I’ll put a disclaimer before starting that this isn’t a subject that I have researched beyond what my uni textbook had to say. It is, however, something I have given a fair amount of thought to as it has felt particularly relevant to me and the people around me in the last couple of years. So this post is really more of a collection of my thoughts and feelings about the subject than it is a researched article on the subject of becoming an adult.
I was raised in a place where majority was at 21 but my big birthday, my coming of age, was to be my 18th birthday. At 18, I was going to be considered an adult in most countries I could travel to, I would be starting university, and I would generally be expected to behave more like, well, an adult. Whatever that actually means.
I’m now twenty-something, and I feel absolutely no older than when I use to run home from school at 17, dump my homework to the side and lodge myself in front of a video game for a couple of hours. I’ll grant you that I do more than I did back then: I can drive, I can cook, I have a degree, I have held a full-time job for three years, I’m in a relationship, and I have made some life-changing decisions. And yet, at the very core of me, I still don’t feel like an adult.
I learnt to drive at the behest of my mother, begrudgingly at first as I would have been quite happy to spend the time driving around sitting in my bedroom playing a video game. But I learnt—and aren’t I glad I did!—and got my licence. That document alone was supposed to be, after the event of my birthday, the first thing that marked me as an adult. Perhaps I would have felt more grown up if the first car I had hadn’t been a Volkswagen New Beetle, painted bright metallic blue, with a flower in the vase next to the steering wheel, crying out ‘gay’ perhaps a little more than I had intended.
But the car didn’t do it.
Then I left home and went on a gap-year around Europe selling anime merchandise around conventions. Feeling like an adult back then equated to making sure that I had enough money for what I wanted to do; the setting up at conventions, acquiring and selling of stock more felt like a fun game. What should have really made me feel like an adult—earning my own money, travelling, living by myself—fell seriously short of the mark: I was a teenager on a gap year having more fun than I had ever had in my life.
After that I settled away from home, studied at university, and eventually got a job. Surely, alongside living my myself, being financially independent and having a job should have been what finally marked me as being an adult. Instead, I spent three years playing at being an adult, doing everything I could to look older than I was—I look about eighteen on a good day, and I’m in my late twenties—and pretending that I was Mr Cristea, team leader and expert salesman.
But there was the point: I was pretending. I had never felt so out of place in my life as I did where I worked and I forced myself to appear differently so that I would be taken seriously. I put on a mask, and for all it felt as though it had stuck for good, it fell apart at the first opportunity.
So how the hell does one become an adult? My uni book hinted that any of the things I have cited above (learning to drive, leaving home, getting a job) should have made me into an adult. But I don’t feel like one. There are days I forget how old I am and would hardly be lying if I said I was nineteen or twenty. It’s not like there is a button in our brain that gets pressed when we enter majority and suddenly turns us into an adult, although it probably would be simpler at times—and much, much more boring—if there was.
I have reached the conclusion that I may never end up feeling like an adult and it is a strange feeling to say the least. But perhaps this is simply due to the fact that my generation, and the ‘geek community’ I am part of just sees the world in a different way. It is perfectly acceptable for men to litter their desks with cute figurines, play video games until the little hours of the morning—even if they have work the next day—and geek-out to music, anime, and movies all day long with friends.
So maybe it’s a generation thing, and being an adult doesn’t mean the same now as it did when my parents entered adulthood. Or maybe the mentalities have changed so much, the world around us changed so much, that becoming an adult is different and happens later on in life.
Becoming, and being, an adult are tricky things that are often mentioned but never really talked about. No-one ever tells us what will make us
adults, or what it will feel like. It’s a bit like falling in love: there is no way to describe when, how, or why it will happen. When asked when I would know I was in love, all my father could reply was ‘you will Know’. Is that how it works for being an adult? I have no idea, but if that’s the case, then I’m most definitely not one yet!