It is a startling and unexpected realization to one day wake up and realize you’re no longer a kid. You’re no longer so young – it may not be that you look in the mirror and see a haggard old face staring back at you, but that you have a subtly grasped that the childhood naiveté has faded from your face and your shoulders are a bit heavier with responsibility. At twenty-six, I feel like an adult. This may be late to some, early to others.
Part of my prolonged childhood has been largely due to dependence on my parents. I have relied on them to help me pay rent over the years, to bail me out when on numerous occasions I was financially insolvent. This kept me in a transitory state between dependence and independence, childhood and adulthood. If you are dependent on anyone, you are in an inferior position to them; they can exert influence over you.
Often, parents have a subconscious desire for their children to remain in some way dependent; it is their way of continuing to insinuate their influence, to continue molding their children into some image of their desire. But with the financial and emotional independence of their offspring, they lose all ability to exert control or force audience for their platitudes – and they want to feel needed, they want to help their children. For what else have they worked and sacrificed throughout the years?
Parents have a difficult time accepting and seeing their children as full-fledged adults because in accepting such a reality, they have to admit that their job as parents is effectively over. The old power structure of parent ruling over child is obsolete.
As the years have passed and I have grown into some semblance of a career, I have come to stop expecting or being able to rely on the support of my parents. My bills are my bills to pay, my responsibilities are mine to shoulder. I must now bear the burden of my own health insurance plan. It has forced me into adulthood. There have been rough patches, times when I feel irresponsible because I can’t meet my obligations but will not ask my parents to intervene. To do so would be to deny my own adulthood, my own responsibility.
It is this sense of responsibility which is synonymous with adulthood. As a child you blame others for things that go wrong, as an adult you are accountable for your actions.
And maybe it is this constant bearing of responsibility that has caused a garden of gray hairs to sprout on my head, the weight of it resulting in a creaky stiffness in my knees. I can’t help but face the reality that I am not immune to the decrepitude of time and age.
But the gray hairs are a welcome trade for the wisdom and confidence which have come with age. Maturity is something which comes with experience, it is born out of hardship, grown from response to obstacles.
I am more rooted in myself, less socially anxious than in my younger years. Not everyone has to like me, and I don’t have to like everyone. There is a certain level of self-awareness and knowledge that has settled over me.
I am aware of the things which are important to me. I am able to stand up and declare who I am. I am less influenced by others and no longer put myself in a situation which does not resonate with my inner awareness.
Adulthood is freedom; it is the freedom to make your own decisions, your own mistakes. This freedom comes at the cost of responsibility, you are ultimately the only one accountable for your successes and failures, for your own happiness or your misery.