making you change established behaviors than something that puts you in danger (of losing your housing, your health, etc).
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on October 20, 2004

Commit to something. It doesn't really matter who or what it is, but commit and follow through. Tests can help you decide what the something (or someone) is, but the commiting is the important part. I think the defining thing about adulthood is deciding to accept responsablility. Families, a cause, a job, art are all worthy things to commit to. Make something yours and make your statement for eternity.
posted by bonehead at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2004

Yes, amberglow, but you can purposefully force life to send you some curveballs. I'm talk suggesting trying to contract a serious illness or anything like that. But I know that I was forced to grow up very quickly when I had to support myself in difficult circumstances.

So you could go live in a foreign country (without getting any money from parents or friends) and support yourself. Maybe somewhere where you don't speak the language.

Or dive into a difficult job: work on an oil rig or in constuction.

Or join the military.

It also helps to set exciting but difficult goals for yourself. By the end of this year, I will understand calculas or how to play the guitar. Then don't rely on a friend to teach you. Go to the library or bookstore and get a bunch of books and teach yourself.
posted by grumblebee at 11:01 AM on October 20, 2004

growing up sucks. many, many so-called "serious" adults can confirm that. unless you're dangerous for yourself (or for others), you don't need to change, really
posted by matteo at 11:05 AM on October 20, 2004

Seriously consider buying a house. If you're pretty comfortable with your current salary for the next five years, pretty comfortable living where you are, etc. then think about it. The hunt will make you think about what you want, and what you need to get there. This will probably be a house that you only live in for five years at most so don't think too big, you can get the four bedroom with wrap around porch when you actually have your second set of twins, for right now, just think about what you'll need until you get married. Think about roommates, girlfriends, "your space," being "the man" to your roommates, etc., and decide how many rooms you want (or can afford.) Even if buying a place isn't right for your situation, thinking about it will help you realize where you are right now and what you might need to do to get to where you can buy a house. They really are good investments as well. The sooner you buy one, the sooner you're making money off of the money you've been spening on "rent."

Good luck.


P.S. Get a realtor, unless you're buying a "for sale by owner" house, they don't cost you a thing and work for free for you, just make sure they don't try to sell you one of "their" properties.
posted by pwb503 at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2004

What makes you think you're not enough of an adult? Are you supporting yourself? Are your paying your bills on time? Are you making your own decisions? What defines being "adult" in your mind?

Some of us just "mature" faster than others. It's not always a good thing. If being an adult means being serious about life in such a way that you don't have any fun, then don't ever grow up. You can tend to your responsibilities and still be playful, spontaneous and young at heart.

Procrastination isn't always a bad thing. I am thankful my Grandma procrastinated fixing a doll she made me for years. The doll was at her house when mine burned down. It's about the only item from my childhood that I have left. Procrastination that gets you into trouble financially or legally is a problem.

Already, you have choices to make everyday. Just remember to choose to play sometimes.
posted by onhazier at 11:18 AM on October 20, 2004

why? sounds like you don't particularly want to, and i don't see what the advantages are. if there's something that partiuclarly bothers you (someone you have to make happy, or worries about a pension plan) sort those things out specifically and leave "growing up" to others (in particular, the idea that you should do something that will make your life less pleasant in order to "grow up" seems perverse and rather depressing - i never planned to live in another country and wouldn't recommend it at all (it's much more rewarding to live in a culture that you understand)).

i have drifted through life when possible. when necessary i did the things/followed the person i felt was important and the rest followed, but i don't feel any more "grown up" for it, and i don't see why the parts of my life not connected to those commitments should change. i have a partner and a house - does that mean i also need to wear old peoples' clothes, have children, stop listening to interesting music, drink when i want to, mess around with computer art or bass guitar or whatever? hell no.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2004

errr, my last (long) sentence doesn't make complete sense, but i hope you get the idea.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2004

What onhazier and andrew cooke said. Why do you want to change your attitude? If you're doing what needs to be done, and aren't harming anyone, what's the problem? Trying to make yourself turn into something you're not is a recipe for frustration and heartache, we are not all the same. By all means encourage yourself to grow and evolve, but don't try and force yourself into a box that other people make for you. It can be very beneficial to identify specific things you don't like and want to improve, but the key there is "specific", rather than vagueries like "make decisions quickly" (this isn't always a good thing), "become responsible" (for what?) or "think long in advance" (not always possible, not always practical, not always beneficial).
posted by biscotti at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2004

Sometimes it's our friends holding us back. Once I drifted apart from all my early-20s stoner friends and found a new, more mature (and less stoned) group of friends I suddenly found myself in the world of grown-ups. It was nice.

Be careful of growing up too much though.
posted by bondcliff at 11:39 AM on October 20, 2004

Ditto pwb503 on buying a house. There's something about considering homeownership which gets your ass in gear. Also, I picked up a lot from Clayton Cramer's Wealth essay. It's all aboot the money.
posted by brownpau at 11:42 AM on October 20, 2004

question: are you single? or have you recently crossed a boundary where your friends have all moved on to another phase of life? I'll tell you that the moments where I feel the most pressure to "grow up" have to do with when I feel like most single women aren't going to look at me unless I buy a house, wear adult clothing, affect adult concerns, etc. Or when all my friends spend time on these things. I feel like the rules have changed now that I've crossed the 30 boundary, and being the wide-eyed boy with a sense of wonder and play just doesn't cut it. I suspect this is partly an illusion, but it doesn't stop me from feeling the pressure.

This isn't to say that it isn't good to build a savings account, buy health insurance, obtain land. I just suspect that sometimes growing up well has to do with balancing those kinds of wise, material choices with finding and keeping the group of people who allow you to be yourself, including, to some degree, your childlike or youthful self.
posted by weston at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2004

What worked for me: get into debt over your head by acting irresponsibly, then panic once you realize what you've done and dig yourself out over the course of several years.
posted by kindall at 11:47 AM on October 20, 2004

apparently that's no good for an adult...

Apparently to whom? I appreciate that you want to make a change in your life, but be sure you're making it for good reasons [and because you believe a change is necessary] and not because you're getting some sort of outside pressure. Think about what you'd like, what you're not getting now, and how to get from point A to point B. Split the transition into workable steps. It's easy to start with "I need a job. I don't have a job. I'll never get a job. I give up" and less easy to say "I need a job. I need to apply for jobs. I need to hammer out a resume. I need to just start typing." At the end of the second path you have one small task you can manage and at the end of it, you're further along the path towards whatever it is that you want.

I agree with onhazier et. al, if you are meeting your obligations to yourself, your creditors, your significant other & friends [family hopefully but sometimes you can't please family] at you're age you're pretty much covering all bases. I feel pretty much like I'm an "adult" even though I've almost never held a full-time job, never had kids, never got [re]-married, etc. Some things that kicked me in the ass and helped me get here were
- moving to Eastern Europe for a yeah when I was about your age. Having to be someplace where the rules and language were different helped me get a bit more self-reliant and a bit more open minded about other people and cultures
- living with a group of folks in a community situation. sometimes you can't make yourself do things just for yourself, but you can if there are other people relying on you or expecting things from you. this can be a double-edged sword because communities can make you claustrophobic and reactionary, but if you find people you like that you WANT to be in a community with [shared apartment, collective job, volunteer organization] you'll have another reason to work towards your goals
- helping someone else. there's nothing to make you feel like you've got it together better than helping someone or something who doesn't.
- friends who would help keep me in line and not just accept my standard excuses and BS when I was dropping the ball on things. If there's someone who says "you said you were going to get more exercise LAST year" when you whine it again the second year [and can do it without being a total ass about it] that's a good friend. Share some of your concerns with people close to you and see if you can get in some sort of mutual improvement club going
You may just be feeling ootchy that you need to start getting something done, or start getting somewhere, which is also pretty normal at your age. It's a good time to set projects in motion towards that end like making a budget, evaluating your job/family/friends/SO, getting a haircut, buying a suit, running a marathon [which a really absurd amount of my friends did when they hit thirty], setting up a web site, creating an alter-ego, making a comic book, beginning a novel [nanowrimo coming up!] or whatever it is that you like. This is a good time to think to yourself "You know, I never did X..." and then think "oh wait, I'm still in my 20's I can do that Right Freaking Now"
posted by jessamyn at 12:10 PM on October 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

Don't mistake "grown up" for "not having fun." You can be an adult and have a blast.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:44 PM on October 20, 2004

On procrastination: I used to worry that I procrastinate too much. But then I realized something - everyone else does too (well, 90% or so), even people who are serious professional adults with long successful careers behind them. It seems to be something fairly basic about human nature. So you can try to procrastinate less, or learn to better gauge the amount you can procrastinate before a hard deadline and still make the deadline, but I don't think there's a way to stop altogether (unless you're one of the crazy 10%). I don't even think one should feel guilty about procrastinating some, if you can manage not to.

That said, if you find a way to like what you're doing (or not be afraid of it/nervous about it), you may find that you won't procrastinate about it nearly so much.
posted by advil at 2:31 PM on October 20, 2004

You don't have a "future," you have right now and then the next right now until you run out of right nows (it happens to all of us humans).

I can only speak from my experience, but I've found it incredibly empowering to really get in touch with what you value (the things/people/experiences YOU value NOT the ones that Dr. Phil might call "adult") and very concretely construct a vision of the life you want to lead and go lead it. As bonehead noted, this is about commitment.
Jessamyn is spot on about identifying morre tangible things to commit to and create . . . as you start finishing things you'll get momentum. But the biggest commitment is to a life you actively create each moment.

I'm no Zen master. I fuck around, fuck up, beat myself up, and enjoy all manner of dysfunction, but for the last six or so years I've had a calm and happiness pervade my life because I know myself better than ever before and am intentionally living my life.

Is my life "adult"? Depends on who you ask. To some of my friends I'm probably perceived as the most stable and even corporate (ick) guy they know. To others I'm a crazy, reckless free spirit living a barely responsible existence. And I don't give a shit what any of them think 'cause it's my life. If you ask me what it means to be an adult, I'd say it means knowing yourself and fearlessly creating your own life.
posted by donovan at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2004

Pretty much what everyone else has said here. What is an "adult"? Why do you feel you need to be one because you've reached a certain age? Why the feeling that being an "adult" is tantamount to giving up fun and excitement for a dreary life? This kind of thinking belongs to people who give up fun and excitement for a dreary life.
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:11 PM on October 20, 2004

Learn how to cook. Follow recipes, or take a cooking class. Commit to cook good meals even when you're just cooking for yourself.

You will start to plan, budget, comparison shop, search out and try recipes. You'll also wow potential girlfriends/boyfriends, which will lead to other "adult" behaviors.
posted by jasper411 at 3:26 PM on October 20, 2004

You get to choose what you want to do with your life. That's what being an adult is. Find what you like, dislike and don't care about. May I suggest occasionally eating ice cream for breakfest as a start? It's a good way to assert your adulthood, break stereotypes, think outside the box, and synergize multi-directional paradigms and many other clichés.

Kick your own ass.
posted by bakiwop at 4:07 PM on October 20, 2004

I like who I am (hey, been that way for 10 years!)

I think you answered your own question. If you like YOU, then no one else should have a problem. It is YOUR life. Live it the way that you want. There's always time to buy a house down the road (although that's not a bad idea).

I reinvent myself every 3 - 5 years. I don't think that makes me immature. Instead it makes me a chance-taker.

What I do is figure out a goal. Let's say paying off my student loans. Then I figure out how to do it and work towards that goal. I have a big sense of accomplishment everytime that I make a goal. Perhaps you could try that strategy. Just pick one thing that you want or even better yet need to do and go for it.

Seriously, if you're supporting yourself, you're doing just fine. Don't change because you think that it's what's expected of you.
posted by Juicylicious at 4:52 PM on October 20, 2004

I cannot tell if what the world considers "happiness" is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness. —Chuang-tzu.
posted by rushmc at 5:47 PM on October 20, 2004

I was 27 once or twice and "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now". This seems to be the main theme song of my life.

I'm 48 (and a half) and honestly feel younger than I did at 27. Of course I felt about 82 then...

Just make sure you're having fun at whatever you do, or at least leave it at the door when you leave work. You can stay young and still be a 'responsible adult', trust me!
posted by kamylyon at 6:29 PM on October 20, 2004

I would suggest that the first thing you might want to seek is an external, non-self-directed goal - obviously, since it's your goal, it will have to do with you, but it should be bigger than just you. Something to aspire to or work towards.

What it should be, I can't tell you, except that probably it's not going to be a kid.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:38 PM on October 20, 2004

This question itself is, sadly, on the wrong track. You need to narrow down and focus on practical goals and how to meet them, not sit and blabber about vague, undefined concepts like "growing up." What exactly do you mean? What do you want to do with your life? I know the question is meant well and I hope that answer doesn't sound too mean. You seem full of some vague inspiration to get yourself together. That's great, but it's a feeling that will pass. Do one tangible thing before you go to bed tonight, and you will have accomplished more than all the grandiose rhetoric in the world.

Here's a tip someone once gave me:
Start thinking of your life in terms of 5 year plans. What do you want to do with the next 5 years? Get a degree, live abroad, climb Mt. Whitney, work your way up some career ladder, meet the woman of your dreams and get married, become a national-league marksman... WHATEVER.

The point is that 5 years is about the furthest into the future you CAN plan, since life in unpredictible. But if you don't plan further out than next year, you won't be able to accomplish anything really meaningful.

And the kicker is that once you sit down to do this planning, you very quickly realize that you don't have very many five-year chunks of time left to work with. 4-6? 10 at the absolute limit? Start by asking yourself what you accomplished the past 5 years, and if it was vital and necessary. Are you going to spend the next 5 any more wisely? How old will you be at the end of that 5 years? Feeling that kick in the ass yet?
posted by scarabic at 10:10 PM on October 20, 2004

But if you don't plan further out than next year, you won't be able to accomplish anything really meaningful.

And that, too, may be just fine for you.
posted by rushmc at 11:43 PM on October 20, 2004

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