The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
When Do We Really Become An Adult?
When I was younger, I thought my parents were adults. In fact, I knew they were adults and although I never wished to be an adult, I knew the day would come where I would be an adult. Throughout my childhood, I had chores to do – dishes, laundry, and vacuuming, which instilled in me a work ethic. My chores did not go unrewarded – and I earned $1 a week. Later, I was able to negotiate a few extra dollars, and ended up making like $5 a week, which was great. I started learning the value of money early. At the age of 14, I landed a job picking up trash outside of a convenient store once a week. Although I only stayed for a few weeks, I learned the lesson of performing labor and getting paid money to do the work. I eventually landed a job at McDonalds and that became my first real job on the books. My starting salary was $5.15 an hour and I knew that everyday, after school, I had to go to work for 3 or 4 hours. I was a teenager but worked like any adult would work.
Once I graduated high school, I did not want to go to college right away and after scanning the job section in the newspaper, I was the new employee of a security company, and excited to have landed my first real job outside of high school. I figured I would make a living and be happy for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, life happens and things change, and I ended up quitting, and moving on to bigger and better things. All the while, I had wondered when this adult thing was supposed to kick in. When was I actually an adult? I was 19 or 20, not even able to drink, but I could drive my car to anywhere I wanted, purchase cigarettes if I pleased (I don’t smoke), and stay out as late as I wanted to without any curfew. I could serve in the army too if I chose to do so! The only responsibility I actually had was showing up to work on time and staying there until 8 hours had passed.
I thought my boss was an adult and all the people who I worked with were adults, and therefore, by association, and because of the way they spoke with me, I was an adult as well. I decided to go to college and I now wondered: Was I among young adults? Was I considered an adult? What exactly does being an adult mean? What am I supposed to do if I am an adult? While I was much older than most of the other students at college, I felt more like I was a young adult in college with other young adults who were still trying to be “grown-up” adults.
I am nearing my father’s age when he and my mother had me but I am no where near having any children of my own. My father was in the Navy and had traveled to a few parts of the world. He met my mother and they dated for a while, and then she got pregnant, and I was eventually born. Did the fact that my parents have a baby make them adults? What about women who have abortions? Are they not ready to be adults yet by ending the life of the baby they could have had? What about men who fail to take responsibility and be fathers? Or those fathers who are not with their baby’s mothers and fail to pay child support? Are they not ready to be adults? When our parents tell us its time to move or we decide its time to move out on our own, do we become adults then? Does the system force us all to be adults? Are we on a timeline in which we must turn into or become adults at a certain age, or by doing certain things?
I loved and I always will love cartoons. I used to watch Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and many other old cartoons when I was younger. In fact, I still watch those cartoons now as an adult whenever I catch them on television and they fascinate me just as much now as they did then. I remember my mom once told me that adults do not watch cartoons and I cannot really recall a time of her ever watching a cartoon. My father, on the other hand, used to watch cartoons with me all the time, and he loved cartoons! Did this make my mom an adult and my father not an adult?
I remember holding a few jobs and working with my co-workers and while we were all “adults”, we still managed to always joke around, play pranks on each other, and make each other laugh while getting our work done. While it seems we are all adults, our humor could definitely be associated with that of teenagers and young adults. Of course, we would never let any clients or customers see that childish behavior, but our adult behavior was mostly present and the dominant behavior in the workplace.
What exactly makes us adults? Is it when we are forced to accept our responsibilities? Is it the time we are forced to go out into the world and get a job? Is it when we feel like being adults and succumb to the fact that everyone else is an adult, so we are too? Is being an adult just acting like an adult? No one has ever answered the question or defined for me the exact moment we become adults. I sort of just became an adult without ever feeling I became an adult. I have come to the conclusion, that in reality, we are all just children pretending to be adults. So maybe someone somewhere out there knows the answer. When do we actually become adults?
Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.