Outsourcing adulthood

A proper question to the generation that outsource their adulthood: Can you ever really grow up if you don’t do anything for yourself?

To be a grown-up is to be done growing up — as in, done with the part of life that requires parental supervision and support. You’re supposed to be able to survive on your own. You should know how to clothe, feed, and shelter yourself. But today’s young adults have parents who are deeply involved in their practical, financial, and emotional lives. Many of the tasks once viewed as integral components of adulthood are no longer mandatory. With money and a smartphone, you can outsource anything.

A generation raised to view every moment through the lens of productivity will naturally apply that perspective to workplace project-management skills. Time-is-money calculations and “hustle culture” diminish the incentive — and thus, perhaps, ability — to perform analog tasks like going to the post office and cooking dinner, as opposed to farming them out. And the same hyperspecialization people use to move forward in their workplaces also transfers to their home lives. In other words: As children, millennials acted like career-minded adults. And as adults, we seem like helpless children.

There is a strange and perhaps unnatural comfort when no material object is unavailable, if you’re willing to fork over enough cash. Many people I spoke to admitted to ordering cheap socks and underwear instead of doing their laundry. When outsourcing is the default, choosing inconvenience becomes a statement.

And so, yes, millennials do grow up — as did every generation before us, and as will every generation to come. “Adulting” may be a moving target, but it’s also unavoidable, not growing up isn’t really an option. If “adulting” describes the things adults do, then “adulting” now includes ordering GrubHub to your desk at WeWork while waiting for Amazon to deliver dental floss, which you will use while washing your face with whatever Birchbox sent this month.

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