I’m an adult – I’m a grown woman. I’ll have to vocalize that sometimes in conversation, and when I say it out loud I don’t have to do it while shrugging my shoulders or affecting a cutesy wince. I don’t feign a lack of confidence in my words. I know I’m an adult and I’m not confused about it because I’m not an idiot with too much time on my hands.
A lot of people on the ole Thought Catalog seem to spend a lot of time fretting over their “transition into adulthood” – as if they’re going to hit some sort of emotional puberty and lose interest in everything they enjoyed prior to their 21st birthday. Well, that doesn’t really happen. Mainly because there is no definition for adulthood with regards to perception and outlook. If you’re under thirty, you were born into a generation of dependent baby-people that were created through over-supportive parenting and an education system that values entitlement and the empty concept of potential. Unfortunately for you, the generation prior incentivized a permanent childhood, and now that you’re getting older, and all the things you were promised aren’t materializing, it’s incredibly hard to accept the truth that you are, already, an adult.
Adulthood doesn’t just show up one day like your first pube. It’s not going to knock on your door like Publisher’s Clearing House and hand you a check that’ll relieve you of emotional responsibility for the rest of your life. When millennials talk about adulthood, what they’re really discussing is a sense of confidence, understanding, and reassurance that the world works a certain way and that they can rely on their convictions to predict what the future holds. That doesn’t exist – no one knows how the world works and no one knows what the fuck they’re doing. There are, however, certain signs that you’re no longer a giant baby who looks at the world through naïve eyes. Here are some of those signs, presented as a fun consumable list.
1. You Experience Daily Pain
One of the telltale signs of thorough adulthood is chronic physical pain. Not serious pain. Not anything you would go to the doctor for, but it’s there, and the period in your life where you could get away with neglecting your health is over. Personally, my jaw clicks when I eat and my arms go numb when I sleep. Every single night. I’m not dead yet, and it’s not getting worse, so I’ve just accepted it as something my body does to remind me that I’m still here. Embrace your atrophy, it’s at least a feeling.
2. You Stop Feeling Bad About Borrowing Money From Your Parents
While we’re at it, can we stop calling it borrowing? You know goddamn well you’re never paying them that money back, and you’re barely saving face in conversation by pretending it’s a loan. You fucked up. You spent last month’s rent money on weed and Red Box. It happens. Only children worry about disappointing their parents. Real adults handle all the disappointment themselves. Not only have they let themselves down, they’re also saddened that their folks didn’t die when they had respect for them.
3. You Have Adult Relationships
You hear people talk about adult relationships, but what does that really mean? People often conflate the idea of a healthy relationship with an adult relationship. That’s not what it is. An adult relationship isn’t a situation where you both have things that you care about and respect each other. In an adult relationship, you’re both operating on a feeling of nostalgia and wistfulness. You’re not in love with the other person so much as you’re in love with your fading conceptions of what a meaningful relationship should be. You know that even if you’re together for the rest of your lives, you’re both still going to die alone. She’s probably fucked all of his friends, and he’s got someone else’s name tattooed on his arm. But they both work at the same bar, and rent’s pretty tough in this city, so why not fuck each other until one of them croaks? At least things will look okay from the outside, and at least rent is paid.
4. You Realize That You’re Not Here For A Reason
When people talk about purpose, or a meaningful existence, they are mostly just glorifying a career and making it out to be more than a method of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head. Sure, some people actually do something important, but you probably don’t. I know you think graphic design is an art, but it’s not. Ask yourself this: if you weren’t being paid for the work that you’re doing, would you do it? Of course you wouldn’t. Not everybody is supposed to have a career, and not everybody is supposed to have a purpose. Once you learn to accept yourself as a bland and superfluous individual without a distinctive identity or role, you’ll be on your way to true adulthood. The kind of adulthood that sits at the end of the bar and doesn’t talk to anybody – not because they’re an untapped well of narrative without an outlet – but because they have nothing to say and they’ve stopped trying.
5. You Start Fearing Death Instead Of Life
The way I see it, there’s two kinds of suicidal ideation: fantastical escapism, and objective rationalization. In the former, suicidal thoughts, while morbid, function more as a pleasant day dream than an actual contemplation of death. You’re not actually thinking about killing yourself so much as you’re thinking about a way to silence your own thoughts and make people care about you. These are the suicidal thoughts where you picture the aftermath of your suicide rather than the finality of the act itself. You use your imagination to envision a world where you, and your problems, no longer exist. The pain is ameliorated, and you’ve created a scarcity of your existence.
Suddenly, you have value, whereas before you were accessible and worthless. It’s narcissistic and disgusting, really, and this is the juvenile ideation of suicide that disappears in adulthood. Children don’t really understand death. That’s why so many teens kill themselves: they don’t know how much life they have ahead of them. To them, their temporary pain will last eternally and the thought of that is too much to bear. They don’t realize that they aren’t going to be miserable forever – they’ll only be miserable for the rest of their lives, and life is pretty short.
Teens kill themselves because they fear life and can’t comprehend death. Adults kill themselves because they thought about it and it makes sense. I have much better reasons to die than any dipshit teenager, but I don’t do it because I know I’m going to die anyways, and frankly, that terrifies me. Being an adult is about knowing that life isn’t going to get better, but you’re too afraid of the alternative to do anything about it.