Someone recently told me that now that I’m in grad school, I’ve finally grown up; however, I found that comment to be somewhat meaningless. The first time I was told I had grown up was during my bar-mitzvah at age 13. Then at 16, when I could drive, I had finally grown up. Then at 18, when I was legally an adult, I had finally grown up. Then at 21, when I could drink, I had finally grown up. The realization recently hit that growing up or ‘becoming an adult’ is completely context dependent. When it finally happens differs based upon the religious, biological, legal, or social context. So, when has one truly “grown up?”
Given its inherent ambiguity, I think the term “grown up” should be scrapped in most contexts. We should refer to growing up biologically as “attaining sexual maturity.” We should refer to growing up religiously as “having had a Bar-Mitzvah” or “having had one’s first communion.” We should refer to growing up legally as “no longer being a minor.” During these milestones, we can still say one is “growing up;” however, we should by no means consider those who have reached these stages “grown-ups” or “adults.” I think the titles “adult” or “grown up” should be reserved for individuals who possess the virtues of self-sufficiency, responsibility, and integrity. If this is the case, then I, in addition to most people out there, still have a lot of growing up left to do.
*I should also acknowledge that the above discussion is for the most part a matter of semantics.
Now that I’m 25 and have attained the final privilege of adulthood (the ability to rent a car), I think it’s safe to say that I am no longer a child. However, I’m fine with that and feel ready to be an adult. My time on earth is dwindling so if I seek to accomplish everything I want to, I better get on this adulthood train ASAP. SIDE NOTE: This might be a topic for later on, but I don’t think maintaining one’s “inner child” and being a functional adult are inconsistent aspirations.
This brings up the question of how my adulthood impacts my behavior. Previously, I hypothesized that the difference between children and adults lies in adults being self-sufficient, being responsible, and having integrity. These buzzwords are great, but now that I’m actually an adult, I have to figure out what that means practically. I will now outline some of the tenets of adulthood that I hope to now aspire towards:
- Financial self-sufficiency: if one eventually seeks to be able to take care of a child, the ability to take care of oneself is a pre-requisite. Although I’m in no rush to have a child right now, I hope to financially be ready to do so when that time comes along.
- Financial responsibility: if one seeks to be financially self-sufficient, being financially responsible (living within one’s means) is a necessity.
- Responsibility for one’s own happiness: we all want to be happy and an adult should have the capacity to know how to fulfill one’s personal needs. Happiness is harder for some people to attain than others; however, an adult should embrace the challenge of doing what is necessary for one’s own happiness.
- Integrity: an adult should not childishly misbehave and if they do, they must accept responsibility and the consequences of their actions.
- Ability to care for others: an adult should be sufficiently independent that if someone is in need or struggling, the adult is capable of assisting that person.
These tenets are somewhat idealistic and I myself have not even come close to mastering them; however, they are good ideals to aspire towards. I would argue that adults have been gifted years of being alive to learn about the world and as a result have a duty to serve humanity. Aspiring towards the above ideals is arguably how one can practically do so.