Being a young adult means discovering responsibility in a whole new context. Suddenly, you're in charge of how you live. What you do for a job, where you live, what you believe…The list is basically endless. But, that's why it's so important for young adults to explore their new independence and responsibilities in a positive and exciting way.
A fun, yet serious, way of doing this is by owning and caring for a pet as a young adult.
Now, I've personally gone my college years without having and caring for my pet, not because I didn't want the responsibly, but because my required and available housing during these years have not allowed me to. On a surface level, it sucks. And that may not be the professional or adult way to express the situation, but it's the direct and honest one.
Through these years without my pet, who is currently cared for by my parents at home, I've thought a lot about how I have been affected by this. And how I would have and can benefit as an adult, and generally as a person, by having pets in the future.
Before I go any further, I think it is important to point out that what I write here is from personal experience and is dependent on my own personality. Caring for a pet is about more than selfish goals. But, I do think that these concepts and thoughts can be applied and adapted to the lives of many other young adults experiencing this weird and new time in their lives.
To be clear, I don't think that everyone should randomly go out and get a pet. It's not a decision that should be made on a whim. It's a decision that requires thought and preparation. One that rests on the acknowledgment of the person to believe and decide that they are ready and capable to take care of a living thing.
It is the epitome of responsibility, albeit on a smaller scale than having a child, but one that can help shape how people view responsibility as a whole. I don't have scientific facts or a bunch of sources, but in my experience, having something or someone dependent on you helps make you more purposeful about your actions and thoughts. In a parallel universe where I had my cat during college, maybe I wouldn't still be such a procrastinator? I guess now we'll never know.
Having a pet as an adult, even just in college, is very different than having one while growing up at home. You are now the sole provider and the sole caregiver for a living being. The decisions you make have more serious consequences since there aren't parents or siblings to help you out when/if you forget something or want to put yourself first.
Pets require a kind of sacrifice that you need to be willing to give. And at the same time, provide a better understanding of responsibility and dependability than simply getting yourself to scrape-by.
With this thought in mind, pets require a routine as well. Which, pet or not, I've realized that routines are super helpful in figuring out a schedule and getting things done on time. You gain a better sense of timing and planning, things that I feel I'm still struggling to master now as a senior.
And as long as the owner is aware of and understands the reality and financial responsibility of having a pet, pets can help young adults, and people overall, better understand a sense of authority and decision-making. Even if you aren't sure the best way to take care of yourself, you can learn the best way to care for an animal. A pet can provide a motivation to do better and be better in life.
As people work harder for the sake of their families, pets can have the same effect as they become a part of your family.
In this, caring for and having a pet can help promote better mental health and socializing. As someone who lives alone, it can be hard to socialize outside of class. And as depressing as it can sound, pets provide a (usually) unconditional love that can help you feel loved and important. I cherish the small amounts of time when I get to see and interact with my cat during breaks.
As a college student without that ability to have a pet, I've been looking forward to the day when I move into a new place and am reunited with my own. And I would be lying if I said I haven't also been quelling a bit of puppy fever the past year or so. But, even though I'm a young adult who may not seem mature at all times, or always have myself together, I do understand what it takes to own a pet. And, I feel that that is the case with most young adults.
As people, we sometimes need something bigger or outside ourselves to work for and towards. A step toward greater responsibility and a new experience, and I whole-heartedly believe that pets can be that.
Yeah, the initial pull might be the fluffy coats and little toes (and honestly everything about pets cause they're freaking adorable), but pets provide realistic and important life-long understandings for young adults.
So, when I say I want another pet after I graduate, that doesn't mean the thought has just popped into my head, it means that I'm ready for more responsibility in my life. A responsibility that is appropriate for where I'm at in life as a young adult.