‘Adulting’ Is a Made-Up Word, but the Struggles That Come With It Are Very Real

“I am 27. Still single. Still living with my parents. Still trying to figure out life.”

13 December 2021, 12:01pm

Getting married, buying your first house, and cafe hopping on weekends—these are things that many millennials regard as expected of their age. Many would know from experience, though, that this is far from what plays out in reality.

In November, 27-year-old Chin Yi Xuan found himself single and living with his parents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, still trying to eke out a career while self-employed.  

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Struck by a wave of despondency and forlorn about how his life has (or hasn’t) measured up to his expectations, Chin penned a long reflection on his personal struggles and published it on Facebook.

“I am 27. Still single. Still living with my parents. Still trying to figure out life,” his post began.

The post was lengthy and deeply personal. Chin, who by all measures is a pretty regular millennial guy, didn’t expect his honest thoughts to go viral, but his post has garnered a surprising amount of attention, with 69,000 likes, close to 5,000 comments, and mostly positive reactions.

“Whatever I've written in my post has been in my heart for a long time,” Chin told VICE. “And it's only gotten stronger, especially in 2021, with everything going on in the world.”

Chin’s vulnerable post obviously struck a chord with many other people who found themselves in similar situations—he is just one of the many millennials who face such troubles. 

Now in their late 20s and 30s, what many in the generation thought would be a passing phase has extended to something more. Complaining about the challenges of “adulting” could be seen as trivial but, at the risk of sounding cheugy, is often very real

Around the world, millennials have been described as lonely and burned out. The millennial struggle with loneliness has been linked to mental health issues and destructive coping mechanisms. Social media is often cited as a major reason for this profound unhappiness, while some believe that entering your 30s naturally initiates changes in friendship dynamics. In Asia, a major life goal among millennials is home ownership—which is an increasing struggle in densely populated cities with skyrocketing property prices. 

Millennials get a bad rap for being a strawberry generation—a term in Chinese-speaking countries referring to how they bruise easily under pressure—but increasing financial challenges that only worsened during the pandemic has hit them especially hard.

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This is the case for Chin, who felt he should be buying his own house with a long-term partner.

“Back when I was younger, yeah, that’s how I imagined myself,” he said, recalling how his expectations were formed by a colleague he encountered when he first started working about five years ago.

But just a couple of years later, Chin would quit his full-time job in a tech startup to pursue a career in blogging full-time. Today, Chin runs a blog called No Money Lah, where he writes about personal finance and investment. Despite taking a leap of faith to strike out on his own, he found himself still constrained by the same expectations he had as a young 20-something.

“If I were to use that as a benchmark, I will say I’m quite far away. In terms of my social life, my relationship, my career, [they’re] still far from what I think is ideal,” he said.

Chin said the helplessness got to him during the pandemic, especially when he checked up on how his peers have been doing.

“Whenever I go to social media, I feel overwhelmed,” he said, citing the pressure of seeing others living it up while he’s slogging it out.

Social media is known to be toxic and, in many ways, a lie. But this doesn’t stop people from comparing themselves to others on their endless feeds.

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While many people felt that Chin’s Facebook post echoed their own uncertainties, there were also plenty of commenters who offered advice on how to deal with these feelings. Most of these involved new ways of thinking that didn’t pit your goals against others’ or social norms. 

By the end of his long reflection, Chin listed specific goals that he wishes to achieve by 30. These include creating his own definition of what being 30 years old entails and cutting the time he spends on social media. But the driven entrepreneur actually isn’t too concerned with meeting his own set of goals. 

“Even if I do not reach the vision that I allocate for myself, because I've done my best, the process is more important than the outcome,” he told VICE. 

Despite ending on a hopeful note in his Facebook post, Chin admitted that he did not have answers. 

“I channeled my emotions, my worries in that thought, but that doesn’t mean that after I write everything, everything is going to get resolved by themselves,” he said. 

But after his inner monologue went viral, Chin has decided that between now and 30, he will be taking things at his own pace.

Thanks to his post, Chin said he now knows that he’s not the only one with such concerns. In fact, a whole lot of other people share the same worries—many of whom, like Chin, had thought they were facing a lone battle.

Follow Koh Ewe on Instagram.

Tagged:

mental health, Asia, malaysia

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