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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Little Calvin

Most people will tell you that the birth of a younger sibling is scary and traumatic – especially if you’re old enough to remember the event later, but not old enough at the time to handle the stress like an adult.

What most people can’t tell you is how much more terrifying it is when there are complications and the final verdict is something you would never have expected.  Such was my experience when my little brother Calvin was born.

I’m sure you can imagine all the excitement the mere news of his birth caused.  Baby number 6 – born 10 days early, but healthy nonetheless… or so we thought.  It’s always a scary moment when your parents tell you to sit down and listen carefully even as the solemn, serious looks on their faces warn you that all is not well.  As I look back, I think the thing that shocked me more than the actual news (on that day, at least) was that my dad started to cry before he could tell us the whole story.  My mom had to finish, and later, my dad told me that she didn’t cry then because she’d already cried away all her tears.

Calvin was diagnosed with Down syndrome.  Unfortunately, it’s a difficult condition to gauge in terms of how severe the case is until the diagnosed child learns to speak.  The reason for that is because two of the main symptoms of Down syndrome are delayed development and a slower ability to learn, so until the child learns to talk, you can’t measure either of those.

I was 13 when Calvin was born – an age (as I’m sure everyone can agree) that is as confusing as it is difficult.  I had recently been transferred into the school I would graduate from when my mom had Calvin, and my family had recently left the church we had attended since I was born – in fact, my mom had grown up in that church, and my grandma still goes there.  As a result, my life was a complete mess: I had no friends (having been home-schooled since 3rd grade before I transferred into the new school), my church family was now gone and then almost immediately replaced by countless others in the hopes of finding a new permanent one, and now my home life had been thrown into chaos by the new and unwelcome little problem.

I won’t go into the details of what my attitude and mental state were during this time, but looking back, I think I can honestly say that I hated baby Calvin for a time.  He wasn’t the only cause of my anger, but his presence destroyed the last bit of stability I still had in my life up to that point.  It took me a very long time find a way to cope with the completely new and alien life that was thrust upon me, but what came out of it was beautiful and well worth the struggle.

I became like a second mother to Calvin and to my other siblings as well because of how often my mom was in the hospital with him.  Children born with Down syndrome are very often prone to other health problems, and Calvin went through more than his fair share of these.  As a result, I was often left to play the role of mother (being the firstborn), so that was the relationship that formed between Calvin and I.  He’s 6 years old now, but our relationship hasn’t really changed.  I graduated with honors from the same school I had recently entered when Calvin was born, and I have many friends and teachers I still talk to.  Plus, the education that school gave me is one of the biggest influences that made me decide on George Fox University, and it prepared me very well for the academics at George Fox.  Changing churches changed my life and my relationship with God – I can’t even imagine who I would be if that change hadn’t come right when it did.

I think the lesson here is that no matter what challenges and changes life throws your way, there’s always going to be some good that comes out of it, any usually a lot more good comes out of it than you ever could have predicted.

My point in writing about this isn’t to just tell y’all about my lovely family or my lovely problems, but to make a point: not only did a lot of good come out of all the things I just talked about, but it’s all become a wealth of writing inspiration and ideas and potential topics, too.  I really have no worries about ever not having something to write about – there’s just no way that I’ll ever run out of things to say!  The adventure will be looking for topics I haven’t really explored yet.