This question has come up in several of my conversations over the past several weeks, so I’m putting it here to get your thoughts.
When can we stop calling ourselves “young” adults and simply be adults?
Is the transition to “actual” adulthood marked only by marriage and having babies, or can we acknowledge some other markers of adulthood in a society increasingly marrying later? Do I have to live my life on pause because I haven’t yet met someone I’d like to spend the rest of it with? I’m willing to assume marrying and having children aren’t the only markers of adulthood, as I know plenty of very grown-up people who are neither married nor parents.
So I can only suppose that being a full-fledged adult — as opposed to a young adult or, if you prefer the politically correct and currently acceptable terminology, an “emerging adult” — boils down to deciding it’s time to take the proverbial bull by the horns and BE one already.
I moved away from home almost 10 years ago. I graduated from college and entered the American workforce. I passed all the age milestones — 18, 21, and 25 (the last milestone being the ability to rent a car at standard prices. Oh, the things we wait for…).
I am an adult.
I have a full-time job.
I pay monthly rent and have my name on a lease.
I pay taxes. Lots and lots of taxes.
I also pay into Social Security. You’re welcome.
I own a car, which I have to take in for regular oil changes and inspections and tire rotations and fluid replacements.
I am fully responsible for buying my own dish soap, shampoo, bedding, clothing, furniture, kitchen utensils, groceries, and anything and everything else that people who are grown up have to provide for themselves.
I have insurance.
I pay for my own phone plan.
I save for retirement.
I worry about the future.
I’m responsible for making and keeping my own dental, vision, and doctor appointments.
I cook for myself and mow my own lawn.
I set up appointments as needed with the plumber, carpenter, locksmith, exterminator, and any other speciality worker who comes in to fix things around the house that get broken.
I volunteer my time at church and in the local community and make it a point to be there for family and friends.
Do any of these responsibilities add up to the responsibility of being a parent? Admittedly, no. Does that make them somehow not “real” responsibilities? Well, how about I just pretend they’re not real for a few weeks, and I’ll let you know how that goes…from my parents’ house or my grandmother’s basement, where I’ll be living after I lose my job and can’t pay my own bills anymore.
Being an adult is not a matter of all the right external circumstances magically falling into place around you. (I may never get married. Does that mean I’ll never grow up?) Nor is it simply living by a list of responsibilities, be they raising children or just dragging yourself to and from work every day. I’ve known plenty of parents who needed to grow up. I also encounter plenty of people my age who never got around to taking full responsibility for the fact of their adulthood. At the end of the day, being an adult boils down to deciding to be one, and then acting like it.
I am not old or wise, and I admit that. I got nothin’ on my friends who are married and raising children. But I’m calling it, people. I’m an adult.
From now on I’m dropping the extra label and just telling it like it is.