When we were kids, we all knew what it meant to be a “grown-up”. It meant that you were old. You had a house and a job, you drove a car, you probably had a couple of kids. It was a simple definition, and we always knew a grown-up when we saw one.
But then we grew up ourselvse. And suddenly, it seems that being an adult is something totally separate from the things you have and how old you are. Frankly, you can’t call yourself an adult just because you’re a certain age. You can’t even call yourself an adult because you’re married or because you have a family or an apartment or a ”real person” job.
You can call yourself an adult when you act like one.
I’m 23 right now – still very young, in the scheme of things. And like every twenty-something, sometimes I feel all grown up. And sometimes, I feel like a petulant child. And I figure it’ll probably be that way for a long time. And that’s okay, as long as I keep learning. Keep learning, and keep growing up. The fact is, I know parents who still act like they’re 18 years old, and I know children who act far more grown up than their parents. It’s not about age. Is it about experience? Partly. But you can have all the experience in the world, and – if you don’t learn from that experience, or if you consistently handle it poorly (or worse, never handle it at all) – you still won’t be an adult.
So, what makes an adult? A real, honest grown-up? Well, I think you can call yourself an adult when you put others first. When the joy of friends makes you happy, not bitter or jealous. When you can communicate instead of shutting down. When you can ask for help if you need it, and handle issues in a healthy way. When you know that yelling and screaming is not how to solve a conflict. When you can honor responsibilities and commitments. When you don’t throw a tantrum if something doesn’t go your way. When you give your best because you know others deserve the best. When you’re open and honest for all the right reasons.
That, I think, is when you can call yourself an adult. And if you’re already there, that’s amazing. But I’m guessing that most of us (regardlss of age) still have a lot of growing up to do. And that’s okay, as long as we keep learning and keep trying.
After all, the only person who really knows when you’ve grown up is you.