1. You manage to make trips to the Post Office.
Few things signal your entrée into the world of adulthood like remembering that you need to buy stamps, going to get them, putting them on your mail, and actually sending it to the people who need to receive it. Stamps are so innocuous as to let us imagine they exist everywhere — that we could just open up a random drawer and find roll after roll of postage for all our shipping needs — but they are, in fact, never around. You actually have to go places and get them. Remembering to make timely, regular trips to the Post Office means that you not only care about your responsibilities, but that you are willing to make the ten-minute trip to fulfill them.
2. All of your dinnerware matches.
When you are making the transition from child to someone who regularly gets enough fiber in their diet, you often find yourself in a kind of limbo/purgatory of mismatched flatware and plastic cutlery. You have a glass you brought from your parents’ home, a couple plates your old roommate left behind, and are not even fully sure what a steak knife is. When you are a grown-up, though, you actually go to the home supplies store and buy a set of plates (maybe with a nice design on them, but let’s not go crazy here), glasses that serve various purposes, and enough cutlery for more than one person at a time to eat. You even get wine glasses, because you are fancy and fancy adult people celebrate with wine and wine only.
3. You get way too into a series to go out anymore.
One of the more sweet comforts of burgeoning adulthood is the ability to stay home and watch awesome TV series with impunity. You don’t care about missing a ~hot night at the club~, because you’re only two seasons into Breaking Bad and you have to catch up before the new season premieres. Or maybe you’re just catching on to Game of Thrones. Either way, you’re not going to be joining your friends for shots for at least a week or two, and your liver/wallet/complexion will be heavily indebted to you. Get a couple plush pillows and a bowl of snacks and you’re pretty much in complacent grown-up paradise.
4. Half of the songs you hear while out are totally unrecognizable.
Everyone around you is just jumping up and down and screaming about “OH MY GOD LIZZIE THIS IS MY SONG,” and you just kind of excuse yourself to the bathroom and scuttle out of there like the awkward old crab you are so you can spare yourself the embarrassment of being the only one who doesn’t even know what this genre of music is supposed to be, let alone this individual song.
5. You check the nutritional information on the back of your foods.
And half of the time, it’s not even because you want to make sure it’s low-cal, though that is often a part of it. It’s also because you want to make sure you’re getting your vitamins, enough fiber, and “the good kinds of fat,” which only a year or so ago, you didn’t know even existed. Gone are the days when you can just tear through a bag of Cheetos and raise your orange-stained fist up against the forces of constant fatigue and doughy weight gain around your middle section. Your chipmunk-like metabolism is a thing of the past, and now it’s time to make sure the soup you’re buying is not too high in sodium (though it probably is). Womp, womp.
6. The people who treat you like crap are less intriguing and more exhausting.
While there is definitely a portion of all our lives when we mistake someone who could not find a f-ck to give about our mental health for someone playing a sexy game of hard-to-get, that time is hard to sustain. Unanswered calls, unreturned texts, broken promises — these are the things of desire and intrigue, right up until we grow something vaguely resembling a spine/a touch of wisdom about the world, when we realize just how profound a waste of time that stuff is. There comes a time when someone who is just willing to be up-front with us and tell us how they feel becomes one of the most sexy things we can hope for, and the idea of having to play a protracted game of cat-and-mouse just to find out if someone wants another date seems more consuming than running a 10k straight uphill.
7. You can’t keep up with your “party friends.”
Though the people we know who do a few lines of coke at 6 AM and then get upset because the clubs are closing, who then proceed to drive to Denny’s to continue the party there, are cool in theory — they get a little hard to handle after a while. The ones who are always buying a few rounds of shots right before you’re all heading home, who encourage you to walk halfway across the city to get into this underground club that you’re pretty sure is a swinger’s event, what do we do with them? Yes, they’re fun, and they spice up your life/bring out that side of you you rarely get to see, but if you don’t stop going out with them, you’re definitely going to die of cardiac arrest before you hit 30. These people need to be phased down to “occasional friend” status, because you’d like to stay out of jail/AA, and though they somehow get away with a lifestyle of constant debauchery, you’re pretty sure you don’t have the same iron-built constitution.
8. You see students out and about and are like, “Ugh, kids.”
There will come a moment when you’re in a Starbucks, or a bar, or even the grocery store, and you see a bunch of college (or, God forbid, high school) students pushing each other around, talking at least twice as loudly as they should, and playing grab ass, and you immediately muse on how young they are and how they should shut the hell up. There is a fleeting moment of “get off my lawn,” followed by the realization that, though you’re scarcely older than them, you have clearly transitioned into a part of your life when yelling inside jokes at your friends while loitering in public establishments is no longer appropriate/fun, and man, does that moment suck.
9. Whether or not insurance is affordable is ~90 percent of your political concern right now.
It’s all fun and games when your parents are paying for every scraped knee and bump on the head, but then you find out that a four-day hospital stay for getting in an accident while biking is almost half your yearly salary if it isn’t covered by some kind of insurance, and you’d ideally not like to have to declare bankruptcy every time you would like to get your prescription filled. Insurance becomes this big, scary thing that if you manage to convince yourself you don’t actually need, can financially ruin your life in less than ten minutes. Being a grown-up unfortunately means having to be prepared for the future, something that seemed absurd and irrelevant only a few sweet years ago.
10. You’re like “Am I too old for [insert social media here]?”
One day you will wake up, and every news feed you log into will be a smattering of work complaints, people’s ultrasounds having their own Facebooks, and people tweeting about TED talks. It is at this moment that you will realize your 12-year-old cousin is also using this website, and it is actually your friends who don’t understand the function of a status and write something like “Hey how are you doing your aunt says hello!!” right under a post about how they’re going to a party that night. Congratulations, you’re a grown-up.