Girl, you're a woman ALREADY so stop lazing around!
August 29, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Help me be a grown-up. I am turning 25 soon, and I'm beginning to realize that I don't really enjoy living like an irresponsible kid anymore!

So I've been out of college for almost two years, and working a full-time job for about a year (though I was only made permanent and given benefits a few months ago). And in most respects, I have not changed my lifestyle all that much.

I still live paycheck to paycheck, even though with my recent permanent job status I could afford to save $100-$300 a month if I was careful. I pay my loans on time, but I have a (small but irritating) credit card balance which I could have paid off by now if I'd been careful. I don't pursue my creative (and potentially monetarily rewarding) hobbies like writing and jewelry-making as much as I'd like to, because even though I like doing that stuff, it's so much easier to fuck around on the internet and/or go out with friends four times a week. I don't do time-consuming educational things I know I'd enjoy doing, things like re-learn math or learn a new language. I don't make an effort to get out and meet new and interesting people. I order out when I could cook. I procrastinate at work more than I ought to. I haven't made serious steps toward a fulfilling career, because my job isn't THAT bad and I still totally have time to figure out what I want to do! Only... do I?

I have been working on improving a lot of things. I've gone for medical checkups, which I used to avoid, and I'm even going to see a dermatologist about my adult acne (I've put this off for years and years). I've been working on not being a total slob- my floor has been clean for weeks! I've made my bed almost every day this month, which is unheard of! There are only like three dishes in the sink right now! I'm slowly working on changing my wardrobe from "broke student" to "hip 20something with a desk job". I started working out (have fallen off the horse on this one somewhat, but I'm getting back on it now). All of these changes are very recent. I never did ANY of this stuff in college!

Basically... I want to be a grown-up. I want to be someone who is considered responsible and capable both by by peers and by older adults, and I want to be always moving forward with my life- maybe not on a straight path, but always learning and growing and adding to my bank of valuable experiences (as well as to my actual bank!). And I want to be someone who it would be easy to share a life with. Who wants to get married to someone who can't even remember to clean the tub or save for a rainy day?

This is not to say I want to stop having fun, going out with my friends, being goofy and silly, and occasionally eating nothing but fancy cheese for dinner. Rather, I think I would enjoy all that stuff even more if I had a more stable, comfortable base for my life to rest on.

I'm pretty sure that, as quarter-life crises go, this is pretty mild. But still- what advice can you guys give me? How did you grown up?
posted by showbiz_liz to Grab Bag (37 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
I asked an almost identical question (albeit in somewhat, er, harsher circumstances) when I was 25, so hopefully there will be stuff in there that can help. Some of it helped me but I can't really point to one answer and say "that one!"
posted by griphus at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Haha, whoops- I searched 'adult' and 'grownup', but not 'adulthood'...
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:11 PM on August 29, 2012

Schedule things. If you enjoy fucking off and doing nothing, then set yourself a schedule, maybe one or two evenings per week, to work on "grown up" stuff. Do this outside of your home. If you like making jewelry, then go to a studio somewhere and make jewelry. Or volunteer at a homeless shelter. Or go to the library and study personal finance books.

Just schedule it, because then it's a standard part of your day instead of an option. If you rely on your day-to-day "I want to" internal monologue, it's much harder to accomplish.
posted by xingcat at 12:11 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I just realized one of the first answers was a link to yet another one of these questions. It's turtles all the way down.
posted by griphus at 12:12 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Growing up means making hard decisions that you don't want to make. It will require you to leave your comfort zone, to say things to people that are hard to say and will sometimes hurt people. Decisions that test your moral grounds and make you question how you live your life and how others live your life.

Growing up means sacrificing something in your life so that someone else's life is better. It means hurting now so that you won't hurt later. It's picking at scabs so that you'll heal.

Once you realize that being a mature adult isn't easy, then life as a mature adult gets a bit easier.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Notice the key number 25 in both the OP and the first response. The good news is that 25 is when most people start to grow up. It will probably happen without your doing much to make it happen, as shown by all the stuff you're starting to do now that you never did in college. If I were going to give you one piece of advice of though, I'd say do whatever you have to to get rid of that credit card debt. Credit card debt is really stupid. You will be so happy when you finally pay them off.
posted by ubiquity at 12:14 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

"how others live THEIR LIVES"
posted by HeyAllie at 12:14 PM on August 29, 2012

Time to set some goals. You know your interests, and you've mentioned a number of them. So start setting goals toward developing those interests. Have you ever learned at all about goal setting? In order to be a well-formed goal, your goals should be SMART.

I've really enjoyed using LifeTick for goal setting. It isn't fool-proof, and sometimes I get annoyed by daily reminders of the things that I should be doing to achieve my goals (I know! I know! Read an article from Le Monde! Listen to 30 minutes of Radio France! I GET IT!)

This comment of mine also seems relevant to you.
posted by jph at 12:14 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh! And if there's one thing that have really sort of put me closer into Grownup Territory it's tracking every penny. It's really not that hard: sign up for Mint, make a browser bookmark/get the app, and just check it when you're on the train or the can or wherever. You'll be able to see where your money is going and, hopefully, Responsibility Brain will eventually kick in to say "hey, remember all those charges for X? Chill out on that for a bit."
posted by griphus at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2012

Hate to tell you, but most grownups aren't learning that foreign language or whatever ambitious self-improvement project you've got in mind. At least not habitually. For the past several years, I've had one big project per year, but they're self-contained, not ongoing things (like maintaining competence in a foreign language). But I don't think that makes me an adult—if anything, some people would probably regard those projects as extravagant self-indulgences.

I suspect that a lot of growing up happens because you've backed yourself into a corner and you have no choice. You buy a house, and suddenly you've got to keep it up, so you've got less time and money for goofing off. You have a kid, and suddenly you've got no time or money for goofing.

Apart from that, being an adult means having the foresight to anticipate the consequences of your actions and taking responsibility for your actions. You clean up after yourself. You are good for your word. A part of becoming an adult for me (which, at 46, is a slow and ongoing process) has been developing more empathy. I still boggle internally when people turn to me as a responsible adult.
posted by adamrice at 12:16 PM on August 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

For 25, you sound like you are absolutely doing perfectly alright. Even so far as "yeah, that's about the time I started thinking I should be more grown-up too." What you are doing now, in terms of realizing "there are things I want to change," is just fine. What you should NOT be doing is beating yourself up because you think you should have started in with all of this by now and that everyone else is more of a grownup than you, because that's SO not the case. This also means that you don't have to stop having fun either, even after you do "grow up".

So I'd cut yourself a lot of slack first and forgive yourself for thinking that you're late to the party (because again, you are SO not) and pick ONE thing you want to change. You talk about a lot - your job, living paycheck-to-paycheck, working on hobbies, your credit card bill -- and trying to do all that at once is just gonna make you get all flaily. Instead, pick ONE thing and decide you're gonna tackle that first. Let's say - jewelry making. Put all the rest of the things you feel like you should worry about aside for the time being; it'll still be there. Now look at your jewelry making and figure out what would help you do more of it. Is it better supplies? More time? More energy? What would it take to do it?

Now, after thinking about this for a while you may realize that "huh, the reason I don't do much jewelry making any more is because I'm deep down feeling kind of sick of it right now." And that is perfectly okay - just pick another one single problem to do. Or, maybe you realie that the reason you don't do any of it is because you don't have enough money for supplies. So now you have to set jewelry making back on the pile and then go back to "not living paycheck to paycheck" as your one-problem-you're going to tackle. Or, maybe you realize that "wait, if my craft table were in here with the TV I could be making earrings while I'm watching Daily Show every night," and then all you have to do is move the craft table into the TV room and bam, problem solved.

But my point is, just pick ONE thing to work on and tackle at a time, rather than trying todo everything at once. And part of working on it and tackling it is deciding whether it actually is more important than everything else that you also value in your life, or whether another problem is standing in that one problem's way. That helps you figure out what to do first, and that's all you're realizing you need to do now - just like every grownup in the world, no matter how old they are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Eh, I was the queen of what you're describing. If I could go back in time and knock some sense into myself, here's what I'd tell me:

1. Don't let those pounds creep on! It's easier to take off 5 pounds than 50.

2. Keep with the working out, that's just great for future health!

3. Put the max in a 401(k) and if you can't do the max, do SOMETHING. Retirement will be here quicker than you realize and even a bit in a retirement account now will be a huge lump in the future.

4. Don't get in debt. It's a horrible, horrible cycle that will steal money from you.

5. Don't go out all the damn time. It's expensive and when you look back on your life you'll think, "Shit, I could have put a great down payment on a house for all the money I spent on tequila and sushi."

6. Discuss finances with friends and come up with creative ways to have fun together that don't involve spending money in bars and restaurants. My girlfriends and I hosted dinner and stupid TV one night a week. We rotated it, but you could do potluck. Easy on the wallet, and WAY more fun that screaming at each other in a bar.

7. You don't need as many clothes and shoes as you think. Just like mindless spending, you'll regret all the dough you spend on clothes. Get a few key pieces and funky accessories. You don't need a new outfit for every date you go on.

8. Always be on the lookout for "Job Charming". Just because you're happy now, doesn't mean that there isn't an amazing opportunity out there for you. Keep your resume up to date. The best time to find a new job is when you have a job.

9. If anyone offers to train you on something new, jump at it. Volunteer to take on new projects, user test new systems. No one ever regretted being the guru on the new computer program.

10. Don't be on Birthday Cake and Christmas Party patrol. You may enjoy doing all the frilly shit to get cake on plates and organize the party, but it's that nonsense that keeps you down. Let Sarah in finance do it. You have bigger fish to fry.

11. Don't take work so seriously. Don't screw around, but this is not your hope of heaven. Do your work, act professionally and keep your mouth shut in meetings. It took me decades to realize that they didn't need me to point out why the new process was shit. All would be revealed soon enough. Don't be Pandora.

12. A fat savings account is the difference between being afraid and timid and feeling safe and secure. I've lived on the edge way too much because of not having enough in savings. Don't be me.

You're doing fine! Just asking the question shows good sense.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:25 PM on August 29, 2012 [41 favorites]

I'd watch out for taking on too many self projects at once. What helps me is to pick my top two priorities, and then focus on creating habits for those two priorities for about two or three months.

Once it becomes habit - i.e., does not require significant brain power to maintain - then pick the next two priorities.

I'd pick getting your finances in order* and continuing with the working out first, personally. They tend to give the most "I'M A REAL BOY!!!" pay off feelings.

*in order: less than 30% on housing, 20% for savings, 50% for everything else.
posted by skrozidile at 12:35 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I learned how to balance a checkbook by bouncing checks! I mistakenly added in a check once instead of subtracting it, and my older sister had to explain why it was a double error (depositing money that wasn't there and writing a check for it to pay a bill!). After that, I was vigilant about checking my balance against outstanding checks (or online bill payments).

Why not just scale back the outings to 2-3 times and set up an automatic $25 a week (or more, depending on your budget) into a savings account?

I worked for a credit card company once, and they made millions on interest a month and this was almost 20 years ago, so you are adding to their profit! So please, please, strive to pay that puppy off and then take said card and put it in a baggie of water and freeze it. Then you'll have it for emergencies but not just whenever you want a new toy or outfit, etc. I'm thinking car repairs, dental work that's not covered under insurance, things like that. Because credit cards = high interest LOANS, not extra cash for whatever. Start thinking of them like that, and if some dude walked up to you and said, "hey, I'll loan you $1,000 and you can pay me back $3,000 over three years," would you do it? Or would you rather save $25 a week and end up with $1,200 in the bank at the end of the year?

As above, pick one thing to work on, so you aren't getting overwhelmed in "I have to speak French while finishing this diamond tiara for Bride of the Month while I dictate my novel in my spare time!" The twenties are for enjoying yourself, no one has a magic wand to turn themselves into a grown up overnight, you're on the right track!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:35 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've begun the same process you have, and two things that have worked for me:
1) The only clothes I'm allowed to buy are presentable, fit PERFECTLY and will last a long time. This prevents me from buying crap. (although I did just buy an unreasonable amount of dinosaur flannel to make a shirt out of...oops!) That way, I save money (by not splurging on things I don't need, and never buying low quality clothes) and get the bonus of having a rockin' adult wardrobe! But I don't make myself get rid of the ratty and threadbare much loved dirtbag clothes, I just gradually phase them out.
2) Planning planning planning. Scheduling. Five year plans. Five minute plans.

Also, buying good beer makes me feel much more grown up whenever I do get silly with friends. Nothing like PBR to make you feel like a childish college kid.
posted by Grandysaur at 12:36 PM on August 29, 2012

The advice I would have given myself at 25 is to set up a savings plan on an auto deduction from your bank account. Whip 10% or whatever straight out of there into hard to get to account. That is your safety net with that your life will be better, the sun will shine a little more and the shit and stress level in your life will be a little less. OK maybe not at first but once you have a bit saved up things really do seem less stressful, health issues you have the money, job sucks you have a buffer if you decided to change jobs, suddenly want to go to Italy you can go.
posted by wwax at 12:39 PM on August 29, 2012

*in order: less than 30% on housing, 20% for savings, 50% for everything else.

The OP is in NYC, so while that's a good idea, 30% on housing is a little paltry for these parts.
posted by griphus at 12:47 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

The billfold is a good blog to read for this stuff. I think "post-college making the difficult transition to actual adult life" is their target audience. Here are two posts that come at what it means to be an adult thing from two different angles:

what it means to save
Girls and the hot mess
posted by subtle-t at 12:47 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

The OP is in NYC, so while that's a good idea, 30% on housing is a little paltry for these parts.

Haha, yep- if we're going by income after taxes and loan repayment, I'm somewhere around 38% and I feel pretty lucky!
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:57 PM on August 29, 2012

Great advice on finances, lifestyle. My advice: relax. Relaxxxxx. You have an awful lot of years of being a grown-up ahead of you. It's pretty much all you'll be doing from now until you're partying it up Golden Girls style in Miami in your seventies.

I'm not advocating being irresponsible. Not at all. I'm just say, it doesn't all have to happen at once. Becoming an adult is a process. I tried forcing it unnaturally in my twenties only to have my perfect life blow up in my face. I was back at square one at 28, and I can say that even returning to being a (graduate) student and shedding myself of the artificial adult lifestyle I made for myself, I feel more like an adult at 31 than I did at 25, even though my life looked more grown-up at 25. So, it's a feeling more than anything, and you can't force a feeling.

But I'm totally for the practical stuff of learning about yourself, your hobbies, making a schedule, getting finances in order. But, if you don't want to make your bed every day, if it doesn't make you warm and fuzzy and is just a pain in the ass, don't do it! Enjoy lazy behavior while it's still somewhat socially acceptable.
posted by peacrow at 1:04 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't pursue my creative (and potentially monetarily rewarding) hobbies like writing and jewelry-making as much as I'd like to, because even though I like doing that stuff, it's so much easier to fuck around on the internet and/or go out with friends four times a week. I don't do time-consuming educational things I know I'd enjoy doing, things like re-learn math or learn a new language.


This is my biggest regret from my 20's. I pissed away YEARS waking up and going to work and coming home and dicking around and then going to bed and starting all over. I felt really virtuous about all this, too, because at least I had a job, at least I was on time and well rested and was a good friend and paid my bills and all the other stuff.

Meanwhile, all my friends and colleagues were developing interests, doing what they really wanted to someday be doing with their lives, and taking classes to further build skills and networks. Now I'm in my early 30's and not where I'd like to be, simply because I was lazy and didn't do anything much in my free time.

I don't think you should force yourself to do things you don't enjoy out of some kind of misplaced "idle hands" sentiment. But if there are things you always figured you'd do "someday", please know that someday is NOW. Start that blog. Write that novel. Learn Italian. Get certified to teach yoga. Open that Etsy shop. Even if it means maybe still living paycheck to paycheck for a little bit, or ordering dinner in. That stuff can wait, assuming you're not living way beyond your means. You can make money in the future. You can join a gym sometime down the road. But you can't get these years back.
posted by Sara C. at 1:09 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah, that is a pretty low rent percentage for NYC.

Think about what you spend your money on each month. You don't necessarily have to account for each and every dollar, but from time to time assess what you've bought and whether it's worth it. For instance, I have found that I really enjoy spending my recreational money on food and cocktails and sometimes concerts. I don't go out to movies often, or take cabs really ever, or go clothes shopping that often; the money I don't spend on those things can go into getting a couple drinks at a speakeasy on the weekend, or eating at a restaurant.

Many people, including a lot of my friends, are really into using credit cards for every purchase. But I find that I'm much happier if I withdraw money from the ATM a couple times a week and pay for everyday items that way. I have more of a visceral sense of how much money I'm spending, and I don't suddenly lose a large chunk of it when it's time to pay off a credit card bill.

Speaking of friends: don't beat yourself up for going out with friends a lot! I mean, don't hang out with people who you think are bad influences or anything, but having friends is an important part of an adult life, too! If you're worried you're sacrificing your creative life to your social life, maybe set aside one or two nights a week to take up your hobbies. You could try looking for classes in jewelry-making, for instance (maybe at Third Ward?), or a writers' group, if that would help keep you on topic.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:13 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Many people, including a lot of my friends, are really into using credit cards for every purchase. But I find that I'm much happier if I withdraw money from the ATM a couple times a week and pay for everyday items that way.

This is a good idea for paying off your CC debt, but not so much a good idea after you've got a clean record. If you switch from credit cards to this method, OP, keep in mind that you're giving up the benefit of building credit by making regular, in-full and on-time CC payments. If you don't have self-control issues w/ spending on a credit card -- some people do, some people don't; it's not a judgement call and we're not all Good With Money -- you ought to keep using the card as your primary purchasing-method in order to build/improve your credit after you pay the card off.
posted by griphus at 1:19 PM on August 29, 2012

Hi, my name is Liz. I'm 27 years old, and I'm a grownup. Here's what I do!

-Schedule your life. Work events, personal events, even your hobbies, gym time, and/or house chores. You don't have to get really strict, especially if you find yourself feeling trapped by a fully scheduled life, but I find that having reminders pop up on my phone when it's time to get my ass out of the house for the gym or when it's time do the laundry is helpful for actually getting things done. Discipline is what you're after here, and if it doesn't come naturally to you, this is one way to get into the habit and learn it.

-Similar to the above recommendation: prioritize your time. I don't make my bed. I think it's a stupid thing to do since no one else is going to see it except for me and my husband, and we're just going to mess it up again anyway. You know what I do instead? Floss. Flossing definitely makes me feel like an adult, probably for stereotypical reasons, but that's not really the point. The point is that I like my teeth and I have a disease that can cause oral health problems, so flossing is something I need to do. There are a lot of little things that people (or society) think you need to do. The fun part about being adult is that you get to choose what's important and necessary for you. Just be deliberate and responsible about your choices. Self-harming choices are always bad ones. But if you have clothes on your floor sometimes, so what? I do, and trust me, I'm an adult.

-Think about your future and remember your past. Literally and figuratively. Example one: If you have budget concerns, try using for a few months to see where your money is going and make adjustments. If having access to your money means spending it, change your direct deposit so that part of your pay goes directly into a savings account that is not attached to your normal debit card checking account. You can do the same for credit cards, too. Example two: If you are trying to hit the gym in the morning, but you always hit snooze, change your schedule so you can go to the gym after work. Sure, you may have to eat something at work toward the end of your day and have a light dinner after, but who cares? You are accomplishing what you need to accomplish to be happy.

-Don't go out all the time! This one is personal, but I truly feel that a ton of socialization during the week is a wreck on my life. I tend to skip out on almost all of my responsibilities in these cases because there is only so much time in the day! Not to mention how expensive it is. However: I have some social groups, most of which already include good friends, that function as work groups. One of them is a writing group. We meet every other Sunday to discuss each others' work, and during the week we'll sometimes meet at a coffee shop to write. Not a ton of talking, just all meeting in one place and working on our hobby. The same can be said for fitness groups. Many of my friends will run with each other. Two birds, one stone, yada yada.

-Set goals. This is where the "why bother?" question comes in. Why am I doing things like saving my money or going to the gym? Well, I save my money so I can move to the west coast, travel, and build a house. I go to the gym because I want to be able to do 100 push-ups on command or carry around my husband for kicks. This is for you to decide, and they can be fuzzy back-of-your-mind goals or concrete, Google-spreadsheet-graphs-and-charts goals. You may find one better than the other for different things. If you are a writer and you want to write 5,000 words a week, throw your deadlines on the calendar. If you want to travel to Rome next year, check around for prices and create saving goals for each thing, like flights, hotels, even fancy dinners and spa visits. Find ways to inspire yourself.

I think most of my things come down to being deliberate about your choices. Young people frequently don't think about the consequences of the things they do. One of the most crystal-clear "I'm an adult!" points in my life was the day my husband and I went through our budget for the whole year, including car insurance, renter's insurance, and other once-a-year big payments and actually budgeted them out in advance. Another was when I was flossing once and thinking about the house I'd like to build someday. Those moments are weird.
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:20 PM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

griphus is right--I should add that I do put some purchases on credit cards each month, but probably less than 20% of my total expenditures. I pay off the bill on time each month.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:20 PM on August 29, 2012

And while you can get by basically your entire life here with shitty/nonexistant credit and not have too many problems, it's still worthwhile to build it up. If you ever leave, you'll need a car (which will require a loan as a beater is more expensive in the long run), and renting for life makes sense here, but very few places otherwise.
posted by griphus at 1:22 PM on August 29, 2012

If you ever leave, you'll need a car (which will require a loan as a beater is more expensive in the long run)

This is another thing.

All those things you're not doing because everything seems so far in the future, or maybe like it will never apply to you?

Watch out for that.

Says the woman who has taken two years to move out of New York mainly because she figured she'd never want to leave and didn't have any of the particulars in place for the fuzzy "someday" possibility that she'd eventually relocate.
posted by Sara C. at 1:34 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things I wish I had known at 25:

- the important middle ground between "start working out now and never stop" and "sit on your ass all day eating cake"

- show up for shit on time, every time
posted by elizardbits at 2:02 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

The number one thing that will preserve your ability to do all of these things is financial security. I'm not saying become totally obsessed with having and making money, but keep in mind that if you do want to learn a language, travel, start your own business, take a risk, you will need money.

So, the best way to motivate yourself to save money is to have a goal in mind, and "paying off credit card" is sort of a shitty and unfun goal. What do you want your life to be like in 10 years? How much income and savings will that take? This kind of thinking will help motivate your small everyday decisions. Without goals, you'll just flop along, feeling vaguely bad about it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:16 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm 25 and one of my growing-up projects this year is Dealing With Accumulated Stuff Responsibly: getting all my belongings out of my parents' homes, giving away books and clothes I won't use again, recycling useless college papers, filing saved paper into folders in a box, finding a new home for my semi-usable old laptop, etc.

You might have already done all this, or it might be totally impractical at your stage of life. It's just something that will make me feel more grown-up when I'm done.
posted by dreamyshade at 7:12 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

OMG ALSO - don't waste your time with people who are selfish in bed. DO NOT DO IT.
posted by elizardbits at 7:32 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel like a grown-up because I'm better at knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Earlier in my 20s, I would say yes to EVERYTHING and kept an infinitely flexible schedule. I experienced a lot, sure, but I also spent a lot of time in bars, drinking beer when I was tired and yelling at people I'd rather not talk to. Also, my interests and plans were entirely dependent on the whims of others.

The best way to say no to something is to have something else to which you say yes. For instance, last weekend I had nothing planned for Sunday. I know that an unplanned day usually leads to hours of internet and a mad scramble for dinner once I'm hungry. So, I decided I would make tamales! I bought the ingredients the day before and had a vague plan in mind.

That day at noon, an acquaintance called out of the blue and asked if I would do a mud run with him. It sounded fun and like the thing I would have jumped on years before, but I had a plan, so I said no and I did not feel bad about it.

So, yeah, have something in mind for your day. Then you have a compelling reason to not go out 4 nights a week, and as a bonus, you can have food for the next few weeks (hypothetically speaking if you like ridiculous cooking projects.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:04 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just turned 30 and I think about this a lot.

One of the things that makes me feel grown-up is getting my finances in order. I'm not yet debt-free, but things have improved to the point where I have some savings and card companies are increasing my credit limits all over the shop. Five years ago, I'd be on the phone to them the week before payday pleading for an increase so I could buy bread/a pretty dress - usually the latter. I've been changing my wardrobe, got my teeth seen to, and other things that need to be done. What's left is changing my housing situation from sharing to co-habiting, but that's to come, and there's still some adult-type work to be done there like paring down belongings. (If cohabitation wasn't on the cards I'd be looking to rent alone - there comes a point where you can't be yourself as much as you'd like with strangers around.)

This is not to say I want to stop having fun, going out with my friends, being goofy and silly, and occasionally eating nothing but fancy cheese for dinner. Rather, I think I would enjoy all that stuff even more if I had a more stable, comfortable base for my life to rest on.

This is the bit that feels relevant to me just now. I'm in the process of stripping back extraneous stuff from my life - possessions, but also habits and ideas - in order to invite room for the new. The trick seems to be getting rid of the outdated then stick to a routine to make life easier, but I'm still working on the first part at the moment.
posted by mippy at 9:40 AM on August 30, 2012

Also, what sometimes makes me feel like An Adult is spending money on boring but necessary things. Yesterday I bought a magic eraser thing and some carpet cleaner. Five years ago, I'd have spent that money on a vaguely disappointing magazine and ice-cream. It's probably a big metaphor for something.
posted by mippy at 9:42 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another 25 year old here with the same issues. I'm a person who naturally hates planning, but I find that the more detailed scheduling I do, the more I actually accomplish. I'll keep a notepad on my desk at work and compile a To Do list throughout the workday of what I need or want to do when I get home... like I said get super detailed, I even put the approximate goal time that I want to do it so I keep myself chuggin. The last task is always the fun thing I wrap up my night with, and its nice to go to sleep knowing you actually got something done.

Conversely, after-work happy hours are my worst enemy. I end up coming home at 10pm and going to sleep. So rather than being productive/saving money/exercising, I spent money and ate a ton of fried food.

I never realized how much time the boring necessity stuff takes out of your life. If you don't schedule it into your day you'll never do it. Trust me thats what the last 3 years have been like for me and it just adds stress when things pile up. Laundry... oh you son of a bitch.
posted by el_yucateco at 10:47 AM on August 30, 2012

I could have written this question. I'm also in my 20s, and I can hold down a job and pay my rent on time and over the last year or so I've actually started using my newly minted health insurance to get my eyes and teeth and everything in order, but I still spend way too much money at bars and spend way too much time dicking around on the internet and I sleep on my couch because when I moved 2 months ago, I didn't bother to buy a bed to replace the one that had been in my old furnished apartment. So I understand the gap between having achieved all the formal trappings of adulthood, while still feeling like you're a teenager whose parents are out of town permanently.

With regards to cleaning/house maintenance, I found this schedule remarkably helpful. It's basically a 30-day rotation of chores to spend 20 minutes on each day, which mitigates a lot of the "I don't want to how about instead I read Metafilter and call it cleaning lololol" factor for me. Not everything on the list will be necessarily applicable to your situation (ex. "Clean entryway, sweep porch (if you have one), clean out car"), but just swap those out for whatever room/area needs it most that day.) You will probably occasionally miss a day from being tired, or going out, or because you just forgot. Add that time to another day. Put on music while you do it, and you might even start to look forward to it, just a little.

Cooking: maintain a list of recipes you want to try, and a corresponding shopping list. It's a lot easier to motivate yourself to cook if you've spent some time thinking about what you actually want to eat on some night and how delicious it will be.

Pick one new hobby or external endeavor at a time, and stick with it for a bit before trying to add more stuff. If you can afford it (in time and money), an actual class or club or meeting group is a good external motivator as far as hobbies/working out/meeting people goes.

You'll fall down on some or all of these things sometimes. Everyone does. Don't fret about it too much, just gradually reintroduce yourself to good habits. (At the moment, I'm doing terribly with every single thing I've mentioned in this post, though the bar thing has stopped and cooking has started back up because I'm shorter than usual on money this month.)
posted by kagredon at 12:28 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am 28 and not feeling particularly expert at running a life yet, but I did some cognitive behavioral therapy recently in which my counselor emphasized that our goal was to align my behaviors/actions/thoughts with my values. I went beyond her guidance a bit and actually wondered, "What are my values, anyway?" and committed some to a document I maintain and re-visit in hopes of clarifying and simplifying the matter. Based on some random hand-out she gave me, I listed some values for each of these categories: Home & Community, Career, Finance, Health, Friends & Family, Romance, Personal Growth, Fun & Recreation. I also made sure I identified some of the oddball, harmful, or conflicting "values" I was trying to hold (e.g. "avoid social situations" under Career....turns out I merely thought this would make things easier, or better).

Hand in hand with that idea, another thing she emphasized to me (that I continue to have trouble intuiting) was that if something works, and meets the values criteria....what's the problem with letting it be? For instance, your floor is clean and your dishes are done. Presumably you can now move around without damaging yourself or your belongings, and you can feed yourself comfortably, but perhaps you're thinking you wish it were even cleaner. Why? Does your semi-clean home support your lifestyle the way it is? Do you value having time to spend on making jewelry or relaxing more than you value spending another hour cleaning to know that the top of your bookshelf passes the white glove test? Or do you have a table that needs clearing to support the crafting habit you covet?

It definitely sounds to me like there are some legitimate conflicts between where you are and where you would really, truly, like to be. But also, you mention some things I think you could de-prioritize based on finding out in your heart of hearts that you feel as ready for the day as you need to be after taking a shower in your sketchy tub that no one else has seen lately anyway, and I think sorting out your particulars is also part of "being a grown-up."
posted by zizania at 7:25 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

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