The Almost-Adult Complex

Evi Arthur
4 min readApr 23, 2018

I like to think that many college students, more specifically first and second-year students, develop something I made up called the “Almost-Adult Complex” upon going away to college. From my extensive research (over the last hour), this complex brings on feelings of false adulthood and false confidence as well as utter confusion and lack of direction into the lives of many young adults.

When you go off to college, you like to think that you automatically know what you’re doing. You’ve moved out of your parents’ house, you went to ikea and bought a lamp and a dorm-safe coffee pot and some bedding and you immediately feel like adulthood is right around the corner.

Then you get to school and you are in charge of yourself. You don’t have to tell anybody where you’re going or what you’re doing. You can sit in bed all day and watch tv and nobody is upset with you. Hell, you can eat ice cream for dinner. Seriously, it rocks.

So, naturally, you decide that you are an adult who has their life together. How could you not be?

And then you get sick and you realize that you have to take care of yourself; no one is going to buy you Gatorade and chicken noodle soup and bring you blankets for the naps you take on the couch (unless you have a really awesome roommate). So you have to walk to Panera and CVS yourself to get yourself soup and Gatorade in the icy cold. And then, when your sore throat won’t go away, you have to figure out if you’re just being a baby or if this is strep and you need to go to the doctor.

Or when it’s tax season and, only after staring at your tax forms for hours until you start crying, you decide to just go completely off the grid and be a nomad who lives off the land, because there’s no way that that’s any harder than trying to figure out all these nonsense forms.

Or when your cheap-o microwave sets your popcorn on fire and you have to use the faucet and some wet washcloths to put the fire out. And then, from fear of making the fire detectors go off and making the whole building evacuate, you panickedly open all the windows and doors and sit anxiously until your roommate gets back, all while watching the not-on-fire-anymore bag, too afraid to throw it away for fear of it re-lighting in the trash can and accidentally committing arson.

Or, you know, some less specific examples.

So, you call your mom. You call her and ask her if you should go to the doctor and how do you do that and how to tell if you have strep throat because WebMD convinced you that you had throat cancer and you need her to tell you that you’re fine and to remind you (again) not to go on WebMD for this specific reason.

Or you call your dad and ask him how on Earth you’re supposed to fill out your tax forms when you don’t even know what half of the words on there mean. And you ask if you really have to do this (yeah, you do) every year (yep) and he tells you “Yeah, I know it sucks.” And you laugh and suddenly the mountain of forms on your desk is much less intimidating.

So, the “Almost-Adult Complex” is real (according to my diagnosis) and wildly confusing and misleading. We like to convince ourselves that once we’re away, we’re away and we can do all of this on our own. We can do doctors appointments and tax forms and common colds all by ourselves, I mean how hard could that be?

Let me be real with you, we can’t. Being an adult is ridiculous and difficult and, unfortunately, it takes years of practice before we REALLY know what we’re doing (or so I’m told), and even then it’s iffy. I mean, I still don’t really understand tax forms, I think my dad and I have come to the conclusion that I’ll just be calling him every March for the rest of my life in a panic so he can help me with my taxes.

Do not let the “Almost-Adult Complex” fool you, you are NOT an adult, at least not a real one. Honestly. I mean, you still wear Day of the Week socks.

You can do many things. You can write term papers and get yourself out of bed in the mornings by yourself (well, most mornings) and you still remember the Quadratic formula song so at least you still got that going for you. You can do many things, just not EVERYTHING.

And that’s okay. You shouldn’t know how to do everything fresh out of your parents’ house. You’d go crazy if you knew all you ever needed to at 19. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing sometimes, it’s okay to need help. It doesn’t make you a failure, it just makes you a person.

This is no joke, and we’re all just trying to figure it out, so don’t be so hard on yourself.

It’s okay to have to call your mom and ask her (for the fifth time) how to make rice in a microwave and then mess it up anyway. You have time to figure it out, you almost-adult you.

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Evi Arthur

Digital editor in the mental health space. AP style nerd. RU journalism grad. STL native. Visit my site: