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Jen Thorpe on writing 'Adulting 101'

A simple guide to being braver, feeling less alone and dealing with this thing called life

29 May 2022 - 00:00 By Jen Thorpe
has published three feminist essay collections, two novels, one full-length non-fiction, and two children’s books.
Jen Thorpe has published three feminist essay collections, two novels, one full-length non-fiction, and two children’s books.
Image: Supplied

Being an adult has, and this is perhaps a huge understatement, its ups and downs.  In the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, I was doing my laundry on my lunch break, looking up at the blue sky and wishing we were allowed out and about and that things would just go back to some sort of normal. Last peg in hand I thought “sh*t this is a tough time to be alive”. Of course, normal wasn’t really normal in a country like SA — it has always meant trying to navigate inequality and complexity.

Then I thought about how many other times in my life the world has felt that way and there were many: making decisions about careers before I really knew what a career was, falling in and out of love and surviving break ups, trying to navigate family dynamics and crime and climate change ... the list went on. That little buzzing feeling I get when I have an idea started to hum around my body and I sat down, put pen to paper, and came up with a list of things to write about. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I, and maybe some other adults out there, could do with some help muddling through this thing called life.

I began with health, because with Covid-19 going around it was at the forefront of most of our minds. It’s amazing what you can change about your health by doing just two things — sleeping well and breathing properly. If you take nothing else from the book, take note of those two recommendations.

by Jen Thorpe is published by Kwela.
Adulting 101 by Jen Thorpe is published by Kwela.
Image: Supplied

Spending a lot of time at home with my husband and only seeing my family and a handful of friends for two years also made me want to research relationships — how we form them, mess them up, and why we act so strangely. There are a lot of theories out there, and I mean a lot, but I chose to highlight some that I thought were most useful. Then I started talking about sex and baby making and it was damn near impossible not to just write the whole book about that. The way we love and lurve in the world has a huge affect on all sorts of things, and getting our relationships right as an adult can be transformative.

There is a lot of stuff in the book about the things we can’t control — government, crime, the climate — and I found some useful tricks to help to live with the discomfort of being out of control and to do a bit better about not contributing to the chaos.

I’ve always found it really comforting to know that other people go through what I do, and I hope that Adulting 101 becomes a friendly guide, helping us feel a little braver and a little less alone.

Click here to buy Adulting 101