What Makes You An Adult?

It’s a valid question, right?  There seems to be such a fuzzy line that separates childhood from adulthood, so who’s to say where that line really is?

For me, this question comes up constantly, especially in the last couple of years.  Being born as the oldest in a family of six children, I think it’s fair to say that my transition into adulthood started earlier than a lot of other peoples’ did – or, at least, it felt like it did.  Many people would mark the edges of that fuzzy line somewhere around age 15 or 16, but how can you put a measure of time on the progression and growth of maturity?

Or don’t we define adulthood in terms of maturity?  I suppose much of the world defines adults by more tangible milestones – getting your license, legally gaining adult rights at 18, the ability to drink anywhere in the US at 21, getting married, etc.  So here we have two different ways of telling when we officially become adults: when you reach a certain milestone, or when you reach a certain level of maturity.

But isn’t it more complicated than that?  If we say that an adult is someone who has “grown up,” then that fuzzy line could potentially start anywhere over the course of our lives because we’re always maturing.  And how is it possible to measure maturity, anyway?  For one thing, maturity comes and develops in everyone differently and at a different pace.  How, then, is it in any way measurable?  We try to, though – apparently we’re presumed responsible enough to control two tons of metal at breakneck speeds when we’re 15 or 16 years old…  Apparently we’re ready to face adult legal matters and handle the responsibility of adult privileges at the age of 18, according to the government…  Apparently at 21, we’re presumed to have enough self-control and discretion around an addictive substance…

So does the answer lie in the definitions that others make for us?  Do the government, our parents, our siblings, our peers and our great-aunt Suzy’s definitions all coalesce into a custom-made definition of adulthood for each individual person?  Or is the best answer we can give simply that becoming an adult is a process, not a turning point?  And therefore, since it’s something that necessarily happens over a period of time, it’s impossible to choose one moment or one achievement to mark that transition clearly?

Alright – I realize that I’m being more than a little dramatic about this, but at the same time, every question I asked is a valid one.  Recently, I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress related to some problems in my workplace, and more than once, I’ve found myself asking, “is this an issue everyone has to deal with at some point, or do I just have exceptionally bad luck when it comes to part-time jobs?”  This is nowhere near the only (or worst) example I could mention in relation to this question of adulthood, but I think it’s especially relevant to people in my age group – especially students.

So what do you think?  Fellow students and young adults, what are your thoughts about where you’re at in terms of adulthood?  And to everyone else, what do you think about the arguments I’ve made and the points I’ve presented?  What are your perspectives on this?

Thanks for reading!

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12 thoughts on “What Makes You An Adult?

  1. […] What Makes You An Adult? (mistressofquills.wordpress.com) […]

  2. aorchard10 says:

    I think adulthood has to do with both age and maturity. I have a family member who is 31, but acts like he is 13, so he is only an adult by age. I like this post because it was thought-provoking and posed some valid questions. Great job!

  3. saranutter says:

    Awesome post! Very well written, and I like how you ask questions of your readers.
    I have wondered about this topic many times myself, and you raised some very good questions. I often hear people talking of “acting like adults,” which could mean in age, good ethics in solving problems…but what is “adult” really? The more I ponder this, the more I get the feeling that the term is a vague sociological construct like “normal” or “appropriate.” I like how you pointed out that we are endlessly maturing, that being an adult is a process. Great insight. :]

  4. Denny says:

    Good thoughts! I’ve been thinking about this a lot as well. I feel like there will always be someone looking down on us because of our age, even when we’re super old.

  5. izzy110 says:

    I like what points you bring up! I have always wondered how certain 26-year-olds can be considered adults when they are. . .not adult like, while younger kids are more mature. And I love where you said “or do I just have bad luck” because I feel like that all of the time! I like your post 🙂

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