This Is 30: 10 Things About Adult Life I Still Don't Understand

by Erin Russell

I used to think 30 was old. Like, so old.

I thought I would be married, at the top of my career and versed in world events and social niceties.

Unfortunately, I still don't even feel like a real adult all of the time. It's more like I've gotten really good at playing pretend adult, and they have started letting fetuses graduate from high school (apparently it only seems like they get tinier every year).

However, when I think about the last decade of my life, I realize I really have changed and "grown."

I no longer think it is a good idea to drink an entire bottle of $6 champagne, date someone who is super fun but may or may not be a drug dealer or say "I am a people person" during a job interview.

I have become less selfish, less fearful and more conscious and deliberate.

But despite all of the knowledge, life experience, and "adultness" I have gained over the last 30 years, there are still some things (of varying importance) I just don't understand:

1. Tipping.

This is a seemingly simple social rule I always feel like I do incorrectly. Sure, the waitstaff obviously needs to be tipped. But what if I’m getting my order to go?

Do I tip a smaller percent for counter vs. table service? I tip my hairdresser but do I need to tip my laser hair removal technician? (Because I feel really weird tipping someone in scrubs.)

And, why is tipping even a thing? Things were way easier when I lived in Europe and didn't have to worry about tipping at all.

2. How to do my hair.

I can do two things to my hair: blow-dry it straight, or go to sleep with it wet and let it do whatever the f*ck it wants (this usually results in pretty waves, but if I have angered the hair gods, the waves will only be on one side).

That’s it. I can't even French braid, and, as stupid as I realize this is, it makes me feel like less of a woman.

I know there are YouTube tutorials and how-tos out there, but I just feel if I didn’t learn this stuff as a teenager, I don’t have enough know-how to start now.

Of course, now that I’m 30, the number of events for which I need to "do" my hair are few and far between. My life is more Netflix than clubs or galas.

3. What to do with my money.

I started looking into this last year, but I only have a vague grasp of things like mutual funds and bonds.

I am not really sure what qualifies as a good investment (though I do know, despite what Carrie Bradshaw may think, shoes do not count).

Basically, I put money into my 401(k), don’t spend it on stupid sh*t and rely heavily on fund ratings represented in graphic form (it's so much easier to count the number of stars than actually read things).

But, I still essentially feel like I am giving my money to people and trusting them to do good things to it.

4. What I want to be when I grow up.

I remember hearing 40-year-olds say this when I was younger and thinking, “What’s wrong with you that you don't know by now?”

Turns out, choosing a career is a long and winding path filled with dead ends through which you have to navigate yourself.

Given that my previous job requirements were "Pay me in money," I have certainly learned many things I do not want to do. But, I also got a late start on figuring out what actually suits me.

Pinpointing and honing the skills I have and discovering different ways to use them can lead me in many different directions.

For example, I have always been a perfectionist, and while this stressed me out when I had to plan events, it worked to my advantage as a copy editor.

Figuring out the right intersection of what you're good at, what you love to do and what will pay you takes more time for some people.

But, that's okay as long as you are making the efforts to figure it out.

5. How to plan meals.

It is unfathomable to me you can go to the grocery store once a week and anticipate everything you will want to eat during that time.

This is partially because I am still rebelling against growing up with an unchanging weekly menu, but I can’t stand making commitments to meals without the input of my appetite's whims.

My lack of planning often results in late-night trips to the store, high grocery bills from when I attempt to plan but change my mind, and seeking refuge in macaroni and cheese far more than I should at this age.

6. The dark side of humanity.

As much as I understand people won't behave like "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" all the time, I still don't get it when people are just straight up awful to each other.

Whether it’s via comments on the Internet or on the news, I still feel 5-years-old sometimes because I just don’t understand how someone could act so terribly to another human being.

7. All the rules of football.

I am from Texas, so I have watched my fair share of football over the years, but I’m pretty sure they make some rules up during the game.

Football sometimes makes what is essentially a more elaborate game of keep away way too complicated.

8. “Runner’s high.”

I have definitely learned the importance of regular exercise as my body slowly starts to crumble, but f*ck running.

It does not help me think, I do not zone out and I do not feel better after I run. If I am running to chase a ball (e.g. soccer), it is fine, but not as an activity in itself (yes, I realize this makes me seem very similar to a dog).

Don’t even get me started on marathons. Bravo to those who run them without getting bored, but waking up at the crack of dawn and running for several hours is not for me.

9. The politics and history behind most world events.

Like, I know the Houthis staged a coup and took over Yemen and that ISIS has a stronghold in Syria.

But my understanding of context or why it’s important is largely dependent on the readability of the Wikipedia page.

I don’t want to sound ignorant, and I really do try ("The Edge" from Elite Daily helps).

But, I just don’t have time to learn the entirety of history plus keep up with current events and, you know, live my life and do things I enjoy.

10. Exactly which combinations of alcohol result in a hangover.

Though I sadly have much more experience with this now, I sometimes wake up with a headache after only one or two drinks.

Clearly, more research is still needed.