(Note: this is one of the first Adulting entries; reprinted because I still think it’s useful even if you don’t feel like scrolling through 30 pages of archive)
This is the most difficult and important thing to accept if you wish to be a grownup: You are not a special snowflake.
Well, you are to some people. Your parents, presumably, love you very much and think you are perhaps the most adorable, talented thing ever to prance upon this earth. Your friends agree with them, as do your favorite teachers, as does your significant other. When there is a You Parade, these people will be the flag bearers, the drum majors and majorettes, so make sure you are always flag bearing and drum majoring for them, too. These people who think so highly of us are very special and precious, and you must treasure them. Because here is the truth: Most of the world doesn’t give a fuck about you.
It’s not as depressing as it sounds. It’s not as though the world hates you — it just has no idea who you are. It is, at best, indifferent to your wants and needs, your preferences, your pet peeves and so on. When you walk into a new office, new city, new country, whatever, you are starting from scratch and cannot call upon that loving capital that your friends and family — who are not in this office, city or country — have for you.
It is now up to you to find and surround yourself with people for whom you feel affection and respect. Because more often than not, we like the people who like us, right? People will come to care about you, but only if you give them a valid reason. So don’t assume they’ll give you love like your parents, emotional support like your best friend, and cheerful feedback like a soccer coach for 7-year-olds. Because they won’t.
And when you are in college, you make assumptions about how easy things will be or how quickly you’ll rocket to the top. You hit this wall, hard, when the New York Times doesn’t beat a path to your door but instead it is time for you to go be a reporter in rural Mississippi. Or you graduate law school with glorious visions of the important work you’ll do for the Southern Poverty Law Center, but instead find yourself photocopying briefs in Shreveport. Whatever happens immediately post-graduation, chances are good that it will be at least a little disappointing.
Here is how you go around that wall: Accept that for right now, being a small-time whatever is your position. It’s not shameful and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re embarking on adulthood and starting from the beginning, just like every single person must do. From now on, it doesn’t matter who your parents are or how much money they made, because the accomplishments (and the money!) that come to you are yours. You are the the captain of your own destiny, even if it isn’t all that glamorous or fabulous right now.
Congratulations! That was the very most difficult step in being an adult.