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The 13 Biggest Disappointments of Adulthood

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A recent post on Reddit got the community buzzing about what they felt were the biggest disappointments of adulthood.

Most of the responses were quite heartfelt – many were a bit sad or wistful, some a little angry, and a few to make you fall off your chair laughing. But all of them were, I think, quite relatable.

Let’s take a look at a summary of the Reddit community’s 13 ‘adulthood disappointments’ now:

1. Money

This was probably the most commonly cited disappointment.

For most, it’s the sad fact that money just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. For others, it’s the manner in which it simply disappears before they’ve even had a chance to enjoy it – from employer to direct deposit to bank to auto-paid bills – without an opportunity in between to touch, hold or relish it the way they used to when they were kids.

Definitely a nostalgia for the way money used to make us ‘feel’ when we had it in our hands as kids, and when it was just ours to spend as we chose. Adulthood brings responsibilities and the reality that all of the money is used to survive and pay bills.

Money isn’t ‘fun’ anymore.

2. Not Being Prepared For Life

The second most repeated disappointment had to do with the feeling of not being adequately prepared for real life and adulthood.

Assuming that the majority of those responding fall into the Generation Y or Millenial age group, their commentary is reflective of the type of parenting that was popular while they were growing up; an overemphasis on feeling ‘special’, a huge focus on self over others, and the prevalence of helicopter parenting.

These respondents felt that they did not have enough autonomy while they were growing up, and that there was too much emphasis and encouragement – from their parents, their teachers, and the media – to focus on themselves. And then suddenly, at 18 they were expected to shift into the adult world of being ‘other’ focused – on career and workplace, their children, spouse, community, social and political issues, finances etc..

The disappointment is an overwhelming feeling of not being adequately prepared for life, and the painful realizations that ‘life isn’t fair’ and ‘I’m not special after all’.

3. Time

Several respondents felt the heavy hand of time as the biggest disappointment of adulthood.

Comments focused on not having enough time (too much spent on responsibilities, work, and chores), and the disappointment of having so little free time to just hang out and enjoy life.

Some also cited the acceleration of time passing as their biggest disappointment and longed for the days of their youth when time seemed to crawl by.

4. Losing Childhood Friendships

The loss of childhood friendships they thought would last forever was a big disappointment for some respondents, as was the challenge of getting together in the first place while juggling new ‘adult’ schedules and responsibilities.

5. Retirement

The myth of retirement was another big disappointment for respondents.

Commenters realize the security of retirement that their parents and grandparents enjoyed simply doesn’t exist anymore. They feel discouraged at the thought of working hard all their lives for financial security, only to be too old to enjoy the resulting freedom. Others worried that they might never attain this financial state at all.

6. Work

A big disappointment was work, both in terms of the quantity required (too much of it, and not enough time off to enjoy the money earned), and quality available (not enjoying work, not finding fulfilling work, or working hard only to see others attain the success and promotions you desire).

7. Freedom

A more light-hearted though still disappointing fact of adulthood for some Reddit respondents was the realization that, just when they were finally old enough to do as they pleased, they could no longer enjoy the freedom of eating/drinking/indulging/sleeping in/playing games as they once used to, without the accompanying recovery, guilt, weight gain, headache and other repercussions that come with it.

8. Lack of Joy & Excitement for Life

This sad comment ties in with the loss of freedom associated with adulthood that many respondents seem to be feeling. The respondent felt they had lost the ability to find joy and excitement in the little things.

Another respondent summed up the disappearance of this childlike wonder humorously by stating “I have not once encountered quicksand.”

9. Becoming Our Parents

Several respondents agreed that their biggest disappointment was the realization that they were indeed becoming their parents, something they once believed would never happen.

10. Relationships

One commenter felt disappointed that their adult relationships were not measuring up to the romantic fairy tales of their childhood, and that they were much more work than they had anticipated.

11. Choices

One respondent felt disappointed about the pressure to choose a life direction requiring some sort of significant sacrifice. For example, do they choose an exciting and adventurous life of travel and taking risks, but possibly end up broke and alone? Or do they settle for a safer, less remarkable life, married with children and a stable job?

In this respondent’s view, adulthood involved making difficult choices that required some type of painful sacrifice.

12. High School Mentality

One Reddit commenter was disappointed to find that the immature, gossipy drama of high school hadn’t completely vanished as they had hoped. They expected to encounter a world of mature adults and instead came to the disappointing realization that not everyone outgrew this type of behavior.

13. Sex

“They said there would be sex.”  Enough said.

The 13 Biggest Disappointments of Adulthood

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2019). The 13 Biggest Disappointments of Adulthood. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Mar 2019
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