When Do We Become Adults?

Joseph Choi
Joseph Choi

When I was younger, I always thought there would be this definitive moment in which adulthood and I come together as one, in harmony on both sides. I always assumed that older people went through this quick metamorphosis in which they went from the childhood versions of themselves to the adults I saw in an adult world. I mean, it is kind of bizarre and hard to imagine my parents at my age. I know they were my age; I just always associate them with being my parents, with being adults.

However, the older I get, the more it becomes clear to me that there is no obvious, definitive moment in the process of becoming an adult. Growing up is not the process I previously imagined it to be. I just celebrated my 23rd birthday, and I am both thrilled and horrified by the thought of growing older. I’m definitely ready to be rid of the college phase, but I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do from here.

I like to think of myself as a fairly well functioning human being, but sometimes I really wonder: does everyone in the world have the same, paralyzing anxiety about everyday life that I do? I have no clue what I want to be when I grow up, and I’ve only recently realized that there will never be a definite moment in which the plan for the rest of my life is revealed to me. I’m not really sure why I had this idea in my head, but I like to think that I’m not the only one who thought it. Why in the world did I think that everything would just fall into place once I graduated college?

For a long time, I did think college would fully prepare me to be an adult. I thought that once I finished four years of coursework, I would achieve this imaginary certificate stating that I was now the Adult version of myself. If anything, college has done nothing more than add confusion to my career and personal aspirations. Most of the courses I’ve taken have done basically nothing to prepare me for a working environment, and it was not until my last two years of college that I finally chose the major that was right for me. Needless to say, college was definitely not the “ah ha” moment of growing up.

The thought of being married and having children makes me feel lightheaded. I realize that is a pretty exaggerated statement, but childbirth and that level of commitment to other people are two things I find daunting. I guess having never met someone with whom I could imagine spending more than one year is to blame for my fear of eternal companionship.

Will I ever meet the right person? Is there a right person for everyone? It’s very hard to imagine someone on this planet that can both want and handle me. I’m difficult; I’ll be the first to tell you that. Is having children the moment when you officially receive the Adult stamp of approval? Deciding, and going through with having a child are very mature decisions, and simply becoming pregnant, whether on accident or purpose, does not necessarily launch you into adulthood.

Is it okay to have zero plans for the next few years, let alone the rest of my life? I think realizing that it’s okay to not have a plan might be the definition of growing up. Think about it: being without a plan means you are left completely to your own devices.

Maybe the most growing up I’ll ever do will be in the next few, uncertain months of my life. I’m an avid believer that being in unfamiliar circumstances and doing things that seem scary can really develop character. I’ve never learned more about myself than times I’ve felt utterly unprepared. And so I think that being an adult is when you decide that you are an adult.

For the first time in my life, I’m relying fully on what I can obtain and myself. I’ve decided I’m alone, unprepared, know little to nothing, and I’m an adult. TC mark

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