Seems like becoming an adult isn’t as natural or easy as previous generations made it look. Young adult Michelle Heng shares her personal views on the art of “adulting”.
In 2013, then 28-year-old Kelly Williams Brown published a book titled Adulting: How To Become A Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, based on her popular blog. A second edition(yes, with an updated list of 535 steps) was published last year. Brown became known for articulating her personal experiences in the journey of becoming an adult in a way that resonated with people of her—and my—generation.
A year ago, four students from Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information launched the How To Adult website as their final-year project, dedicated to providing resources for millennials like themselves transit into adulthood. These resources range from household tips such as, how to thaw seafood and how to extinguish small fires, to career advice and practical advice like understanding one’s Town Council Services, to social advice like what to do at weddings.
The noun/verb “adulting” has entered every day vernacular and is often used by those who find themselves doing grownup things for the first time and feeling like an adult. Perhaps like me, you have realised that being an adult is not as glorious or easy as our parents or seniors had made it look. As I hold conversations with my friends, topics such as insurance, house-hunting, stock trading, managing our employers/colleagues and finding our purpose surface, making us feel like “we are such adults now”. We have moved on from complaining about exams, talking about that boy we had a crush on at university, even hanging out late at night (mostly because we are too tired from our working hours).
In modern society, success and maturity are often tied to how many milestones of adulthood we have ticked off—getting attached, getting married, having children, having a healthy bank account, being a frequent traveller. Even Christians are not immune: we sometimes measure the worth of our brothers and sisters with the same instrument, whether we intend to or not. We look at someone getting married and we envy him/her for being the first in our church clique to settle down. We ask God, ‘Where is the one for me?’ We see people displaying their round-the-world YOLO trips on Instagram and we live vicariously through them, wondering why we do not have that level of wealth, even though we of the same age. We ask God, ‘Did I not give enough? Where are my financial blessings?’
Perhaps it’s because of my personality that I often struggle between taking full control of my life and allowing God to take dominion over my thoughts and actions. There are moments where I’ve felt immense pressure to make something of myself, while struggling to understand what it means to actively wait on God’s timing.
I would like to share some thoughts on adulting as a freshly-minted 30-year-old. The list below is not exhaustive, but I hope, for young adults reading this, that these pointers bring encouragement to your Spirit as we journey on the road to adulthood.
Three months after I graduated with a degree, I took on the first job that was available to me. I worked for a small enterprise that provided me with a steep learning curve—I learned to deal with various stakeholders (boss, colleagues, clients) and manage multiple projects all at once. It was a dynamic environment that challenged me creatively and I built close bonds with my colleagues as we often stayed late in the office. But by the end of two years, I decided it was time to move on, for the sake of my spiritual and emotional health and ministry.
For many of us Christian youths, transitioning into the marketplace can be scary. Most of us are not called in to full-time church ministry, so we spend most of our lives out there in the world. It’s like manoeuvring a minefield: step on someone’s tail and you may well end up earning yourself an enemy. Not taking part in office gossip or attending post-work dinners could mark you as being “too holy” or uncool. Sending a poorly-crafted email would reflect badly not just on you, but your company too.
Well, you may not know yet if the career you have right now will be the same for life. You may not know yet how best to serve God in your job. You may be jaded and lost, facing a quarter-life crisis of some kind. Perhaps your internal alarm system is ringing because your career interferes with your relationship with Christ. Maybe you know there’s something you do at work that is morally wrong or dishonest. Do you spend so much time in the office that you have little time for anything else—God church your family and friends? Are you becoming more or less Christ-like?
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We need the wisdom of God and also earthly wisdom (accumulated through job exposure, successes and failures and sound advice) to navigate our workplace. As we do that, let’s stay on course as Christians, and not conform to this world (Romans 12:2). Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God and perform it with an awareness of His presence (ref: Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. p. 67) Let us bring glory to God by working excellently, demonstrating what He is like, and serving others.
Some of us struggle between career and ministry. We want to excel at our careers, but then we have insufficient time and energy to serve God in the church. Others serve so much in the church, that we end up neglecting our careers. Perhaps this is what it means to be enlarged in one’s capacity and to learn to rely on God’s strength and grace. Year after year, our lives will only get busier, with more and more commitments to handle. Just as a farmer only reaps what he sows, we often build our character and strength only through situations that are tough on the body, the soul, even the spirit.
Christ came to give us a life that is abundant and free. He exhorted us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). We are to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength—and to love others as we love ourselves. A person rooted in his identity in Christ and filled with the love of God will not be easily shaken or uprooted. He will find joy in serving God and serving others. Even in his weak moments, he knows that God’s grace is more than sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Temptations may come, but God has given us a way to endure them (1 Corinthians 10:13). God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He surely has the best plans lined up for His children. Whether we choose to focus on our career, our ministry or balance both, we must always choose to seek Him over the applause of the world (Colossians 3:23). Always choose to glorify His name, not ours.
One of the best lessons we can glean from the Bible is stewardship. According to Merriam Webster, stewardship is “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Matthew 25 gives us the parable of the three servants who were each given an amount of silver. The servants who invested and earned more silver received compliments from their master in verses 21 and 23: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ The third servant who did not manage his silver well was punished. Those who use well what they are given will be given more, and they will have an abundance. (Matthew 25:29).
Learning to manage our finances well is not just important for the present; it is a value that we build on for life. While we are in our 20s, some of us may have study loans to clear, homes to pay for, weddings to plan. Start looking at your finances. I wished that I was taught the basics of budgeting and the importance of savings earlier in my life. It’s not too late! Look for someone who can give you sound advice. Some people utilise the 50/20/30 rule, which recommends that 50 percent of your income should be set aside for essential expenses, 20 percent for financial priorities, and 30 percent for lifestyle choices. However you choose to plan your finances, remember this: the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Choose to be a giver like our Heavenly Father, even as we learn to steward our finances better.
SINGLEHOOD OR MARRIAGE
I have friends that are single, currently dating or recently married. When we were youths, we often proclaimed that we wanted to spend our best years serving God and being involved in campus ministry. As we transit into young adulthood, singlehood carries a stigma that’s emphasized during festive occasions (concerned relatives feel it’s their duty to ask when they get to meet your partner) and social situations (seeing more plus ones at class gatherings, seeing your friends get married). Well, singleness is not a problem. Clinical psychologist Dr Les Parrott said this: If you try to find intimacy with another person before achieving a sense of wholeness on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself. Your relationships will only be as healthy as you are. In the midst of your singlehood, enjoy life on your terms, stay close to God and allow Him to work in you, so you can be a healthy and happy person capable of building healthy and happy relationships. Work on your gifts and talents, so you have no regrets in your later years.
If you’re recently married, you may feel distant from your friends as you now live life not just by yourself, but with your spouse. More considerations need to be taken and certain decisions have to be made in agreement with your spouse. Maybe you have less of a social life because household chores are no longer your mother’s or helper’s problem, or maybe you have a new addition to your family. As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season.” Don’t feel guilty or pressured about not being able to be as involved socially as before. This is a phase of life you will learn to adapt to. Your real friends will understand! Trust that God will be your help in your times of need. Remember what the psalmist says in Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”
I wouldn’t dare say that I know it all about adulting, but one thing I know: life as a Christian is not so much about what we do or how we do it, but about our relationship with Christ. Your life may not fulfil society’s expectations, but you are valuable because God values you, and nothing you do can add or take away from that truth.
Christian maturity is a big theme in Paul’s writing. He wrote in Ephesians that “God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ”. Maturing as a Christian is somewhat like adulting: We could fail at it. It takes time, a willing heart and obedience to make it happen. We are always in the process of attaining that goal.
At some point, we may act like spiritual toddlers throwing a temper tantrum, shaking our fists at God. We may look around and wonder why it seems hard for us to be mature Christians who are successfully transitioning into adulthood, while it’s so easy for others. Guess what? We’re all in the same boat, so let’s pray for one another and cheer each other on for each tiny act that brings us closer to maturity in Christ—to spiritual adulthood.
City Harvest Church ministers to those in young adulthood through various zones. For more information, visit www.chc.org.sg or email firstname.lastname@example.org