6 Secrets of Adulthood You Wish You Knew in Your 20s

As kids, we all imagined what adulthood would be like. Suddenly, we would wake up and know the answers to everything—paying bills, drinking fancy wine, and having a career would just magically happen. But we all know it’s not that easy.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up by Bridget Watson Payne

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up is that journey in book form. With bite-sized bursts of advice paired with quirky illustrations, this playful guide maps out the path to becoming the grown-up we all wanted to be. Written by Bridget Watson Payne, the book is full of tips, tricks, and secrets that are attainable, not intimidating. Read on for a look inside the book.


1. Pay your bills on time.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up

Figuring out a system that works for you to make this happen frees up huge swathes of time and space in your life and brain for things that are way more fun.

57% Solution: the landing pad. Have a place right inside your front door to put the mail (and hey, while we’re at it, your keys too). Sort through it once a week and pay anything that’s coming up due in the next seven days.

14% Solution: Get over your scarcity issues and acknowledge that you are a grown-up. Insolvency is not one water bill way.

28% Solution: For credit card bills—do not pay only the minimum payment! Take the grand total and divide it by 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months (whichever gets you the highest amount you can actually manage to pay) and pay that amount, every month, till the bill is gone. And for god’s sake, don’t charge anything else in the meantime. Seriously! For other bills—call up the relevant entity and make arrangements before the bill is late. That’s what grown-ups do, and the faceless bureaucrats will almost for sure be more helpful at this point than later on.

1% Solution: Pay bill late, move on with your life.


2. Read the recipe all the way through for booby traps.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up

In cooking, like in math, it’s good to get a handle on the concept of order of operations. Many recipes are full of things they don’t tell you till the middle or even the end, but that really need to be done first. If you read the whole thing first, you’ll spot stuff like:

  • Boiling the pasta water
  • Toasting the bread for the sandwiches
  • Chopping all the ingredients before you start cooking (otherwise known as mise en place)
  • Reserving some pasta water (Put the liquid measuring cup into the colander in the sink as a reminder to yourself to use it to scoop out some water from the pot before you drain the noodles—otherwise everyone forgets this.)
  • Toasting the nuts
  • Lining the unbaked pie shell with foil


3. Turn the bottle, not the cork.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up

When opening champagne, prosecco, or the more affordable sparkling wine of your choice (which, by the way, you keep in the fridge at all times, because you never know when cause for celebration may arise)… turn the bottle, not the cork.


4. Take the second, less crowded, bus or train.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up

We’ve all seen it happen: Lots of people are waiting at a bus stop or train platform for a vehicle to arrive. Maybe they’ve been waiting a long time. Eventually it does arrive, and it is crowded. But there is another one right behind it, only waiting for the first one to leave.

And what do people do? They panic, particularly if they’ve been waiting a while. They tend to freak out and all crowd on to the first one. Off it goes, with the people’s faces practically smushed up against the windows.

The second one pulls up, opens its doors, and the few smart people who waited get on sit down and ride to their destination in comfort. And yes, they even get there, at worst, just a few moments later, and often even faster than the folks on the first one.

Be one of the smart people. Don’t panic. Be a grown-up. Your commute will thank you.


5. Work can, and will, be a drag.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up

That’s why they call it “work” and not “crazy fun time.”

And that’s why they have to pay you to be there.

By all means look for a job you love, but realize there will always be unlovable things about any job.


6. The older you get, the more yourself you get to be.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up

And that is utterly fantastic.


– – –

You can find The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up here—it makes a great graduation gift, or a present to yourself.

The Secret Art of Being a Grown-Up


Bridget Watson Payne

Senior Editor, Art Publishing. You can follow her at @WatsonPayne and read about her latest projects at pippascabinet.com.

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