18 Unexpected Things That Caught People Totally Off Guard When Becoming "Real Adults"

Recently, I wrote a post where people shared all the weird stuff they've encountered in their 20s/early adulthood that surprised them the most. You guys seemed to have a lot to say, so I decided to share some more stories, straight from our own BuzzFeed Community! Here are the best:

1."When I was a kid/teenager I thought that adults all had their act completely together and knew everything. Now as an adult, I realize that’s obviously not the case, they just knew more than I did because [they had] more life experience. One thing that still surprises me as an adult is how many people have very little concept of how to manage their personal finances. Financial illiteracy is rampant in America, and that’s a very bad thing."

woman with calculator and financial paperwork sits at a wood table
d3sign / Getty Images

2."Laundry. So much laundry. There’s always laundry!!!"

Washing machine

3."I'm a woman and I thought that by my late 20s, adulthood would make people treat me like a grown-up. This has not been the case. I always thought people were treating me a certain way (not taking my ideas seriously, assuming negative things about my personality, treating me as a secretary rather than a coworker) because, as awful as it is, that's just how many people still treat young women."

three women of varying agessit at a meeting together, smiling

4."[Some people think] that all adults are 'just winging it' — not sure how accurate that statement is. I am a senior citizen and I have I guess what I would call a general 'plan' about how I run my life, but there is a great randomness to life that you need to recognize and learn how to deal with."

"As you go through your life you gain experience and knowledge and that helps you learn how to deal with the random, unplanned events that crop up for everyone... You have to expect that life is going to throw you curveballs every so often and you have to use your experience to figure out how to deal with them.

"Also, always be open to learning new things and be willing to discard behaviors that are no longer working for you."


5."The 'having to feed yourself' thing remains [for me] the most taxing, confounding and exasperating aspect of being an adult. I still remember perfectly Saoirse Ronan describing her adult/living alone reality shock moment regarding food: 'If I'm hungry I've got to go get the food; pay for the food; cook the food; and then clean up after it.' 😭😩"

A box of kraft mac n'cheese, a nature valley bar, and 2 juice boxes on a countertop

6."How fucked up the world is. I was very sheltered growing up, and even the worst historical or political conflicts were made black and white for me. Since going to college, I've found out that that's not the case. It really opened my eyes. I love my family so much, but I have trouble with my visits home now that I know just how much they sheltered me — and just how much they themselves are sheltered, too. It's rough out here!"

a young woman in a sweater and jeans sits in her dorm room reading a book


Francesco Carta fotografo / Getty Images

7."The time is just passing me by. It goes so much faster than I thought it ever could."


8."Growing up in the lower middle class gave me a far greater appreciation for money, to the point that I never wanted more than I had. Now as a working adult with a decent income, I’ve realized that as much as I might want something, whether it be [for] vanity or even dinner at a restaurant, I can’t just spend certain dollars because of concern over bills and debts. To be able to buy myself something nice, even if only once a year, feels like a win."

woman eating chinese takeout while smiling at her laptop and a book


Blackcat / Getty Images

9."One should realize that the moment you figure out [that many adults don't have their act together] is INCREDIBLY enabling, and should allow you to begin taking charge of your life. You can forge goals that you now realize are not unattainable; everyone around you is [honestly] clueless. This is a very low bar you need to jump."


10."No one told me that I would lose a huge chunk of memory after becoming an adult and mother. Literally, the amount of information overload is crazy and maintaining it is a job in itself. I have no cognitive issues whatsoever, nor undiagnosed mental health issues. I just cannot keep up with all the things all time!"

mother holding her sleeping baby on her shoulder and gazing pensively at the ground
Resolution Productions / Getty Images/Tetra images RF

11."I realized that my alcohol consumption was a problem. The bigger problem was that I loved partying, like, to an insane degree, and although for some people that stops when college does, for me it only got worse once I got a job and had my own money to spend. Drinking too much can really sneak up on you. By 25 or 26, working at home during the pandemic, I considered it totally normal to have an Irish coffee in the morning to 'help me' with my work."

vintage christmas tree with presents underneath

12."Your 20s are just adolescence 2.0. Your body's changing, you're feeling new emotions, you're going through new mental and emotional phases, and for the first half, you're just excited to do all the things you couldn't as a child. As a 27-year-old who felt very stunted and behind when I was 24, [I can assure you] it'll be alright."

couple hugging in a car
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

13."[What shocked me was] how many other adults don’t take the time to learn basic skills. My mom taught me some things, but after being out of the house and on my own I quickly realized there were a number of 'adult' things I still needed to learn. Most of it I learned as I lived through my 20s, trial by fire style; but I am shocked how many of my peers, nearing 30, haven’t picked up basic things like registering to vote (or voting), filing basic taxes online, managing health appointments, basic home maintenance, etc. I don’t expect everyone to know everything, but if you don’t know how to clean your bathroom or call your dentist at 30…"

vintage photo of 50s housewife doing laundry


Archive Holdings Inc. / Getty Images

14."Saving money is incredibly difficult, but you just have to do it even though it sucks. And God, does it suck. Worth it though."

— Anonymous

15."This is going to sound weird but the first time I had to take the trash out was a bizarre experience. Growing up, my dad always said that taking the trash out was a 'boy job,' so my brothers or he would always take it out. I never had to. There were no 'girl jobs' that only girls could do... Yes, I know it’s weird in hindsight it’s how he was taught as a kid."

messy overflowing trash can with in'n'out, mac n' cheese, and soda cans

16."Something that took me by surprise was that a lot of adults are just [as] mean and nasty as kids are. I guess mean children often don't grow out of it, [and] bullying can still happen in the workplace as adults. The pettiest bully I knew was a 53-year-old father of three, who would spread rumors about our coworkers. I think it comes from a place of insecurity, and I do think that MOST human beings are decent and lovely, but it's an important thing to look out for, I guess."

a sneaky businessman gives a sidelong look to another businessman, who has his back turned


Sven Hagolani / Getty Images

17."Having an office job. My first job post-grad was a very boring, soul-draining, corporate job, and my God, I was not set up for that. I'm not trying to be a whiny young person, I just don't think human beings are set up for that kind of environment. It was the most demoralizing, depressing experience of my life. There has to be a better way of working."

person at their desk


Maskot / Getty Images

18.And finally: "The start of the first autumn term at my university after I graduated was hard for me, and that surprised me. This sounds so cliché, but a big part of my identity growing up was always academics. Living through the first week of my life where school started without me was... weird. I feel stupid about it now, but I honestly had a bit of a breakdown."

Residential London street, with charming townhouses and cars parked on the road

If you've lived through any amount of your 20s, feel free to tell us all about what surprised you in the comments below. Or, if you prefer, you're welcome to share in this anonymous Google form. Your story may be featured in an upcoming BuzzFeed Community post!