What is adulthood? If you’re anything like me, or if you’ve ever lived past the age of 18, you’ve no doubt found yourself asking this question. Now, granted, I understand that varies from person to person, but what is it that we all seem to be after in an effort to “grow up”? Whatever that means…
We’re told from a young age what adulthood means, or at least I was… it was a set of responsibilities and/or obligations. I’m pretty sure it was the simplest answer that my parents could give me to get me out of their hair, but there’s some truth to it. It is about the responsibilities that are eventually piled upon us. But most of us have had responsibilities before. I mean, sure they were more in the vein of mowing the lawn than paying your mortgage, but it implies adulthood is a gradual thing that grow into it. I don’t know about everyone else, but gradual isn’t the way I’d describe it. I’m suddenly no longer a kid and I get that it’s ‘time to grow up” and everything, but I don’t feel like an adult yet even with a mediocre and unsatisfying job (and after all, isn’t that what we’re always told it’s about?).
So I find myself asking this question again and again, because I don’t feel like an adult, not yet at least. So what is it? What does adulthood mean? As I clamor to reach it, I find myself more and more confused. Is it emotional? If it’s an emotional state, I’m screwed. I reached emotional maturity at a relatively young age. This doesn’t mean I’m done in the maturity department, but if you ask a lot of folks my age, they’ll tell you that we were pretty much forced to emotionally mature at a young age (divorce, death, and pretty much all your standard depressing stuff).
It can’t be financial. Most of us are facing college debt (I’m one of the lucky ones) so full financial freedom seems a long way’s away. To an extent, with bills and loans it shows definite progress, but it can’t be purely financial or else us art school grads are stuck in pubescent limbo.
Which brings me to another area that’s been considered, and perhaps the most literal. That would, of course be physical. Is adulthood a physical change? I mean, we notice our bodies going through physical changes as we prepare to enter adulthood (oh God, I sound like a 7th grade health teacher) but, I don’t know, that just seems too obvious.
The fact of the matter is a refuse to believe the obvious. I’ve lost sleep over this question so if it’s obvious as all that, try and sell that somewhere else, because I’m not buying it. Now, I don’t think any of these one areas is the definitive answer. I get that there’s a lot of complexity to the question of adulthood. I’m just hoping I find out soon, because this in the middle business couldn’t get worse. Until then, my friend explained adulthood in a simple way to me that I liked. Adulthood is when you’re old enough to say “oh shit” and really mean it.