When did you first start feeling like an adult?

The true secret of adulthood is that nobody really knows what they’re doing.  You don’t wake up on your 18th birthday suddenly knowing how to invest your money, handle difficult situations, and fold fitted sheets.  As a kid, you think your parents have all the answers; as an adult, you realize they were just doing the best they could.

I certainly don’t feel like an adult on a regular basis.  I feel like a clueless young person (being a PhD student doubtless exacerbates this), and I feel like me.  Of all the complicated things that go into being me, “being a grown-up” really doesn’t register.

There are occasional moments, though, when it hits me and I feel responsible and competent and holy crap I’m an adult.  It’s almost never the obvious stuff.  Getting married?  Nope, don’t feel like an adult yet.  Having a baby?  Nope, still don’t feel like an adult.  (It continues to boggle my mind that I can introduce myself as “Mrs. LastName” or “Little Boy’s Mom.”)

But the first time I took the trash bins out to the curb at our house, then checked that all the doors were locked before heading upstairs for bed?  Adult.

Pouring over paperwork in the car salesman’s office before getting the keys to our new vehicle?  Adult.  (This was at least a big event, of sorts.)

Why these situations?  Why not others?  I have a theory, which is that the things that make me feel adult-y are the things that I saw my parents do when I was a child.  My parents got married before I was born, and I was too young to recall much about the birth of my sibling.  But I do remember them locking the doors every night, and I remember killing time in a car dealership while they went into various rooms to discuss prices and sign pieces of paper.  Something deep in my brain registered those actions as Things Adults Do, and it built up my picture of adulthood accordingly.

What about you, readers?  When did you first start feeling like an adult?

16 thoughts on “When did you first start feeling like an adult?

  1. I love your examples of “adulthood.” I heard a young man (newly married) who said he had never before realized houses came without toothpaste. I thought that was a significant remark. I remember when I had to put the toilet paper on the roll! Where’s mom?!! Enjoyed this blog. Put my memory bank to work.


  2. I really started feeling like an adult when I was worried more about paying my bills than getting the coolest and latest stuff. I still have my chocolate and book addictions but I make sure my bills are paid before splurging. And now since I have a little one, I windup buying her stuff then chocolate and books! 🙂

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  3. My first job out of grad school was working at a big computer company for their biggest client. So I would get on the phone and tell these people across the country- all of whom were older than me- what to do with their medical software. Adulting!

    Also when I stopped asking my (otherwise delightful) mother what to do with/about my baby.

    Side note: she called me ‘the ultimate empiricist’ the other week. It wasn’t really a compliment.


  4. Pingback: I feel old | crazy grad mama

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