Welcome to Adulting Camp: Which Side Are You On?

“Like a Boss” vs. “Adulting is Hard”: Life in the Modern World

If you believe social media, which you’ll say you don’t but you and I both know that you spend at least three hours a day on there so who are you kidding, how could you not internalize it all?, you likely fall into one of two camps.

The first is Camp Type “A,” where campers frequently shout “Like a boss!!” while fist pumping; live life by bullet journals or tidily organized To Do lists; and probably stay up all night drinking caffeinated gin while sewing their kid’s school play costume with one hand, freelancing with the other and, if they’re really good, having an orgasm at the same time.

The second is Camp Adulting is Hard, and their motto is “Nope.” They’re uncomfortably honest about their failing relationship, the fact that they have literally never gotten their kid to school on time, how early in the day they open the wine bottle, and how disgusting their bathroom is.

I play for both teams, depending on the time of the month, but I find the idea of totally committing to either one disturbing, and spend time resenting each of them.


This camp is to blame for the rash of super stylish, irresistibly written coaching websites. If you’ve ever visited one, you know. You read a couple pages and feel excited and afraid, like this person might just hold the key to your ultimate happiness. The only thing that stops you from investing in their services is the $1000+ (USD) price tag.

But it’s more than that. These super motivated, super productive people are all about the Apositive messaging, inspirational books and quotes, and groups and meetings designed to help us achieve our loftiest goals. They tell us to stop living in our comfort zone, stop being afraid, to take the leap and follow our dreams.

The good thing about spending time in this camp is that there are legitimate strategies here for achieving your goals, and these people are great at rallying around you to help Get Shit Done.

That said, it can be exhausting, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that every moment must be productive, every day carefully planned and executed. My personal problem with this camp is that I end up feeling like a failure if I don’t accomplish what I set out to. If I have a hard mental health day or just need a day off to do nothing, I end up feeling awful because I didn’t cross those items off my To Do list. There is a lot of guilt served up at the Mess Hall of Camp Type “A” — not by the other campers but by your own inner lunch lady.

Also, I really think there is something to be said for “Enough.” This camp is very “Bigger, Better, Faster, More” and if we are constantly striving to be better in every way, we run the risk of not slowing down to appreciate what we have, who we are, and what we have already accomplished. Taking the leap isn’t always the most prudent decision. Yes, sometimes we need to recognize that fear is holding us back from our right path, but other times, taking it slowly would be a better option. (See: Big Magic, in which Elizabeth Gilbert implores us not to task our art with paying the rent.)

I have found that too often, I feel like a day spent running the dayhome, a day watching movies with the kids, or a day prepping meals and cleaning is a “wasted day.” What have I done to further my aims? I have this super long To Do list and the only thing I’ve crossed off is taking my vitamins.

But do I need to always feel like a boss, a winner? That’s not my personality. I’m not type “A,” I’m not competitive. I am motivated, but I’m not motivated 24/7. I strongly believe in the value of sitting and admiring the stars, of spending an evening watching silly cat videos, of making the best of a difficult situation — not having a lot of money, for instance.

What if I want to just be mediocre and enjoy life?


I am the first to admit that being a grownup is really, really hard. It’s not that it’s harder than I expected — I always dreaded being a real adult because it looked damn hard. But some days, I really am shocked at the number of difficult decisions a person has to make as a grownup.

It’s a popular meme… professing our anxiety, our exhaustion, our level of not caring A (1)about the cleanliness of our home. I like it. I am not all about keeping up appearances. Let’s put it all out there! Let’s be honest! But where do we cross from being honest and real into giving ourselves a free pass to just stop caring?

I love a friend who enables me, but if everyone enables me all the time I will end up living off junk food and gin, fittering away my savings and never leaving the house. It’s good to have some self-discipline.

The truth is, most of us have days where We. Just. Can’t. That is okay. That is normal. We need to give ourselves a pass, sometimes, to just quit, take a bath, read a book, hell  stare at a wall if that’s all we can muster. The other day at work I clocked out, lay my head down on the desk and dozed off for 10 minutes. It was a rough day. I blame hormones.

But to buy into this completely, more than a small percentage of the time, or on every front, would simply be harmful. Choose your battles, people. You don’t need to be perfect, or even close to it, in most areas of your life. But we should continue to strive to be good at the things at which we excel, and to challenge ourselves to get better in at least a few areas of life. Simply resigning yourself to sweatpants, alcoholism and mediocre parenting isn’t going to leave you feeling very good in the end.


As with many things (Philadelphia cream cheese dip; squats; Taylor Swift; sriracha; gin), both of these camps are wonderful in moderation. We can take some lessons from each of them and find a healthy balance in life. Here are my thoughts for not succumbing to the dangers of either Camp Type “A” or Camp Adulting is Hard:

  • Recognize and embrace that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. If your strengths are macrame, washing dishes, making sure people get home safely and biting your tongue when you need to, then run with those. Rock those strengths as hard as you can. And if your weaknesses are keeping the floor clean, returning phone calls and getting up in the morning, then build some mechanisms into your life to mitigate these things.
  • Give yourself a break. Sometimes. Recognize that you can’t have a break all the time, or you’ll never get to do the things you want to do. So work hard when you’re able, and give yourself regular breaks.
  • Use the tips that actually make sense. Super productive, life coach types have some great tips. They have systems that work, and often recommend great resources. That said, each tactic is not going to work for everyone. If something works for you, great — use it. If not, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. Just move on.
  • Surround yourself with a mix of enablers and ass-kickers. If all of your friends are one or the other, you’re in trouble. Some days you need to be enabled, some days you need a kick in the ass.
  • Embrace “good enough.” Be a good enough mom; accept having “enough money;” let your house be just clean enough; let yourself look good enough. You can strive for perfection where it really matters to you. Figure out where that is.
  • Actually go to camp. Surprise! Yes, if you can find a summer camp that offers Family Camp or Grown-up Camp, take a week off and do it. Go, learn some things, have some fun, make some friends, take some naps, canoe around a little, play dodgeball and even use your free time to write that book or crochet that blanket or go for a run. Andi and I go to Family Camp with the younger kids each summer and we look forward to it the rest of the year.

Here are our friends Nicole and Saryn, a new friend from camp, and Andi and me ACTUALLY AT AN ACTUAL CAMP. We’re performing improv. Our new camp friend was ridiculously funny.

Which camp do you frequent? Is it working for you? Would you add any tips to my moderation list?


One thought on “Welcome to Adulting Camp: Which Side Are You On?

  1. I am in Camp Adulting Is Hard. A life coach in Camp Adulting Is Hard!! I think the aggressive brightsiding of a lot of “think and grow positive!” messaging really ends up hurting folks. But it’s a difficult balancing act, because we do need to push ourselves as much as we reasonably can. So, basically, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.


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