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You’re Not Alone In This: 15 Hard Adulting Truths.

You’re Not Alone In This: 15 Hard Adulting Truths. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

As a therapist, I’m privileged to be invited into the hearts and minds of many people.

And one thing I’ve come to believe over the years of my work as a therapist is this: We’re all struggling with adulting in some way.

But most of us believe that no one else is having quite as hard of a time as us.

And yet that’s just not true; most of us are struggling with the same kinds of issues and feeling just as challenged.

Because life can feel really hard sometimes. And adulting is just not that easy.

But often shame, isolation, or lack of outlets to safely and vulnerably bring this up — the fact that adulting isn’t easy for us — can leave many of us feeling lonely and defeated.

You’re Not Alone In This: 15 Hard Adulting Truths. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

You’re Not Alone In This: 15 Hard Adulting Truths.

So today I want to share 15 hard adulting truths that I think most of us wrestle with based on my experience as a therapist (and as a fellow human). 

My hope in sharing these is that you might feel less alone in your particular struggles and maybe just a bit more self-compassionate, knowing what you’re dealing with is normal and natural for most of us.

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You’re Not Alone In This: 15 Hard Adulting Truths.

1. Adulting is hard for most of us sometimes (or a lot of the time).

Between commutes, work demands, student loan debt and daycare expenses, the pressures of dating or marriage or children, let alone remembering to keep toilet paper and olive oil stocked in your house (thank goodness for you, Amazon Prime!), the responsibilities of an adult life can often feel overwhelming, stressful, and chaotic – making you feel like you’re just barely cobbling it together as you go along.

When you add onto this any anxiety, depression, unresolved childhood trauma, or health challenges that you may be dealing with, adulting can feel especially hard. If you’re feeling like the only one having a hard time with being an adult and making it in the world, you’re not. It’s hard for most of us sometimes (or a lot of the time).

2. There comes a point where you have to grieve the paths you didn’t take.

There may be a day (or days) when you wake up and look around at your life and wonder how you got here, wonder what happened to those dreams you had back in your post-college 20’s, wonder how you ended up single or partnered to the partner you have.

As we age and make choices, doors close to us that had previously been open. There may come a time when you see the doors that are no longer available to you and become sad and frustrated about the paths you didn’t take. It’s perfectly normal and natural to feel this way!

Your life is a sum of your choices up to this point and while it doesn’t mean you can’t make different choices moving forward, there may some paths that aren’t choices anymore and you have every right to grieve those.  

3. None of us are experts in romantic relationship; we’re all novices.

Even if you had the most wonderful, healthy, functional relationship models in your parents, it can still feel like a struggle to figure out how to be in a long-term romantic relationship. And if you lacked healthy relationship models, it can often feel harder.

Most of us know how to fall in love, how to be infatuated, how to daydream over new love, but when the fires of passion die down, most of us struggle with what comes next: how to cohabitate with another human being day after day, year after year, trying to love them, trying to resolve differences while putting up with all their quirks, preferences, triggers, temperament difference, weird noises, etc..

We all struggle in our relationships from time to time. We are all novices. If you’re struggling right now to find, keep, heal, or cope with your romantic relationship, I guarantee you that you’re not alone.

4. Life is mostly composed of really mundane stuff.

Between the highlight reel of Facebook and Instagram are the never-posted snapshots of real daily life: laundry on the floor, dishes in the sink, fights in the kitchen, mail piles and unwritten thank you cards, end of the day brain-dead exhaustion, painful chore dates with bills and budget, constantly picking up the clutter from the rooms of your house.

I think a lot of us in adulthood are surprised by just how much mundanity life is composed of! It’s not that this stuff can’t be beautiful or even special – it absolutely can be. But if you’re saddened that real life doesn’t feel more like a social media highlight reel, this daily mundanity will likely feel doubly hard.

Please don’t beat yourself up over this believing that everyone else is having better sex, keeping a cleaner house, better managing their finances and pantries with plenty of time and money left over for travel and adventures. It’s likely not true. Most of our lives are filled with mundanity. It just doesn’t make it onto social media.

5. Being an adult can feel really lonely sometimes.

It doesn’t matter if you’re partnered or single, loneliness can find you in either of those contexts. And loneliness can feel so hard. It’s a constant tension we navigate as humans, longing to be in contact but ultimately being separate and trying to cope with this often painful reality.

So whether you’re in conflict with loved ones or colleagues, circumstantially isolated or isolating yourself, loneliness is a far more common adult experience than what you may imagine based on sitcoms, social posts, or even what you one-day imagined life may feel like. Take heart if you feel lonely. This is one of the key tasks we all must face as humans.

6. It’s often harder to make friends as an adult.

I wrote a whole article about this not too long ago, but I’ll reiterate: Many of us feel sad or confused by how much harder it can feel to find and make friends as an adult. I say this not to diminish the challenges you may personally be having with this, but rather to normalize your experience. This seems to be a struggle for a lot of us in our late twenties and thirties and onward.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course, and, in my experience, it takes a combination of emotional and logistical work to do so (something we didn’t have to do when we were all lumped into dorms together), but it’s totally doable.

7. Double binds, tradeoffs, and hard choices get more common.

For many of us, life begins to feel more complex as we adult. Decisions that seemed easier when we were younger are no longer so black and white. Choices — about who and if to marry, where to plant roots, what job to take, to have or not have kids, how to spend money you may or may not have — take on an added complexity as we likely assume more responsibility and gravity in our lives.

We may have more freedom as adults, but with it comes its attendant responsibility and this — the responsibility and hard choices — can often feel quite challenging for many of us.

8. Every career – even your dream career – comes with drawbacks.

No matter how wonderful your job or career, no matter how carefully you plotted and crafted it, every career comes with drawbacks. Be it mundanity in the administration of it all, the commute you have to make to get to your dream job, the time away from your family, the vulnerability of putting yourself out there and risking rejection, every job and career on the planet comes with some tradeoffs (see point #7) and that’s okay. You will have to find the set of tradeoffs you’re most willing to tolerate when crafting and pursuing the job or career you want.

9. You’re not alone if you don’t feel close to or want to have contact with your family.

Contrary to what religious institutions have promulgated for the last 2,000+ years, you don’t have to feel close to or have contact with your family if it’s not healthy, safe, or fulfilling for you to do so. Period.

You get to define what family means to you (and this may or may not include being blood-related or raised with them) and you get to craft your own family of choice as an adult. This isn’t something we talk about too often in society so sometimes many of us can feel alone in the struggle of being part of or removing ourselves from a family system we don’t want to be in. If you’re struggling with this issue, know that you’re not alone and please consider exploring my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries. It is filled with resources and tools to help you navigate hard families. Also, read this, and this, and this, and most definitely this.

10. It’s up to us to craft a life of meaning and fulfillment. It’s not just going to appear.

It becomes our responsibility as adults to define what gives our life meaning. No one else can tell us what this will be or look like.

This is singularly your responsibility and the enormity of that can sometimes feel hard to figure out for most of us. If you feel lost and are struggling to find your path and define what gives your life meaning, remember that you’re in good (and vast) company.

11. You can love your loved ones and resent them at the same time.

You can love your spouse, partner, kiddos, friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc. and still resent them or have hard feelings towards them at the same time. Life is not either/or, it’s both/and. And so are our emotions.

Often the people who we love the most will be the ones that trigger us the most, too. So if you’re struggling with even allowing yourself to feel your feelings of resentment, etc. towards the people you love, understand that that’s okay and it’s normal and natural.

It may, of course, be a clue or signal about something you need or want to shift or address in that relationship, but it certainly doesn’t make you a “bad” wife/mother/sister/friend/colleague if you’re experiencing a both/and feeling. And please remember, there’s no such thing as a “bad” feeling.

12. Adulting involves a lot of unlearning and relearning when it comes to food, money, sex, and relationships.

We don’t come into this world pre-programmed like computers. We form in relationship to those around us and we learn what we’re modeled (whether that’s intentional or not).

Because of this, we come to develop certain kinds of patterns and behaviors around food, money, sex, and relationships from those early experiences. And, for many of us, those patterns we learned may one day stop working so well (if they ever did at all!). So then adulthood becomes a journey of unlearning those older patterns and relearning newer, possibly more functional habits. This includes setting boundaries, which can help you feel like a grounded, empowered adult when communicating in tough situations.

If you feel frustrated or overwhelmed with the fact that you’re still learning how to date or manage your money or understand sex, join the club. Most of us in adulthood are in a constant journey to unlearn and relearn patterns around these and so many other subjects.

13. There’s often a quickening of pressure in the late 20’s and 30’s.

So many of us — particularly women — feel a quickening of pressure from seemingly all sides in the late 20’s and 30’s. Whether this is marriage, children, career, buying a home, rocket-fueling your retirements, etc., hitting self- or other-defined goals, for many of us, becomes more pressing in this time period than in any other to date. And that can feel really hard and stressful and confusing!

14. You won’t be Beyoncé.

I mean, obviously, there is only one Beyoncé. But what I mean by this is that, in our younger years, many of us may have had dreams of being famous, saving the world, or being incredibly rich.

But the reality is that few of us will strike it rich, make it big, or become world-renowned. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with an ordinary life (and really, the ordinary can be extraordinary!), but there may be a day or days in your adult life when you feel sad or frustrated or angry about those unrealized life visions.

Like with point #2, you get to grieve this. It’s a process to release the dreams we had for our life and come to grips with the actual reality, with the ordinariness of life. It doesn’t mean that, as an adult, you get to stop working towards dreams. It’s just that they may be tempered with time and more reasonable expectations now. And it’s our job to process this and come to acceptance of it.

15. Adulthood involves layers of loss.

Whether this is loss of our dreams and grief over the roads we did not take, loss of partners, parents, friends, money, direction, loss of some abilities in our bodies, loss becomes a more frequent companion for many of us in adulthood.

It can wear us out, hurt our hearts, force us to reinvent and pick up the pieces of our lives. Loss is inevitable and it can feel so hard. If you’re dealing with this, know that you’re not alone.

The Hard Truths In Perspective.

This post was not meant to be a somber, negative perspective on adulthood despite how the “hard truths” may read.

On the contrary, adulthood can be absolutely amazing and joyful and fulfilling and adventurous. AND these experiences can co-exist alongside all of these hard truths.

I just didn’t write about the joyful, wonderful parts of adulthood because those likely aren’t the parts we’re shaming, blaming, or isolating ourselves over.

When it comes to the hard truths, many of us may think we’re the only ones having such a hard time, wondering what’s wrong with us that we’re struggling so much.

But that’s just not the case. Almost ALL of us struggle with these same issues in some way.

So my hope is that, as you read through the list, you felt even a little bit seen, a little less alone in your struggle, a little more relaxed in your heart knowing that your experience, while still painful, is something that others are sharing in. If you would like support in doing this, I encourage you to reach out here.

Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: what’s another hard truth about adulting that you would add to this list to help our community of blog readers feel less alone in their struggles? Leave a message in the comments below.

If you would like additional support with this and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together. You can also book a complimentary consult call to explore therapy with one of my fantastic clinicians at my trauma-informed therapy center, Evergreen Counseling.

Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.

And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie

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  1. Virginia says

    Thank you for writing this. It is wonderfully reaffirming. As a 64 year old woman, I can say I have seen or lived every one of these truths.

  2. Adam Blum says

    Another great blog. I’m a great admirer of your writing style and I find myself agreeing with your content regularly. And I’m also a therapist. Your website is really beautifully done.

  3. Carrie says

    This post was so helpful. Particularly the ones on loss and meeting new friends. Your articles always make me think in a new way. Thank you!

    • Annie says

      Hi Joan,
      I completely understand that perspective. These hard adulting truths present themselves as we continue navigating our lived experiences. Please know that you’re never alone in this; what you’re dealing with is normal and natural for most of us.

  4. JJ says

    I found this to be helpful & reaffirmed many of my own experiences & still does.
    These are some very good hard truths you’ve shared here. I think it would be helpful to include in some of your points as a last statement, where to find help in navigating through some of these situations. ie: how to find resources, encourage them to share w trusted friends & family, asking them if they’ve struggled or how they’re managing, or how to find groups of like-minded people (maybe look on meetup. com, & working w a therapist can be incredibly helpful). Some *how to* maneuver thru some of these difficult situations would be helpful.

    • Annie says

      Hi JJ, I’m so pleased that this post felt helpful and validating to you! I appreciate that tip. I’ll be sure to think about how I can add more actionable tips to my posts. Thank you for sharing these insights with me, I appreciate your feedback here. Warmly, Annie

  5. Shawna says

    I’m a 33 year old woman and I can’t tell you how much I connected with this. The parts I most resonated with were those about family, and how adult child/parent relationships change. Thank you for writing this.

    • Annie says

      Hi Shawna,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m so pleased that this post resonated with you! I’m glad that you connected with my words and hopefully feel a little less alone. I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  6. Caroline says

    Annie, thank you. This is (and I’m being completely honest and vulnerable) one of the best articles I’ve ever read. You had my heart on the edge of its seat throughout the article, because I so desperately needed to hear all of it. I am saving this page in my browsing history so I can fall back on it during hard periods.

    • Annie says

      Hi Caroline,

      I’m thrilled that my words felt helpful to you at a time when you really needed to hear them. Thank you for your honesty, your vulnerability, and your comment! Please take such good care of yourself, and know that I’m sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

  7. No one says

    Annie, I woke up today in my late 30’s, as I do many days, wondering why I am in such a rut. Why my life feels like Groundhog Day; and constantly reflecting on lack of growth and satisfaction in my personal, professional, and love life. I don’t keep up on social media, so that pressure isn’t there, but still I make constant comparisons to everyone around me, and it is draining. I fall back on spending money and barely enjoying old hobbies out of both habit, and because new ones can’t be pursued at my current home (space constraint). I barely make enough money that I could comfortably buy a house on my own, but my current renting place is actually the better deal overall. And just the thought of a 30year mortgage and only finally paying it off when I’m past retirement makes me so sad. I have been doing my job going on 14 years, and it is wearing me physically; not to mention no room to climb the ladder without exponential levels of stress that are not equal to the pay and salary hours. The benefits, stability, and seniority (in a high-turnover gig) is what still keeps me there. I pride on a work history of not job-hopping, despite the market saying that’s the only way to keep upping your pay grade. I want to learn new skills, I want to grow and be able to see what I do makes a difference; but I don’t want to waste my time going back to school, and the high stress of doing so while also full-time working. My partner, whom I have been exclusive with (going on 15years), does not live with me yet due to family obligations, despite our many dream talks of doing so one day. It’s been 5 years since our relationship had to switch to long-distance, but where I’ve been able to have them live with me and take that step forward – and it still hasn’t happened yet. When you’re taking care of sick family, you can’t get mad at someone who has the heart to do so; but it gets harder and harder to sit on the sidelines not playing the game, when everyone else is scoring points. It’s also been 5 years since moving to a new place all on my own. I have a few family here, but otherwise it’s all-new. I’m not great at talking to strangers unless I already think we’d have something in common. It’s the courtesy of not bothering others, and hoping they do the same for you. Not to mention the crowds I want to be around, I don’t feel I truly fit in with. I don’t have the same background, life experience, or mannerisms, so why would they see any value in me. Which is funny, because I’m that friend who is loyal as hell if you respect and treat me fairly. It’s probably just instinctive fear of rejection. Oh, and let’s top off this ice cream Sunday by being a homosexual who lives in southern USA. Who is ok with me? Who would rather pitchfork me? It’s always a gamble. Ok, that’s enough phone-typing therapy for one morning. Let’s see if I can make something of myself today on my day off.

    • Fiore says

      I hope you can find the time, space and courage to rest, heal and go out there to achieve what your heart wishes. Blessings!!

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