What makes us adults and does it really matter?
By Alison Malawey
Are you a grown up? Are you sure? How do you know? What defines being grown up? Do you suddenly become a grown up when you turn 18? Move out of your parents’ house? Is it when you get married? Have children? When do you become adult? More importantly, when do you start to feel like one?
When I was younger, I always thought my mom exuded an adult like aura and that when I got older, I
would be an adult like her. As I get closer to the age that she was, I keep waiting for that moment
when I finally feel like an adult.
Most of the time, I still feel like I did when I was a teenager only without the pressures of high school.
There’s certainly a specific freedom that comes with the responsibilities of being older. I can do whatever I want whenever I want within the limits of the law and my own sense of morality.
I started my “adulthood” late. I didn’t get my first job until I had already graduated high school, and I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 21. I lived in my mother’s house for several years after graduating high school. I started late, but when did being an adult actually start?
The legal age of majority is the age when a child is granted the rights and responsibilities of an adult by the state. That means that you are held liable to any contracts you sign, that you can sue someone, and so on and so forth. In most states, the age of majority is 18 years old. In Alabama, the age is 19.
Are you an adult because the law says so? Is there a biological moment when you are no longer classified as an adolescent, and you fall into the adult category?
According to Dr. Sandra Aamodt, a neurosurgeon who coauthored the book, “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College,” the brain does not fully finish developing until around the age of 25.
People tend to graduate high school around the age of 18, which means if they enter college immediately afterwards and study a 4-year program, they will graduate around they age of 22.
While it seems crazy to expect someone to decide the rest of their life before they’ve really lived, there are benefits to it. After our brains are fully developed, they are less capable of change which means that higher education comes easier for those whose brains are not fully developed.
Of course, everyone is different. I’m not saying that every 20-year-old is a better learner than every 30-year-old. It just means that the 30-year-old would have an easier time of it when they were 20.
So, does the absence of growth make you an adult?
I’m certainly not a child anymore, but I don’t feel like an adult. Most “adults” that I ask say that they don’t feel like one either.
Maybe that’s the trick. Maybe there’s no such thing as adults. Perhaps adulthood is just a construct created by society to fool everyone into keeping in line.
Is adulthood what we’re searching for in life? Everyone has told themselves as a child that when they get older, they would do…something. I’m going to own as many dogs as I want. I’m going to eat dessert for breakfast. I’m going to stay up as late as I want. Video games all day. Tattoos all over my body.
Does adulthood represent freedom? When do we ever become free, and what are we free from? Our parents? Authority?
Can we be adults and children at the same time?
I don’t think anyone has a real answer for when you become an adult. I don’t think it really matters either. If adulthood is just a construct, why force yourself to fit it. That seems to be a something we must answer individually to ourselves.
Maybe being childish is how to stay sane in a world that just keeps getting crazier.