Why are we waiting to grow up, welcome to adulthood

Why are we waiting to grow up, welcome to adulthood

Why are we waiting to grow up, welcome to adulthood

Maggie Rugolo

This past Easter break, I had an interesting conversation with my father. I asked him how old he felt. His response is something that stuck with me. He said he felt 21. Now with a child that is that age, I quickly laughed at the joke, but it got me thinking: At what age are we supposed to feel like a grown up?

In the olden days, people at our age, the tender age of early 20s and late teens, could be married with children, shouldering the responsibilities of parenthood and marriage and that still exist in some cases. Most of us, however, still categorize ourselves as children. We call our mothers when we can’t remember how long to cook meat for or email our dads our cover letters when we think that one line does not quite sit right. We are still sitting at the kid tables with our child cousins and when our parents tell us to do something most of us do it, without telling them “but I’m an adult.” What does being an adult even mean?

Does it mean having financial responsibilities? Because at this moment, few of us are financially independent. Few know how to file tax returns or pay mortgages because that is something our parents do. We focus on school and friends and holding onto our childlike lack of responsibilities for as long as possible. But when we leave the comfortable walls of the University, will this knowledge of how to be an adult just fall upon us, a natural progression from child to grown-up? Or will we be floundering in the “real world,” still calling our parents for advice, but this time instead of food and resumes, asking about taxes and money?

Or, is being an adult categorized by different life events? Is it on our 21st birthdays when we are for the first time legally allowed to enter any establishment and drink any drinks? Our first apartment or house alone, when we are responsible for locking the doors and windows and paying rent? Our first job, where we actually have to support ourselves financially and make a living? Or is it when we get married and become parents ourselves?

But what if instead of life events and financial responsibilities, there is a third option—one that not many people think of or want to acknowledge? What if we never actually feel like grown-ups? What if that moment of clarity and control and independence never comes? And instead, we are floundering through life trying the best we can to fake like we know what we are doing. Because, I hate to break it to most people, but that tends to be the case. Very rarely do people feel as though they had a moment where they became an adult. They have moments where they have an overwhelming amount of responsibilities, but to become an adult with all the answers is rare. 

Graduation is fast approaching, and with it, much of our student population will be thrown into the real world. For the ones who already have jobs lined up, their transition into the “real world” could be exciting and well embraced. For those who don’t have a job or a plan, this can be terrifying. For most, it’s a mix. We know the steps: find a job and a place to live.But what next? After that, the step-by-step progression of our lives that comes with being in school and moving from grade to grade is gone. And we are adults with milestones that are labeled with social events like marriage and kids. We are considered independents. 

Instead, becoming an adult is just a passing of time. It is a piling on of more responsibilities and life events. We will continue to gain knowledge and learn how to be more independent, and hopefully someday, we will know how to cook and do taxes on our own. But we will still never know all the answers or feel completely in complete control of our lives, and that is okay. Life will go on, and we will continue to move forward through time. There may be no more concrete milestone that marks that passing, yet that is life. Life is not made up of milestones and grade names. And maybe that is what adulthood is: when there is no measure of passing time, and instead ,we are left to just live and make the most of the time we have. Welcome to adulthood.