Column: About Being a Grown Up

©Collage / Oriane Baud

 Adulthood means self-empowerment: An affirmative examination

Often I find my current age (early and almost mid-30s) to be the best thing that ever happened to me. A lot has been written about how overextended this generation is, just because there are too many possibilities. The constant overstimulation, proven by “too much internet“, is supposed to have a number of side effects – no one can can concentrate on the essentials anymore, or to say it esoterically, find oneself.

Young people, those who are both biologically able and in the right position in life, fail in the decision and feel overwhelmed by the thought of having to take on the responsibility. Recently, Leandra Medine wrote on Manrepeller that she didn’t find it any big favor to be grown up – and therefore the article carried the title I Think I am Afraid to Grow Up. I gather that she really meant something about the scenario described there and didn’t type line after line just to get that polarizing title the most attention possible and generate some clicks. After every second sentence, I wanted to object and caught myself giving a speech on the independent woman to my team.

Because it’s actually like that: there isn’t the slightest part of me that longs for a time when a school lunch was packed for me. I don’t remember the last time that it came to that. Independence was so instilled in me that there were really more advantages – and actually no disadvantages – associated with it. It’s just the best being able to decide for yourself. Only to do what you want, or at least to talk yourself into it. And in those rare moments that you have to adapt yourself, you should ideally be able to make it bearable enough that you can quickly get through it, get it over and done with.

In my field however, this general approach isn’t urgently the case: “Oh God, I have to go to work on Monday” or “I’m going home this weekend to really get spoiled again by mommy.” There, words fail me a little bit. Referring to this “Monday problem”: with a certain amount of social skills, it should be possible to find a job that a) corresponds to your own capabilities and b) doesn’t make you feel like you’re always living for the weekend.

Often, when going home, I find that of course one feels a certain nostalgia when thinking about the ‘80s. Or of student days when the computer stayed at home, you filed your notes away in a real folder, and the letter display on your Nokia cellphone was the only electronic temptation that stood between you and a cram session before exams. Watching a Steffi Graf tennis match or the Harald Schmidt Show on TV belong to my most heartwarming childhood memories, as much so as croissants from Knack und Back on Sunday.

Perhaps just the topic of nutrition serves as a good explanation, because it’s just great to be able to look back at the old days with a peaceful feeling, even when you find so much better now. Above all, digitization also enabled a leap in knowledge. Things that you couldn’t know or didn’t want to know then. Things that are now more easily accessible than ever before.

My favorite example for that: what halfway sorted-out person sticks a cigarette in their face with as little thought as our parents did back then? Who lets themselves be blinded by the sugar lobby or chooses pre-packed foods in the supermarket with a clear conscience?

Analog, thank God, remains analog. Whoever wants to spend hours in the evening (like then) stuck in a book, can. No one is forcing you to watch Netflix. And that’s maybe the whole point: the whole discussion of self-empowerment. Learning mindfulness and finding out what is the best for you, and that is something that mommy can’t do for you. Ideally, she instilled something in you, or at least gave you the tools to figure it out. Or you were even allowed as a kid to learn what it meant to say “yes” or “no” in an interplay between you and your environment.

As soon as you know how to handle these tools, I would dare to say that being grown up is something really wonderful. Self-empowerment is, in my view, the key to happiness. Recently, The New Yorker wrote that it was the best way to prevent illness. With Leandra’s article, it was carried on a little more precisely: “(…) For as much as I whine about how urgently I would like to have a child (and I would!), I am also scared shitless of the notion that when I am babying, you know, a real baby, no one will baby me.”

But still, you don’t want to be mothered at all – in light of the many steps that you’ve taken on your own and gained value, knowledge, and sovereignty from, that you don’t want to give up at any price. Having a family on top of your career surely presents a huge challenge, but is somehow still an appeal to one’s ambition to want to do it anyway, like women who you yourself find inspiring have also managed to.

The idea that “I can and I want that” is the best and only motivation that you can hope for in the morning when you get up. To know when and at what cost it is worth it, to set your own mechanism to what degree, is still a matter of daily training which only makes life exciting and worth living. Ideally surrounded by people that think and act the same way and make wonderful things happen through your interaction.

And yes, of course, I like nothing more than to call my daddy (as I like nothing more than calling him) when it comes to asking for life or professional advice. But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t do it without him, just essentially better and more directly. Because as a role model and (sometimes stricter but no less endearing) guide, he has dispensed it to me exactly and brought me through the most important points of my career, things I can call up from my head and heart to reach precisely the right decision every time.

The influence of good mentors as a guiding principle goes even further: in Berlin, one of the big advantages I experience is having access to people who inspire me. Their age and where they are in life comes second – what counts are the experiences that these people have made, that they are. The mid-40s gallerist sits next to a mid-50s editor-in-chief and both listen to a businesswoman in her late 20s. At moments like these, I’m not thinking about the buttered toast in my mother’s kitchen, or of my still-unborn baby, but just how lucky I can count myself to be in the here and now. Alternate life plans: unnecessary.

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.