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$Monday: Forget Adulting, Try Hermit Crabbing!

Adulting is for squares. You can live your life according to a generic set of milestones if you want to, but if you don't, contorting yourself into someone else's goals and values isn't a sign of maturity, it's avoidance of doing what real grownups do: take responsibility for personal decisions. Being an actual adult is great once you achieve the inner freedom to own what you want to do with yourself. Instead of "adulting" by some middle-to-upper-class,cis/het, straight, white millennial model, especially if you are not all of those things, try "hermit crabbing"--choosing what fits you at each stage of life rather than trying to cram yourself into the shape of someone else's ideal carapace--and changing it as soon as it stops working for you.

It's easy to derive your self-worth from your current circumstances, but it is possible to reverse that flow and, to some extent, manifest a higher net worth by working on your feelings of self worth. People who feel more in control of themselves tend to make better saving and investing decisions, which usually leads to beneficial outcomes and more reasons to feel good about themselves. Financial security, like all forms of security, is a feeling rather than a number. Self worth begets net worth, which expands your future options.

So find your best shell for this moment in your life, knowing that it is temporary, and wear it proudly--and when the time is right, get a new one. Go through as many transformations as you need or want. The only maturation milestone that matters is taking responsibility for your own well being and choosing the career, home, drag, and protective strategies that allow you to live most fully. How you go about that is nobody's business but yours.

Your shell can be any color or texture, any weight, any style, and there are no rules you have to follow based on your biological sex characteristics. Your best shell at any given time might be shaped like a cubicle, or it might not. It might be shaped like Julia Child's kitchen, rattling with copper pans and cast iron skillets, or it might not. It might be made of designer dresses, statement jewelry, and a tractor. It might be festooned like a classroom or decked out for a festival. It might have battery-operated blinky lights. It might be stealthy, neutral camouflage.

If you can't find a shell that you like, you can--as a metaphorical hermit crab who is actually an adult human being--craft your own from the raw materials available to you.

While we're on the subject of metaphorical limitations, hermit crabs are neither hermetic nor crabby. They live in colonies and help each other obtain better fitting shells as they outgrow them. Thriving adult humans also live in networks of care and support, whether or not they include traditional nuclear families. We don't just go around choosing our own homes and outfits and defensive tactics; we choose to create and care for--and sometimes discard or swap--vital relationships with others. In order to be our best selves, we need to contribute meaningfully to others we love, and we need to surround ourselves with others we trust to have our backs.

Your shell and your colony are vital to you, but they are not you. Don't mix up your identity with a busted or inadequate shell and keep on dragging it around like useless baggage. Of course, there's value in stability, and there's risk in every change, but you can't thrive in something that pinches you harder with each passing day.

Don't mix up your worth with your tolerance of dysfunctional relationships, employment that doesn't give you room to expand your skills and talents, or inadequate housing. Grownups take responsibility for managing their investments and cutting their losses. Anyone who pressures you to stay in a used-up shell or a crab bucket, perhaps by calling you fake or fickle if you try to change, is trying to trick you into staying small or crushing yourself in the attempt. Healthy hermit crab colonies help each other find new, better-fitting shells as needed. If your colony is pressuring you to stay inside a shell that hurts you, you need a new colony too.

Grown people never stop evolving, and they celebrate each new season of life for its unique gifts of wisdom and new experience. They welcome and manage their own transformations as well as supporting the shell changes of their friends. Isn't it grand to be a creature that can live so many different lives?

Happy hermit crabbing!

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