I don’t read that much non-fiction, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a self-help book before. But my friend Beth loaned me her copy of Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown and told me it would make me laugh and make me feel less like a failure at being a grown-up. That sounded promising to me!
The subtitle of the book is “How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps.” This is not a joke. This book really does contain 468 things people could (and frequently should) do in adult-world. 468 is a lot of steps. This seems intimidating to me. But Kelly’s style is approachable, and she freely admits which of these steps she struggles with or flat-out cannot do. She also admits that these are not 468 things she came up with all on her own – she asked everyone she knows and several people she doesn’t for tips, including her mechanic, a maid, a therapist, and a financial counselor. Kelly doesn’t write like an expert who has it all under control and is trying to force her methods on you. She keeps things simple, she’s frequently hilarious, and she adds little drawings and diagrams that are guaranteed to make you smile.
Here are my favorite examples of her illustrations:
On the importance of not forgetting about the produce in your crisper
On mentally coping with unkind people by imagining them as jellyfish
On real vs. ideal way to react to spills:
The format of the book breaks the 468 steps down into 10 categories which become chapters, like “Domesticity,” “Cooking,” and “Fake It Till You Make It.” For someone who is twenty-eight, has a job, and has successfully moved her belongings into new apartments multiple times, some of the earlier steps seemed like common sense to me (excellent work, Mom and Dad). But I felt like some of the chapters, especially the one about money, had new suggestions for me or some that, even if I’d heard them before, were worth repeating. The chapter about maintenance was also excellent. The main theme of that chapter is, “It’s okay to have nice things as long as you treat them like nice things.” I am embarrassed to admit that the ratio of times I have ignored my “Change Oil” light vs. times I have spent $25 (the price of an oil change!) on an impulse pair of shoes is frighteningly lopsided. Again, common sense, but it’s nice to have the gentle reminder to take care of the things that are important.
Kelly says that her book’s spirit animal is a thank-you note. I think maybe Kelly is my spirit animal. There were so many times where I laughed out loud because I was positive Kelly was talking directly to me. Examples:
- “Getting a job isn’t optional unless you are phenomenally wealthy, in which case enjoy hanging out in your own private baby animal menagerie. Mine will have a bouncy castle full of red pandas.”
- “Don’t put tacos in your purse.”
- “Are you allowing leggings to usurp the rightful place of pants? Leggings can never be pants.”
- “Plants are the ultimate passive thing: they never tell you what they want, they just sort of wilt and die if they don’t get it, like tiny green Katie Holmeses.”
Amazing. It’s like she knows me.
This book’s target audience is definitely women in their early twenties. I don’t think it would be useless for guys, but Kelly does spend a bit of time talking about specifically female concerns. I would say that regardless of your life experiences up to this point, there will be at least a few things in this book you could try, and probably several that will make you laugh while you think, “Yup – been there.”