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Why Adulting Made Me Realize I Need To Let Go Of These Things In My Life

by Su Anne Cheng. |


Adulting (verb): to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals.


We spend our entire lives collecting little moments from the time we were born, surviving the whirlwind of life’s unforeseen weathers up to the point where we can fully declare ourselves as “adults”. But what does it truly mean to be an adult? As kids, we often look up to these physically mature individuals as equally mentally or emotionally developed people. It’s only when we reach the tip of adulthood where we realize that we were just as clueless on the act of juggling life as before or perhaps even more lost than when we began. It is evident, however, that growing up sure gears you with an ample amount of heartfelt lessons on the art of letting go.



When I officially stepped into this bizarre world of adulthood, I never would have pictured this phase of life to be as puzzling as the life that I’m living in right now. I figured that once I hit a certain age I would attain enough “wisdom” or “experience” in order to tackle the real-life challenges head-on. Instead, I found myself floundering countless times throughout this journey, struggling to balance the art between studies, work, family on top of personal wellbeing just to name a few. As a matter of fact, these expectations and responsibilities that I had been exponentially piling up for myself to achieve that grand adult life became the very same substances that were wearing me down. It took me a global pandemic to truly step back and reflect on how my desperation to grasp onto every minute detail in my life was what refrained me from keeping my composure as a full-grown adult.


Stumbling into the unresolved realms of adulthood will definitely get you pondering about the things in life that you have been subconsciously holding on to your entire existence. Here are a few personal handpicked favourites of mine upon years of overthinking spent that I’m sure a vast majority can relate to:



1. Having unrealistic expectations of the future


Back when I was a kid, I fantasized the adult version of me to have an awesome career, be financially independent, have all my loved ones around me while living halfway across the world. But here I am, still clueless about what I truly want to be as I remain stagnant in the same old hometown alone. I’ve mourned the loss of a couple of loved ones all while I watch my other peers get a kickstart to their latest business startup, win record-breaking awards and become newlyweds in the meantime. “Where did I go wrong?” seems to be the phrase that utters at the back of my mind each time I look up to realize how distant I am from what I thought my life would be by now.


I’m sure reaching the point of adulthood has proven to us all one crystal clear point: things will never work out as planned. Yet we still find ourselves clinging on to our imaginative views of how our future would pan out. Adulting means drawing the line between being hopeful and expecting, to release the ideal reality we play out at the back of our minds. A prime example is the plain old crisis of getting caught up with the societal expectations of where/who we’re “supposed” to be by XX years old. Instead of holding onto the idea of how life should be, focus on the now and what you can do with this present time. This includes letting go of our perfectionism, the constant need of requiring things to happen the way we want them to. It’s never too late to do what you’ve always dreamed of, precisely when we’re fully independent adults, and to do so without having the fear of failure.



2. Repeating the same old bad habits


Many of us, myself included, have fallen into this rabbit hole of adopting a judgmental and hateful outlook against everyone else. I’ve definitely had my fair share of teenage angst grown fondly into the depths of my character for the longest of time. I was exceptionally quick to spot one’s flaws and cut them off the moment they did something that was against my liking. It was only recently that I discovered my persistent negative portrayal of the world was merely a deflecting reflex that I have been dragging along due to the inward hatred existing within me. My dismissal of everyone else’s slip-ups was rather a coping mechanism for my deeply rooted lack of self-love.


Oftentimes, adulting means learning more about ourselves and the person that we’ve grown into. Regardless, each and every one of us holds some form of a toxic trait that we can actively work to improve on. A majority of us never really consider ourselves as the real part of the problem that needs fixing and immediately puts the blame on other parties as a defence system. This is where constant self-reflection plays a role in order for us to come to a revelation on our weak points (which is completely fine, because self-awareness is the first step of letting go!). What most of us don’t take into account in the process of learning about one’s self is the continuous step of unlearning the bad parts, releasing our past lessons. Although we may not be granted with the privilege to choose the type of environment or characters that we grew up to adapt to, it is up to us to remove ourselves from our innate reflex, attitude or judgement deemed inappropriate and strive on being a better individual for ourselves and the society around us.



3. Regrets of the past


Truthfully, I am someone who easily gets overly attached to my memories of the past- where things always seem much better than it empirically was. A majority of my time thinking is diverted towards nostalgia, which leads to the repetitive notions of “What if...”, “If only…” and “I wish…”. Regrets then pile up whenever I ruminate on my past mistakes, thinking that if I had only done that one thing differently or started all over again, I would’ve become a completely different person, at a whole different pathway than where I am today.


Letting go of regrets is definitely easier said and done. Be it the regret of losing something dear that we can never get back or the regret of lost opportunities, all of us have a past that we wish we could undo or go back to. This fantasy of reinstating the past and being stuck in the cycle of nostalgia is exactly what we need to let loose of as we step foot into adulting. Facing the fact that we might never be able to correct our mistakes can be agonizing, but it’s the only way we get to fully embrace the wholesome potential of life we have ahead of us. Instead of returning to the past, the only plausible solution to mend our faulty history is to actively realize our wrongdoings in the current present onwards. The acknowledgement of the regrets we compiled could alternatively be transformed into wisdom that we can implement to our current phase of adulthood.


“Most people never heal, because they stay in their heads, replaying corrupted scenarios. Let it go.” – S. Mcnutt



4. Obsessing over wealth, possession and status

Source: MoneyCompass


In this age of digital advancement, it’s no wonder why our era ends up worshipping all the latest tech-savvy gadgets either. It’s normal to be inclined towards obsessing over our own material goods because it gives us a sense of control and security amongst the absolute uncertainties of adulthood. Be it holding on to our prized belongings such as assets or climbing up the social ladder of reputation- I, for one, am definitely guilty of this, being both a mortifying hoarder and overachiever. Arrival fallacy has definitely been one of my top illusions that I have accentuated my life to while growing up. It’s basically the belief that you’ll finally be fulfilled once you achieve or attain that one great goal that you’ve set for yourself. I thought I’d be content when I got a taste of that long-awaited financial income, but quite the opposite, it left me with nothing but emptiness and the need to want even more.


The only problem is, these tangible items can’t replace the very essence of life that we’re ashamed to be vulnerable for: real-life connection. Sometimes letting go of the never-ending battle to reach to the top of the hierarchy is also something that we should be mindful of. Your corporate position may gain you a certain amount of respect, but be aware that you’re merely being looked up to based on your workplace status. Rather than building up on your net worth, shifting your focus towards your core purpose and inner values would be more vital. Ultimately, we should really go back to the cliched saying that all the wealth in the world simply cannot buy you genuine happiness; being an adult means realizing that there are more important aspects in life worth spending time on.



5. Achieving constant happiness


Perhaps I can shamelessly put the blame on those bedtime stories with happy endings told to us throughout our childhood for this one, but I really believed that there would be a point in life where you’ll eventually settle down and live happily ever after with minimal worries for your remaining days. As I grew older, I tried exhaustively to piece the puzzles together in order to reach this picture-perfect destination of sadness-free living. I became so fixated on that particular ideology that I realized this obsession towards being happy all the time had an accumulated paradoxical effect towards my despair. Ironically, my pursuit of constant happiness has only brought me more melancholy than I’ve ever had before whenever minor adversity easily manages to strip all my euphoria away.


Now, this might seem a bit out of the ordinary, but letting go of happiness seems to be an integral part and parcel of being a full-grown adult. This includes refraining from the compulsive need to be impossibly happy all the time (typically how social media portrays life to be) and, sometimes, trading it off by allowing all the gloomy emotions to sink in. Living on the brink of harsh reality can inevitably put you up for a whole lot of disappointment, failure, loss and a mountain of other situations that none of us would want to be in. Despite how much we want to, it’s practically impossible to stay happy 24/7 especially in the face of adversity. Growing up basically means accepting the fact that there will be these catastrophic moments in life that unjustifiably storms in. That doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to cherish the happiness that will come eventually. It’s just a matter of building enough grit and strength within us to hike through the wobbly sign of the times upon adulting.


“She understood that the hardest times in life to go through were when you were transitioning from one version of yourself to another.” – Sarah Addison Allen


But if there’s one thing you should never let go of? Yourself. The intangible essence that makes you the living, breathing soul that you embody right now. Your kindness, your dreams and every little experience that has shaped you into the grown-but-still-growing adult that you have become and will be. Learning to let go of certain things in life is a continual lesson that all of us will have to go through, but the underlying wrenching pain of it all always leads to a priceless sense of the inner peace and mindfulness; the prerequisite to living this minuscule moment of time we possess to the fullest.


Here’s to all my fellow adults striving with the entire adulting gimmick: Love, be grateful, and bravely let go. x

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