At 16, we can drive. At 18, we can vote. At 21, we can drink. And then there is life after all of that. So, when do we become adults? Here’s a ladyguide to determine if you are a motherfucking adult with a capital A.*
Congratulations! You are 16. You can drive. But you probably can’t afford a car. And you’re still in school. Of course, back in the day, 16 made you perfectly capable of doing adult things, like marrying and raising the kiddos. But today, we know that 16 year-olds still have teenage brain and do really, really stupid things.
Achievement: Going to College and Living with Other People Your Age in a Dorm
You still get your food from a cafeteria and don’t have to clean your own toilet. On the upside, you are learning to hold your alcohol and maybe losing your virginity. You’ve taken one step to being an adult!
Achievement: You Can Buy Booze On Your Own
Woo! Your driver’s license is no longer vertical. This is an exciting event that quickly peters out because you got drunk just as often when you were 20 as when you were 21.
Achievement: Your First Real Job
Oh my god. You have your own paycheck! But maybe you’re still living with your parents because jobs these days pay squat. You may feel like you’ve taken one step back, but you’re being responsible and getting a job and living within your means. That’s a really adult decision! Good job!
Achievement: Really Bad Breakup
At some point after you graduate from college and start your first job, many people go through a really awful breakup (a lucky few are like Marshall and Lilly on HIMYM). It might not be full of drama, but it’s usually the one that’s with someone you really cared about. You probably loved them and wanted to marry them or some such thing. And your heart is broken. Like, broken to the point that you want to pull an Eat, Pray, Love and travel around the world broken. This is an important event on the path to adulthood because you learn that people are assholes (including you) and you start to get a little more cautious with your heart. This is a pretty damn important milestone and you know, major growth and all that jazz. Very adult.
Achievement: The Next Job After Your First Job
You probably started your first job somewhere around 25K, maybe more if you chose a really useful degree like engineering. But you’ve finally hit that golden 5-years experience and someone is offering you money enough so that paying off your student loans isn’t eating into your food budget. You’ve just made the first step to adulting where you have money to spend on fancy things, like that Estee Lauder eye creme you’re going to be so happy you bought when you turn 40.
Achievement: You Decide Where you Want to Be
At some point on the way to adulthood, you start to wonder if the path you are on is the path or if you should pursue another one. Maybe you go back to school for a nursing degree or decide to quit it all and run a surf shop in Cost Rica. Suffice to say that at some point, what you wanted to be when you grew up and what you are actually doing coupled with your new goals will cause some serious evaluation and you’ll decide to stay where you are or move on. This can be very trying.
Achievement: Something Bad Happens and You Shrug
See, at this point, you’ve had some shit happen. Maybe you got laid off. Maybe you got fired. Maybe you got in a bad wreck. Maybe your basement has flooded. There comes a point on the way to adulting when bad shit happens and it ain’t no thing. You’ve learned to take a breath, deal, and move on.
Am I an Adult?
Yes? No? Maybe? At some point between 18 and 30 you start to just be able to deal with life. You become more sure of yourself (though not without doubt). It’s not about getting married or owning a house or having a kid. It’s about having enough experience that you realize that life is just life. And at 40 you’ll be even more adult. And even more so at 50. But there is a magical year, that year when childhood feels the past and you, yourself as an adult, become who you are now and who you’re probably going to be for the next 5-10 years.
*Life states are entirely personal. One person’s adulthood is another person’s adolescence. Please approach milestones of adulthood with caution and always assume you know less than you think at any given stage. As the Car Talk guys say: wisdom comes with experience. Unfortunately, you have to have the experience to gain that wisdom.