I had an interesting conversation with some dear lady friends the other night. The topic? What makes an adult.
We are 30, 32, and 34 and the argument against us being adults went something like this,
“I have two degrees but live with my parents.”
“I own a house but my mom pays my phone bill and I’m a student.”
“I own a car and a house but wouldn’t be able to without family help.”
“I pay all my bills but not always on time.”
None of us have kids yet. We all have bachelor degrees. We’ve all lived in foreign countries, traveled extensively, and worked a variety of jobs. Are we adults?
I remember when I was a kid I thought being an adult meant being able to recognize which language someone was speaking, understanding investing, and being able to navigate public transportation, all things that alluded me as a kid on a farm in West Virginia.
Through my twenties I would periodically check in with myself, similar to my conversation with those lovely ladies the other night. I distinctly remember that I didn’t feel adult enough to get married until I was 26 (which now sounds young to me!). By 28 I didn’t feel ready to buy a house or have kids but moving to a foreign city of 10 million and finding an apartment totally happened. Throughout these check ins my resounding response to the question “am I an adult yet?” was “nope”.
I hit a turning point around 30. It’s definitely not that I all of a sudden grew up and got super responsible. Kinda the opposite. I realized that that moment of growing up and becoming an adult never actually happens. It’s a super slow process that can sometimes only be seen in retrospect. It’s acknowledging that if you are the kind of kid who never has their shit together than unless you take steps to change it, that’s the kind of adult you will be or maybe already are. On the other hand, some people are born with their shit together. Neither makes you more grown up, neither makes you a better person. The truth is adulthood is a huge spectrum and is different for every single person.
Here are 6 things that made me realize that the time had arrived, damnit, I’m an adult now. These are all super personal to my journey and in no way comprehensive but I thought I’d share.
- I accept, embrace, and even cherish vulnerability and “flaws” in others and myself more than I ever could through my teens and twenties. Life is super messy, for some more than others and at some times more than others, but it’s messy and tremendous and beautiful and hella challenging. Doing the best you can is doing the best you can.
- I (usually) keep track of my usernames and passwords. And have matching socks and clean towels and manage to both keep track of my bills and pay them on time. These are those types of dis-organizational things that frustrated me and made me feel irresponsible, so I got it together and made some changes to make me feel more on top of my shit. Usually.
- I’ve made big decisions about my health on my own. A few years ago when I dealt with the cervical cancer scare, I had the distinct rationalization that no one else could make the decision whether or not to have the LEEP procedure for me, I had to figure it out myself. Which brings me to number 4…
- I am learning when to ask for help. I honestly used to think that it made me weak and irresponsible to need help. Now I am realizing that EVERYONE needs help at different points in their life, some more than others but everyone needs help.
- I’m not (as) afraid of asking ‘dumb’ questions. Before I was an adult 😉 I was afraid of looking or sounding immature or under-educated. Now I realize that we all have our strengths and areas of expertise. I have a lot to add to most conversations but there are certain topics that I am completely ignorant about. Asking basic questions doesn’t make me uneducated, just the opposite, it teaches me so much!
- I am SO much more comfortable in my skin than I ever have been. Over the last few years I realized that there are many, many women (men too, to a lesser extent) that live their entire lives feeling insecure, uncomfortable, unhappy and/or self-loathing about what their body is or isn’t. I found this realization really sad, I think I had previously held out a hope that “adult” women are too busy with adult stuff to have these concerns. Ha! Sadly that’s far, far from the truth. I decided that now was not a moment too soon to start really appreciating my body for what it is, what it’s capable of, and what it will become.
I am just starting my journey as an adult and it’s one I will be on for the rest of my life. I am pretty much banking on looking back at this post in 10 years and thinking “my, how you’ve grown Faith, you were just a baby-adult back then at 32.” But you know what? 10 years after that, at 52, I could have the same thought about 42, and so on and so on.
Here’s to embracing that long, exciting, terrifying journey.
Do you consider yourself an adult? Why or why not?
I don’t often comment on blogs, often because i feel very much like a lot of these women (whether it’s true or not?) all seem to be my age (or younger) and seemingly have their shit together…Im aware this is probably an internal struggle of my own and getting stuck in the comparison trap, but they often feel so foreign to me, as I, like you, have travelled, lived abroad (country number 6 and about to move to the US actually – Im english) and do not have the trappings/nor ‘adult’ life society often dictates to us! It’s SO refreshing to hear something like this that i can relate to! My husband and I are about to move again, and our international relationship has meant we’ve avoided (been unable?!) to buy houses, be settled and all that…do these so-called ‘adult’ thing that many of my peers are currently doing. I have no regrets and am happy with our choices, but gosh it’s nice to know we’re not alone! I really hope I’m able to connect with women similar to myself when we get there 🙂
So glad it resonated with you! Very best wishes with your move! What state are you moving too?
California! He’s going (already there) to grad school in Berkeley. Can’t say i’m not anxious, of all the places i’ve lived, America is making me the most nervous of the lot! I can speak the language! What is wrong with me?!!
That is ironic! It shouldn’t be too hard of a transition, culturally, especially since he’s already here. Berkeley is cool, I love that part of CA. Best wishes!!!
I was actually just thinking about this this morning and how my “developmental age” fluctuates in different areas of my life. I am 34 and it was just last week (Veteran’s Day) that I decided to lounge around all day in my pajamas, watching reruns of “Gilmore Girls.” I sent a text message to a friend stating, “Sometimes I feel like I am perpetually 12.” I also just recently got married and have never felt the rush to marry and have children. In a lot of ways, I fell behind the “growing up” of my peers. However, I have a graduate degree and a few certifications. I work full-time and run my own practice on the side. So when it comes to work, I feel majorly grown up. And weekends? Well, some weekends I feel like I am 64 and other weekends, I feel like I am 21 (or at least I act that way). 🙂 Definitely a spectrum.
Your comment made me smile, thanks. And I totally understand the last part about weekends! 🙂
Jo @ mostlyfitmom
At almost 38, I am most definitely an adult. I have 2 kids, own a business, have been married for over 15 years, have a mortgage, have a Dr. in front of my name, pay my bills, have my student loans paid off, and never get ID’ed anymore. Most people ask how I do it all.
Even with all these accomplishments and the accoutrements of adulthood, I certainly don’t FEEL like a grown-up yet. Part of that is that I have a problem with perfectionism and tend to focus on what I haven’t achieved (permanent weight loss, a regular fitness routine, healthy eating long-term), rather on what I have accomplished. Guess that goes along with my case of the “shoulds.”
I think that as long as you continue to grow, it’s all good.
I think it’s more challenging to navigate being an adult in this generation. When I was teaching high school, the hallways were lined with graduating class photos from 1901-on. Sometime in the 70s, the graduates all started looking younger. In the 40s, they all looked like adults. Maybe they just “looked” like adults, but I think of my grandparents generation and how at my age (34) they had several children, a mortgage, jobs, had been to war, didn’t have college degrees but had the life adults live. My degrees and certifications don’t make me feel like an adult. After college, I too had to move in with my parents for a while. And I wondered for the longest time when I would feel like an adult too. I don’t know when it happened, but I feel like an adult now. I think it has to do with the fact I’m not seeking anymore. I feel at home with who I am and where I am. Even though there are still things I want to accomplish, I don’t feel that restless longing…
Great post, got me thinking!