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?