6 reasons millennials might be failing to adult

I recently read a comic strip that wanted everyone to stop using “adult” as a verb form (e.g., “I can’t adult,” “Adulting is hard”), but the struggle to take on adult responsibilities is such a relatable and relevant issue for every millennial these days that I personally love it! The seriousness of being an adult is turned into a lighthearted joke to turn our generation’s struggle with growing up into something less scary. Instead of saying, “I need to be an adult,” millennials say, “I can’t adult,” and instantly, it seems less like a mountain we can’t climb and more like a level in Nintendo we can’t beat. And it appropriately shows how our mindset is still suck on a not-so-mature level.

But why are we having such a hard time adulting? I decided to explore some personal theories as to why millennials are Peter Panning.


6 – Something with life spans growing longer that we are now in an awkward phase of not-yet-adulthood

The average life span has grown. This OECD report done just a few years ago show that the life expectancy in the U.S. has increased by eight years since the 1970s. Mulan was 16 when she chopped off her hair to join the army in her father’s stead in the Disney movie, but for the live-action, an actual 16 year old shouldn’t be cast to represent the heroine. Back then, 16-year-old girls were considered grown women and would be getting married off already while the men fought in wars. It would be more appropriate to cast someone in her twenties to give us a realistic sense of her maturity.

And that’s the point I’m making. We’re stuck in a strange transitional period where people in their twenties might have been considered adults in the last few decades alone, but are now feeling like they are starting the second half of their adolescence. We are not quite teenagers, but we are not quite adults. The older generations may be pushing adulthood on us because that is what they are used to and what they expect, but we seem to be stalling and maturing at a slower rate. Everything has been pushed back–marriage and childbirth are more common in the thirties now, for one example (a few others are listed below as their own points). And that’s why they keep saying the thirties are the new twenties!

responsible adult

I remember going to the supermarket with my mom a few months ago, and a middle-aged women giving out samples there asked my age. I said, “Twenty-six,” and she told my mom, “She’s just a kid. These days they are kids until they are thirty.”

5 – We are stuck with our parents–WHOM WE LOVE–and they only see us as kids

Something about being under their roof means they are still responsible for us, which makes us feel less responsible for ourselves.

Another example of the delay we are experiencing in life milestones (as mentioned above) is the fact that a striking number of us are still stuck living in our parents’ homes after graduating high school or college. Prices for real estate and the general cost of living have been spiking, so it makes sense that residing at home is more convenient and affordable. But this means that we are always under parental guidance. Not saying that they will bar us from watching Game of Thrones or anything like that (at least while we are in the privacy of our rooms), but parents can’t help but to view their children as just that–children. Their eyes will forever see only babies they need to take care of–especially when those babies are still in their nest. Do you know that commercial where a father asks Alexa to fast forward a sexy scene in Empire, and his daughter protests because she’s in her late 20s? Exactly.


I still live at home with my parents and was hanging out with a friend who’s in the same boat. I told him that my dad just messaged me, asking which cafe I was at and when I’d be home, which he wouldn’t normally do when I was out of state at college. My friend nodded in complete understanding, even with a little eye roll. Something about being under their roof means they are still responsible for us, which makes us feel less responsible for ourselves. Plus, they treat us like children, which makes us feel like children. They can’t help it because it’s a habit and they love us, so… maybe we should just enjoy it for now? How much longer will we live with them anyway?

(If anything, they can hire someone attractive to Failure to Launch us.)

4 – We were told college was the holy gate to adulthood when it really teaches us nothing about it

Speaking of college, there is a reason people tell us it’s the best time of our lives: we get all the freedom and independence of adulthood without any of the responsibilities. So listen up, Gen Zs or whatever we are at right now: if you’re heading off to college thinking you’re going to come out of it a complete adult with a full beard and savings account, you got another think coming.


Most of the time, definitely not all of the time, you are not independent financially when you go off to college, and guess what, your courses are not really going to teach you about personal savings and credit scores and taxes and all that good stuff. Colleges will kind of dump you on your behind after you graduate to deal with the real-world stuff alone. While they expect your parents to teach all of this stuff, your parents expect colleges to teach you all this stuff.

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There’s this grandiose idea that college is the gateway to adulthood. Once you’re in it, you’re well on your way to becoming an adult, and once you graduate, BAM! You are an adult. It’s an unrealistic expectation. Most of the time, people leave feeling confused and floundering because college was really just another shelter keeping you from the real, real world for a few years longer. Granted, we may have picked up a few things along the way, like the fact that high school never really ends and how to rent your own place off-campus, but the experience is not the be-all and end-all to becoming an adult you may expect it to be.

3 – On both previous points, there is far less financial independence these days in this economic state


Apparently, millennials make 20% less money than Baby Boomers and 4% less than Generation X did around the same age. Which is why (look above) we cannot move around with as much flexibility as previous generations or get our own places. We used to define “adulthood” as getting a job, buying a house, and having children, but this is getting a bit harder to do.

Reality dictates we have less financial independence, so we can’t afford our own houses, we are putting off marriage and children, so on and so forth. As a result, we feel less like adults–more like failures. Plus, many millennials have minor to crippling debt from college loans that they are busy paying off while struggling for a good salary in this competitive job market.

As a result, we recede into the comfort of our parents’ home, still feeling very much like dependents.

2 – The convenience of life thanks to technology and internet is stunting our growth

This next one is on us. We can’t blame our parents, universities, or the economy. Technology has developed in the last few years at an alarming rate. We have our Smart Phones, virtual reality, and even freaky AIs that give sassy responses. They’re all pretty convenient and helpful–but are they too convenient and helpful? Because we can rely on them so heavily, are they also taking part in stunting our growth and self-reliance?

For example, I have never been great at directions, so the GPS on my phone is a godsend. But I worry sometimes that I will grow dependent on it to get anywhere, and I will never become better at navigation. Don’t get me wrong; the internet is great for finding out how to fix a computer or what that strange sound coming from the boiler room is. It’s helpful. But it also seems to be taking away, or at least slowing the accumulation of, some of the common sense and experience that adults need to do things adults do.


So are millennials maturing more slowly? Because technology is making things easier? Instead of running to an adult who can pass down his or her wisdom, we have a handy dandy all-knowing robot-parent with us at all times.

1 – It’s the fact that now we, and no one else, are responsible for our actions that is killing us

Yes, we can point fingers at the circumstances around us (like points 6 to 2), but in the end, it’s possible that the most crippling factor to our shrinking away from adulthood is the fact that accepting it means we are accepting all responsibility for our actions and failures. This is understandably scary. But this is the burden that our own parents bear even today, for themselves and for us.

The adult thing may not be to stop the fear. It’s to stop running away from the fear.

I personally find that when I’m worrying about “super adult things” like taxes or insurance, my fear and concerns stem from somehow messing something up or forgetting to do something and then being saddled with actual consequences. But there is no way to avoid these responsibilities or the fact that mistakes will be made.

We just have to recognize the fear of responsibility, and direct our courage that-a-way. The adult thing may not be to stop the fear but to stop running away from it.


In the end, I think what everyone should remember is… everyone’s faking it–or at least was faking it at one point. And adulthood may be a myth. I see “adults” around me everyday who don’t know what they’re doing or still have silent tantrums. What really qualifies adulthood?

Whatever the reasons may be for our unwillingness to “grow up,” perhaps we’re just starting up a change–millennials are the transitional generation. Maybe we’re redefining “adult.” No longer is it about having a steady job and family but about being emotionally mature, socially aware, and culturally sensitive?

Or I could just be pulling shirt out of my ash. I don’t know. Go ask a real adult.





  1. Bry Jaimea

    February 21, 2018 at 8:59 am

    I love this and agree wholeheartedly!
    I think perhaps the older generations had lifestyle that are so foreign, so unfamiliar to our own, there’s simply no guidance. They didn’t have crippling debt; mental health wasn’t on their radar; equal rights was only just becoming a thing; and religion had more of an impact on who they married as opposed to wanting to marry an actually nice person.
    We have a much more difficult journey ahead that no other generation has previously experienced. For example, our parents don’t/can’t understand that the likelihood of a millennial owning a property portfolio is slim to none, so how can they guide us through a situation they can’t themselves understand? As such, we’re having to rely on ourselves, and each other, far more than previous generations had to.
    Perhaps we’re not blooming late, perhaps we’re not failing at adulting as such, and perhaps we’re simply adults who are much more “woke”. Perhaps we’re more aware of the repercussions of our actions on the economy and the environment. More compassionate and understanding towards our fellow humans.
    Our generation are living in a society where we’re only just coming to understand that we can make a difference, however, there’s no one around who cares enough to show us how.

    1. gallantly gal

      February 21, 2018 at 6:23 pm

      Yes exactly! I do think that we are changing the definition of adulthood now, we just feel so lost about it because it conflicts with what we’re told and what we’re used to! Love this. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment 😀

  2. Christy B

    February 22, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Great point that technology may be keeping us from truly growing as individuals. It’s certainly easier to bring up the calculator on my computer than do equations in my head and often I take shortcuts with gadgets. It’s like we feel we have to do so now though because our fast-paced lives. You make many interesting points here!

    1. gallantly gal

      February 22, 2018 at 4:06 pm

      Yes! Even if I try to do calculations in my head, I drown in self-doubt until I can “just double check my work” with my phone calculator haha. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Nat

    March 21, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    I can definitely relate to the helicopter parents who never seem to appropriately treat their children as adults when they reach an adult age. Living under the same roof as my parents, I feel like they feel some responsibility to constantly feed me or prepare meals. Not that I am not grateful to always have something to eat, but if I can cook for myself, I will. I perceive it’s easier if I’m just eating on my own like if there happens to be a night my parents are both away. That way I don’t have to cook for anyone else besides myself lol.

    Similarly to you, it’s just excessive AF when my dad texts me wanting to know where I am and when I’ll be home. Even worse is when I’m already on the subway home and he is texting me like every 15 minutes wanting to know what stop I am at. UGH. I cannot stress how irritating that type of behavior is. I’ve tried to give him hints about how redundant that is, such as one time when I told him I was going to walk home from the subway stop and he replied asking if I already got off. 😑😑😑 Just… no, okay? I do not need to be in constant communication with someone like that, especially not one of my parents. Also really dislike how it feels like I’m being interrogated by my dad whenever I go out. Sometimes I have enough anxiety as it is going to wherever and pushing myself to just go, and his questions can add to my stress.

    My brother doesn’t even live here anymore but whenever he pops in for a night, it’s like my parents revert back to treating him like a kid. My mom still irons his work shirts for some reason, and I find that ridiculous. I guess he doesn’t mind, but if she did that for me, I would feel bothered because to me it would seem like she’s babying me when it’s obviously something I can do by myself. And that’s the thing about parents. They want their kids to “grow up”, but do they really? Some of their actions, whether they mean for it or not, can unintentionally enable their children to stay in the nest or be too used to being taken care of in some aspects.

    I really do depend on my phone for navigation. I would be sooo lost if I didn’t have it. I remember back in the day I used to print out maps and draw my route out on the streets so I would know where to go.

    This was a great post to read! Wish I could write about a topic such as this that delves into something on a larger scale but also has such a personable perspective.

    1. gallantly gal

      March 22, 2018 at 11:03 am

      Yeah, I understand we will always be their babies, but it’s also conflicting and we need to be treated and somewhat respected or trusted as adults, too, so we can get that level of experience and confidence. Asian parents are definitely too sheltering xD

      Hah I’m so bad at navigating I would’ve done the same with the maps! Sometimes I go out of a store and turn the way I came from instead of the other way because I forgot or got disoriented haha.

      Awwww and thank you! Glad you enjoyed 🙂 I’m sure you could!

      1. Nat

        March 22, 2018 at 1:20 pm

        In a way, the phone navigation part has made me more averse to asking someone if I don’t know where I’m going. XD Even back in the day with the printed out maps and writing down of directions, I didn’t want to ask anyone. But now it’s even more so because I have a perception that because everyone relies on their phone so much, I’ll look stupid or annoying for needing help.

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