These are, in my experience, essential rules for being a worthy and respected adult now-a-days. You're welcome to go off course, but you most likely won't have very many fans. And we all need people to like us, right?
1. Move out of your mom's basement. It's convenient, and free, and you can pass it off like you have your own space, but if you're over 24 and you want to look like you have your life together, don't tell people you still live in your mothers house. Or, if you decide to stay, do what I did and tell people that you live in your mom's house because your parents really need your help. That changes your image from freeloading loser to responsible, selfless adult. It really doesn't matter if it's true, your mom won't ever rat you out anyways.
2. Don't have kids while still living in your mother's house “helping” her. Especially not if you live in your brother's room, and you're married. Actually, a general rule for being a successful adult: don't be married and living in your parent's house. You'll catch a bad rep, I promise. If this is your scenario though, don't fret. Just tell people you're saving up to buy a house. You'll buy yourself some time and save your image. Again, responsible adult.
3. After high school, go to college. Immediately. Don't take a year off, don't consider your options, definitely don't just go get a job. Just go to college. And finish in four years. Five years is acceptable but six years means you're just messing around now. If you find yourself rounding that sixth year with no end in sight, add a baby to the mix. Then you get to blame it all on them and people think you're a.) an adult and b.) a really wonderful mother, er.. I mean, person.
4. I read a a sign outside of a daycare that said Children make your life important. If you find yourself climbing the twenties ladder and your life lacks importance, go ahead and have a kid. The truth is, you really need something important to happen at this crucial “quarter of your life gone” milestone. I actually didn't even realize my life lacked importance before I had kids until I read that sign. Then I realized, Wow, my life IS more important! Of course, your kid won't get the memo and he or she will treat you like any other regular adult tasked with the responsibility of the survival of their entire human life. But don't worry about that, having a kid will impress all the people out there who are judging the lack of importance in your life.
5. If you are trying to figure out what to study in college, stay away from the arts. Nothing in the world makes you look like less of an adult than art school. When people ask me what I'm studying, and I respond with “Photography”, their eyebrows furrow towards the center of their face and the upper lip on one side of their mouth perks up in mild disgust as their head jerks back revealing a tiny double chin. Then they remember I can see their face and it drops into a mildly amused smile as they politely respond, “oooh.... that's nice. As long as you finish school, that's what's important.” And the boldest adults and rudest peers keep their disgust face on and say “You don't need a degree for photography!”
Take it from me, if you're trying to be respected and loved by society, avoid art school at all costs.
6. I was offered a job on the spot at a used kids clothing store once but I couldn't take it. I had organized all of the clothes I was purchasing by size, color, and type, and had taken all 60 hangers off before I reached the counter and had organized those type as well. The lady practically begged me to work there part time but I had to say no. I was over 25 and it was retail. No way, Jose. Avoid retail after 25, God forbid an ex walk in and see you ringing people up! It doesn't matter if you're making money and providing for your family! Pass that opportunity right up.
7. In order to really pull off being an adult, you're going to have to change some outward things about yourself. No self respecting, almost 30 year old, buys clothes from the same stores they did as a 22 year old. Ripped up jeans? What are you, 5? Crop tops? Converse? Baggy clothes? Leather pants? Get rid of it all. T-shirts with designs, garbage. Funky jewelry, useless. Shorts, mini-skirts, leather jackets, wrist bands, basketball shoes.... none of that is necessary where you're headed. Straight to the professional aisles, grab those solid color blouses and high waist-ed jeans. Lace up your running shoes and throw on a rain coat. White socks and cotton underwear, pale nail polish and brown bobby pins, black leather gloves and earth toned winter coats. Dresses that accent your sophistication, and shoes that soothe your sole. Down with the young, in with the old, it's time to show the world who you really are. It's time to dress your age!
8. One more thing I'll say about adulthood, and that's the end of my list. If you want to be an adult, you need to change inside. This is the tricky one and the one most people struggle with. When you were a kid, you talked like a kid and ate like a kid and acted like a kid. But now that you're an adult, you have to change all of that. Your vocabulary, your interests, your food preferences. It all needs to go. You need to start prioritizing, and making lists. Lists to remember the things you can't help but forget, and lists to remember the things you have to do. Lists for your kids and lists about lists.
Running through lawns is a thing of the past, now you mow them. Sprinklers and snow fights and tree climbing and endless conversations, those are for the young. You have better things to do, like clean your house, cook brown rice and spinach, pay your bills and call the doctor, customer service and the electrician. You don't have time to sleep in late, you need to go exercise in a gym, then wash your car, pay your mortgage and buy groceries.
Don't forget to cut the bushes, and clean the garbage can, fix the leak in the upstairs sink, wash your laundry and go to work. No time for endless laughter and playing on the couch, jumping on the bed or bathing until the water gets cold. Put down your books and pick up your tools. Your pillows are dirty, go buy new ones.
You like to draw? Get a job. You like to paint? Get a job. You like to tell stories? Go get a job. And then a house, and then a bigger house, and a family; But not because you share a love that can't help but grow, but because you should have a family. You're an adult. Then climb the corporate ladder and never look back down. Until you're old enough to have paid your debts and to own the adulthood you built for yourself. And then please, take a seat, by the window of opportunity, look on life and see it's beauty, and then never get up again.