What makes you feel like an adult?

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What makes you feel like an adult?

Post by Werel on Tue May 16, 2017 1:11 pm

So the other day, I made a professional mistake. Nothing terrible, just a bad call/dumb move when I should have known better. I found myself thinking about it and feeling bad for the better part of a day afterwards-- nothing unusual there. But what struck me was the way I was feeling bad about it. When I was younger, even like five years ago, I'd beat myself up in useless ways for making mistakes at school/work. I'd take it to the extreme of "this is it, proof that you're never going to graduate/make it in your field and you're a stupid idiot and USELESS!" This time, instead, I kept thinking "what the heck? You know better than that. Why did you screw up like that? How can you not do that again?"

I was surprised to find that the realization that I was looking at it with a critical eye to not making the same mistake, instead of spinning it into ego-driven meltdown, made me feel like an adult. And realizing that I was feeling bad over a career mistake, feeling bad because I'd done something that hurt the reputation and history of competence I'd built over the last several years, also made me feel like an adult-- that I was having to take responsibility for myself, because I had built something worth taking responsibility for. Honestly, it felt a little weird, because until very recently, I couldn't at all say that I felt like an adult. It was one of the first times I've really, actually seen myself as a grownup in a non-forced, non-joking way.

Most jokes about adulting and being a grownup seem to focus on the external milestones, like buying a car or moving in with someone or managing your own bills. But I've done that stuff, and it didn't really make me feel like a grownup-- instead, internal stuff I wasn't expecting did.

So I'm curious what experiences make other people feel like grownups. What have been some moments when you legitimately felt like hey, here it is, I'm an actual adult now? Why did you feel that way? Was it internal stuff, external stuff, or some combination? Were they milestones set by society, or by yourself when you were younger, or something unexpected that just came out of the blue? Did you one day feel like 100% grownup, 0% kid, or was it like a slow change in the balance of adult/kid feelings? And what other traits or ideas are tied into adulthood for you? Tell me your stories, this stuff is really interesting to me.
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Re: What makes you feel like an adult?

Post by Enail on Tue May 16, 2017 2:22 pm

Oh, interesting topic! For me I think it's mostly been a gradual and pretty slow thing,  I think around 30 or so Isuddenly realized it didn't feel weird to call myself an adult anymore, but that was based on things that had been happening under the radar or in little moments here and there for a long time.

What kinds of things make me feel like I'm an adult is a mix:
-"oh god I'm old" moments like hearing myself say approvingly of a dessert that "it's not too sweet" or realizing that someone I think of a child is now in their 20s.

-things that point out my age/role in relation to other people, especially parents and children because they act as age reference points in my mind. Like noticing I'm at the point where I handle things to help my parents as much as the reverse. Or going for coffee with my sister after my first nephew was born, and realizing when she went to the bathroom that people who looked over and saw just me and a baby carriage were probably assuming I was the parent, and that they would think nothing of it - I was someone one might reasonably think could have a child and know what to do with it?!

-Realizing I feel differently about the milestones I'd set for myself when I was younger; I don't really have that sense of urgency of "must do X by Y date, and that means Z about myself" anymore. I'd like to have done X by Y date, I'd like to be able to do X by Y date - but I'm mostly okay now with the idea that things will take as long as they take and as long as I'm continually working towards them and slowly moving forward, that feels like "doing fine" in a way that I never could have imagined as a kid.

-The gradual accumulation of competencies in conventional grownup tasks

-Coming to understand my grandfather's way of thinking a little better. He was very much the archetypal gentle, patient, wise, slightly cryptic old man, and sort of represents the ultimate in adult/elder-ness to me. I liked him, but I would have never wanted to be like him, I never understood why anyone would go slow when they could go fast, why you'd carefully unravel the edges of a package or a thought instead of trying to rip straight to the centre of it, what the point is of something that doesn't have an immediate and powerful point. I'm starting to get it, and I'm starting to think I would be very lucky to become like him by the time I'm old, and it feels like the fact that I could even want that someday is itself some kind of milestone of the halfway point, which is presumably adulthood.
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Re: What makes you feel like an adult?

Post by Werel on Wed May 17, 2017 1:15 pm

Huh, a lot of those are things that'd never crossed my mind!

Enail wrote:things that point out my age/role in relation to other people
Yeah, I have had a few moments like that, come to think of it. Like when I was teaching undergrads, and one kid came to class on a hoverboard and I legit had no idea what it was. Laughing The baby thing, though, never quite hit for me-- I have extended family/friends in a place where it's not unusual to get pregnant reeeal young, so baby never felt like an adult thing to me so much as a thing that can happen to you as soon as you hit puberty. But the increasing number of "ma'am"s I get the older I get definitely gives me vague(ly uncomfortable) adulty feelings.

Enail wrote:Realizing I feel differently about the milestones I'd set for myself when I was younger; I don't really have that sense of urgency of "must do X by Y date, and that means Z about myself" anymore. I'd like to have done X by Y date, I'd like to be able to do X by Y date - but I'm mostly okay now with the idea that things will take as long as they take and as long as I'm continually working towards them and slowly moving forward, that feels like "doing fine" in a way that I never could have imagined as a kid.
Oh, interesting! Coupled with finally grokking the going-slow ethos of your grandfather, that makes a lot of sense for someone whose youngness was tied up in impatience. Basically, seeing the actual value in slow-and-steady as a hallmark of adulthood? That's a good one.


Last edited by Werel on Wed May 17, 2017 4:25 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Can't quote tag)
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Re: What makes you feel like an adult?

Post by Wondering on Wed May 17, 2017 3:21 pm

You know, nothing really made me feel like an adult until recently. Things made me feel older, but not adult.

But I don't know if it was the election or my daughter being diagnosed diabetic, or more likely a combo of both happening right on top of each other, but I pretty much feel nothing but adult these days. Worry and fear about my child, especially regarding healthcare. Exhaustion. And the realization that I just don't have the energy to be an activist about everything like young people do.

We went and talked to a lawyer this week and are getting a will. Primarily set up to protect our child and give her as much money as we can if we die when she's a minor so that she at least has a chance to cover her medical expenses and have insurance and be under the guardianship of people who won't let religious or political ideology govern the medical choices they make for her.

That's a giant ass whopping of adult right there.

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Re: What makes you feel like an adult?

Post by KMR on Wed May 17, 2017 7:12 pm

If I used only external milestones to gauge how adult I am, I would almost never feel like an adult in my current situation, because many of those milestones are things I haven't achieved yet (I'm still in grad school, have never had a full time job, still live with my parents, don't have my own car, etc.) despite being almost 31 now. So I agree with Werel that it's the more internal stuff that really makes me feel like a grown up, and it's been interesting to recognize some of those mental shifts in myself over the years.

For one thing, I'm more politically-conscious than I ever used to be (and not just because of the current political climate, which seems to have made everyone more interested in politics these days). When I was younger, I was definitely one of those people who didn't really care about politics. I had opinions on political issues, but I wasn't really aware of what was going on in the world. Admittedly, I'm still not a politically active person, but it's something that's on my mind more and more and I can't just dismiss it as something that doesn't affect me, because it's become much more clear to me over the years that it does.

Another thing is that I have a harder time relating to teenagers than I used to, even though it feels like it hasn't been THAT long since I've been one myself (although in reality, it kind of has). But I just don't have the same kind of mindset anymore, and my recollections of being a teenager are now filtered through my adult brain, so I can't empathize with them in quite the same way anymore. I've noticed this most profoundly when trying to watch movies or TV shows that center around teenage characters and high school settings. I used to enjoy those shows up into my early twenties, but I've become increasingly less tolerant of "teenage drama" now that I'm older, so I have a hard time putting up with those shows unless they have plenty of other elements that I do like or the drama is kept to a minimum.

Probably the biggest thing that makes me feel like I'm an adult is that I've become more health-conscious recently. I used to just take it for granted that my body was relatively healthy and assumed it would just stay that way for a good long while. But now I'm getting the realization of "Oh shit, I have to take care of myself, or I'm going to start falling apart!" So I've started doing little things to improve my health that, for some reason, my younger self just never really thought about. For instance, when I was young, I had the misconception that exercise was something only for people who A) enjoyed doing athletic things or B) wanted to lose weight. But now I know that exercise is good for everyone. A few years ago, I started lifting weights because at 5'1", 100 lbs, and with a very sedentary lifestyle, I was very physically weak and I was like, "I should do something about this," whereas before I just always thought, "I'm just not an athletic person and never will be." Or how I used to hate and fear going to the dentist and would have happily skipped the whole affair if my parents wouldn't force me, whereas now, despite still having some anxiety about it, I know that it's important, so I gladly keep the appointment.
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Re: What makes you feel like an adult?

Post by Werel on Wed May 17, 2017 11:50 pm

KMR wrote: I used to just take it for granted that my body was relatively healthy and assumed it would just stay that way for a good long while. But now I'm getting the realization of "Oh shit, I have to take care of myself, or I'm going to start falling apart!"
Oh, God, yes. I think having my first set of cavities this year hit me this same way. The shift from "pfffft no I don't floss regularly, what do you think I am, an ADULT? innocent" to "oh shit, it's my fault I've got cavities from not flossing regularly" made me feel old.

Actually, now that you mention that, I think the onset of regrets--the slow-burn kind of regret, where you're a fair ways out from a decision that's hurt you over time-- is another real internal-adult thing for me. When I was younger, I'd hurt over bad choices I made that had immediate consequences, but hurting over something that took ten years to catch up to you is a more adult-type feeling for me. Like cavities. Emotional cavities.

And Wondering, damn, I'm sorry that adult feelings have been largely synonymous with worry and burden for you. I hope there are some positive-type adult feelings coming your way, like competence, or trust in yourself, or things like that.
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