Do you remember when you thought 20 was old?  When “adulting” was just some weird word popping up on your older friends’ Facebook walls?  Do you remember where you thought you were gonna be by the time you were in your late twenties?

Yeah, there’s a little bit of a disconnect there. We all had dreams, but the bare minimum was that we’d at least know the basics of adulting by the time our mid-late 20s hit. Surely, 18-year-old me thought I’d know the basics. Even if I didn’t know where I was going in life, I figured I would know all the little steps necessary to get there.

That was wishful thinking.  Here’s what I still don’t know as an adult, but probably should at this point in my life.

1. How to take care of a car.


We spend THOUSANDS of dollars on a car.  Most of us drive EVERY DAY.  But ask me when I last washed my car, and you’ll just get a blank stare.  These days, our cars alert us when some of the basics need to be done (oil change, fill up, tire pressure), but cars are hundred of little machines working together.  All those parts need maintenance, but most of us have no clue how to even change our own oil, let alone the transmission fluid.  (That’s a thing, right?)  When I was growing up, I figured that it was just something that you learned by driving.

Not true.  Turns out, your brakes need to be replaced every 50,000 miles, your air filter every 6,000 miles, and even your car battery needs to be switched out after four or five years. That would’ve been nice to know. Why doesn’t my car remind me of all these mile markers too?


2. How to “bank.”

piggy bank

Okay, this may seem self-explanatory, but banks are literally a maze of unfamiliar financial terms. We know they’re scamming us somehow but can’t point to exactly where so we end up paying random overdraft fee or account fees or FEES FEES.  Or is that just me?  


3. How to do taxes.


I know that there are plenty of ways to do your own taxes.  Most online accounting software holds your hand through the whole thing.  But what do any of those numbers even mean?  I mean, it’s really not difficult when you’re living on a Top Ramen income alone, but once you get a house you have to worry about property taxes, which I had no idea were so high. Not to mention if you ever get married, the complications just get doubled … I mean, those problems seem like so far away, but maybe the scariest part is that it isn’t that far away, and we still have no idea what all these numbers mean.


4. How to really take care of ourselves.


It seems like the qualifications for whatever’s healthy changes every month.  And some of us are always on a diet, are constantly stuck between fat and chubby or just trying to better ourselves.  But it’s impossible when the information about what healthy and what’s not keeps changing, and we suddenly can’t eat pizza all the time.  Plus, now we have to choose between working out, seeing the friends that we hardly ever see, or cleaning the catastrophe we call an apartment.

We’re supposed to be balancing mental, physical, and emotional health, but how the hell does anyone do that?

I honestly don’t know.  I’m hoping that I’ll have it figured out in another couple years when I’m really an adult.  But the more time I spend on this side of eighteen, the more I’m convinced that that time never really comes around.   All the same, plenty of other people have grown older before us, from twentysomethings to thirty-, forty-, fiftysomethings too.  And I don’t think they had it anymore figured out than we did.


Dayton socializes for a living and writes for fun. Her rarely relevant degree gives her experience in political science, writing, Spanish, rugby, theater, coding, and spreading herself too thin. She will forever be a prisoner of her family’s business, doomed to inherit responsibility despite frequent existential protests.

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