Adulthood – What is it? And Are We There Yet?

I believe that quite a few—myself included—aren’t really sure of what adulthood actually is and more importantly, whether we’ve reached that milestone in our lives or not. However, we have a vague idea of what adulthood could possibly be as well as some preconceptions that may or may not have been debunked with age and experience. Currently speaking as a 20-year-old, I reflect on the child I was who, at the tender age of 5, considered adulthood a golden age.

I tended to focus on the positive aspects rather, and was oblivious of the negatives. I enjoyed the thought of adults as being free— as essentially having the freedom to do as they wish and please, with no body of authority to impede or criticise their choices or actions. They could sleep whenever, eat whatever, and go wherever, merely because they were old enough to do so. I also used to associate adults with being large and tall, often to mistakenly categorise 12-year olds at primary school as adults for their sheer towering height since I looked up to them and they down to me. As well as this, adults had money. They could buy as much and as many sweets as they like. They don’t have to save their cash or worry about finances. They can just buy many penny sweeties. Above all, their adult abilities which far exceeded those of a little child, were the points that stood out for me most.

As you can gather, 5-year-old me believed in a rose tinted version of adulthood, one of independence and freedom, but not necessarily responsibility. So what characteristics make up an adult? Well, over the past couple of years, I have come to realise that adulthood is not all about independence, being your own boss and setting your own rules, but also concerns responsibility and order. These last two I suppose are kind of necessary as the responsibility to take proper care of yourself like: remembering to feed yourself after all those university assignments; eating healthy (avoiding the temptation of having sugar puffs and Irn-Bru for breakfast); and getting enough sleep to be able to function properly, are vital as much as I’ve tried to come up with a counter argument to their importance. While, an element of order would help in organising life in general. These characteristics may appear daunting, but in the meantime we’ll take baby steps.

These steps towards adulthood can be felt when carrying out certain activities. These activities can include enjoying your legal status by voting for example, and getting a driver’s license and driving. On the more stressful side of things, but definitely gratifying, these adult behaviours become apparent when paying rent and bills, as well as having a job and dealing with the wider world. In a way, these actions, some of which may be irksome, also give a sense of accomplishment in that we have been able to be or do something perceived as typical of adults.

So, overall adulthood is a (possible) stage in life. Reaching the point where one “becomes” an adult however, may be nebulous as it can vary, since it’s a very individual matter. Some of us may reach it in our twenties or thirties, other’s in their forties or fifties— it’s never too late. Likewise, some may never become an adult, but proudly embrace their inner child forever and ever. Whilst some may lapse back from their adulthood and experience a midlife crisis all of a sudden in their forties. It’s unpredictable and so, the age eighteen, nor any other age above eighteen, is not a true indicator of adulthood. Eighteen is definitely not a cut-off point, because it’s not a magical overnight transition and there you go, viola! instantly you’ve become an adult. It’s not a sprint, but rather a marathon and baby steps are totally acceptable!

[Jeehan Ashercook]

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