The Meaning of Adulthood
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The Meaning of Adulthood

At what stage do we actually achieve adulthood?

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The Meaning of Adulthood

Adulthood is something that we all strive for as kids. You feel like you will be able to do anything when you are an adult: stay up late, go wherever you want, and have unlimited freedoms without the restrictions of school or your parents. And you think this will happen when you get to a certain age, sometimes it could be 18 years old, or you think that once you are in your early twenties you will be an adult and look up to people who are that age, seeing them as so mature and grown up. Yet here I am at twenty-three years old and still do not feel fully like an adult, but by all accounts I am.

I am in graduate school and have had two internships that include helping others with their lives and personal problems. I will graduate in May and be qualified to have a job to do this. I also have my own bills and am responsible for my own grocery shopping, car payments, rent, and cell phone. Yet at the same time I do not feel like I am fully an adult. I still am on my father's insurance plan and I don't have a mortgage and have not even put any consideration into a retirement plan. When you are at this stage of life, you are supposedly an adult, but everything is still so new and does not feel like I have it all together. I suspect that this is the same throughout life and there never is a stage where you fully reach "adulthood" as we constantly enter new parts of life, like new jobs, moving to different cities or states, marriage or having children etc.

Today, people in their twenties still live with their parents, or live on their own and could be doing the similar things as each other like graduate school or working a full time job. Many people have already started families and already have children that are toddlers, and others are not even in a relationship or thinking about the idea of children or a long-term monogamous relationship. And all of this is okay, but the problem is when people think that they are behind the curve, or that they are not where they should be in life and are not an adult.

Ultimately, every person needs to do what they want to do in life. If you are in your early twenties and want to focus on your career and school rather than having kids or getting married, then you shouldn't feel pressured to do that. And if you do want to have kids, don't let people tell you you are too young or not prepared if that is genuinely what you want. Because there is not truly any phase that is "adulthood." It comes down to maturity level and what you know you are capable of taking on, and does not come on at a certain age or after life events like marriage or having kids.

Taking on the responsibilities of adulthood is stressful, and often we regret wishing to grow up so fast and want to go back to childhood with little responsibilities. But the stress is mainly about if we are doing okay in life, and about comparing ourselves to others especially with the availability of social media and seeing others get engaged and post about their children or their jobs online. Instead of aiming to become an adult by going through the motions of what we think is adulthood, we should do what we want to do with our lives and not let others or society influence our success or our progression in life.

Perhaps we would all be happier if we let go of these expectations of adulthood and focused on what we each want without judging others for their lack of "adulthood" or for their supposed abundance of it. Everything in life will always be new to you as you experience it, there is never going to be a moment of "I've finally made it, I'm comfortable in this position" and that is okay to be uncertain and to not have it all together. That's what makes life interesting, and if we focus too much on reaching the unattainable goal of adulthood, life might pass us by.

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