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Jan 8, 2008, 2:29pm

The early- and mid-20's are an interesting time, to me: you more-or-less know who you are and have the "teen identity crisis" solved to the point where you're comfortable with both the lasting and ever-changing parts of yourself, but now you have to go off on your own and test drive that adult self.

I've considered myself to be an adult for a year and a half, counting time spent living alone and self-sufficient "for real", college dorms and whatnot excluded. Do you guys think time spent in college is adulthood if you do it right out of high school and still have some degree of parental support, or does it only "count" if you do it completely by yourself?

Personally, I think the college experience is, for most people in the culture with which I'm familiar, adulthood with training wheels. You learn to dictate your own schedule to an extent, some students start paying their own bills, and you have to care for your physical and mental wellbeing without (as much) parental guidance. Many students take another step forward by going from a dormitory to an apartment at some point in their college career, forcing them to shop for groceries, cook, and clean for themselves considerably more than they had to previously.

Odd as it may seem, I feel that not having completed a four-year stint at uni. has kick-started my growth into a fully-functioning "grown-up" as I began to live alone and take care of myself with little to no outside interference just after turning 20. (This is not, of course, intended to devalue formal education; I quite desire to go back as soon as I am able.)

Pardon my musings; I've gone on long enough. What are your thoughts?

Jan 8, 2008, 5:23pm

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by it "counting." Adulthood is a vaguely-defined period of time commencing when the adolescent years end. I think it is incorrect to describe it as necessarily involving independence, on the one hand - for many there is the type of transition that you speak of, but truthfully you never become really independent. You just replace certain kinds of dependence (those revolving around money or responsibility) with other kinds (such as emotional support, deep lasting friendships, romantic love, etc.)

I also don't think it's correct to characterize adulthood as a cessation of growth or maturation. I'm 28 years old and still feel that I'm growing, learning, evolving, and working at becoming a better person. These are not activities which are relegated only to one's youth - rather, it seems to me, they should be lifelong pursuits.

Jan 8, 2008, 5:46pm

I'd define "grown up" traits as self-reliance, emotional maturity and consideration for others in one's behaviour (as opposed to adolescent selfishness).

Apart from forcing one to leave home, university years don't count. They're nothing like real life.

Actually, I think you're grown up when you stop worrying about growing up and start thinking about growing old :D

Jan 8, 2008, 7:17pm

Apart from forcing one to leave home, university years don't count. They're nothing like real life.

Unless, of course, you're working full-time, living in an apartment, paying bills, married, have kids, etc. Not everyone's "university years" consist of dorm living on their parents' funds.

Jan 9, 2008, 8:42am

yes but I believe Allama is referring to college life in the sense of living in a dorm, etc.

I would agree that being an adult requires some independance from your parents. I was lucky during college with enough scholarships to cover school and my room and board, so I don't really count that.

I don't think I was really an "adult" till I got married and moved 6 hours away from family, and had to balance, seminary, rent, health insurance, work, etc. However, that is only my definition.

Jan 9, 2008, 11:40am

The definition of "adulthood" is changing because the definition of "adolescence" is changing. More and more, modern sociologists say this generation of 20-somethings is using their 20s to "discover" who they are and prolonging what was the adolescent phase of being a teenager a generation ago. This is why many 20-somethings concentrate on career and resume-building early, why grad school programs are growing, and why the average age for first-time marriages is thirty. How one becomes an "adult" and what that means is changing, and that's okay.

Edited: Jan 9, 2008, 2:23pm

> 2 " I also don't think it's correct to characterize adulthood as a cessation of growth or maturation."

I certainly hope that's not how my post came across as it's far from what I meant. When I said "the point where you're comfortable with both the lasting and ever-changing parts of yourself" I meant only that; that you're reasonably comfortable with it as it stands and are willing to accept change. There are parts of a person that evolve throughout life with which you must constantly re-acquaintance yourself.

Adulthood, to me, is when you start relying on yourself as opposed to parents/guardians for sustenance, shelter, etc. As you say, of course, one will find other things upon which to rely and in different contexts. "No man is an island", while sounding very quip-ish, is true. Utter independence is nigh impossible without removing yourself from society altogether, but I maintain that independence from parental-type figures is necessary to reach true adulthood.

> 4

That's true, though MadCow was correct that I was referring only to a certain breed of university student; the most common. When you're a full-time student, even one working a bit while studying, who has gone straight from living with parents to living in a dorm and receives support, you simply haven't faced the full gauntlet of adult challenges the way someone who left home to work or go abroad between high school and college would have, or someone who is doing it 100% on their own (whether right out of high school or years later).

One could, of course, argue that neither has a person who has not been married, had kids, etc., but let's leave that argument for later as I just want to address the issue of self-reliance for now. ^_^

Jan 9, 2008, 7:06pm

>4 The_Kat_Cache:: I meant that comment as a reply to the original post: Do you guys think time spent in college is adulthood if you do it right out of high school and still have some degree of parental support, or does it only "count" if you do it completely by yourself? It's true that not everyone goes to university straight from high school, but the majority do (at least where I come from) and I was generalising. For students who are self-supporting and not living in dorms, I think it does "count"!

Jan 15, 2008, 9:51am

I think adulthood is all about your frame of mind. I have several twenty-something friends that act the same way they did when they were 17 and are going nowhere in life. Then there are people I know that are 18 and make decisions in life equivalent to an 'Adult'. I believe you can have an effect on "how early" you reach adulthood. In my case I graduated high school and moved out of my parent’s house in June 2005, turned 18 July 2005 and got married August 2005. Most of my friends tell me that they don't know how I am dealing with being completely on my own, married, working full time, and going to school. But like I said it's all your frame of mind.

I'm 20 years old and I think I am more adult then most of my twenty-something friends. If you are taking care of yourself (with little parent guidance or not) and making good decisions I think you can say you are in adulthood.

Jan 16, 2008, 3:51pm

At 21, I'm finally beginning to feel like an adult. But I agree with what others have said about the landmarks and definitions of adulthood changing. I recently had a discussion with my 50something uncle about what he was going through his senior year of college. Like me, he had big dreams and was unsure of what to do as a career, despite having gone through 4 years of college. But his father sat him down halfway through his senior year and told him "You either get a 'real' job, or you're going to work in the steel mill." No finding yourself, no grad school (unless he was absolutely certain, and he would pay for it himself). After a year in the mill he went to law school, and has worked full-time as an attorney since.

Early 20somethings, especially, are not pressured quite in that same manner anymore. We're encouraged to try out 3 or 4 different majors and then pursue something totally different after graduation if we so desire. Our country has shifted to put an even greater emphasis on individuality and personal happiness than it did in the past, and as a result, you have 25 year olds who have worked in ten different industries and are just considering grad school in something totally different. How do we define adulthood in this kind of society?

Jan 16, 2008, 5:11pm

I have heard two sides to this argument about "adulthood" today vs. yesteryear, at least in the U.S.: One is that all this self-discovery and personal happiness is what has led to the downfall of our industries and that our seeming unwillingness to work hard at one career our whole lives is hurting our countries ability to remain a great economic power. Pushing someone causes them to achieve great things that coddling would not.

The other side is this whole process leads to people being happier in their lives because they are passionate about what they end up doing and thus do it better, and do work hard at it, and that in the end that's better than making lots of money working at a job people hate.

I fall more towards the second side of this argument and blame the downfall of American manufacturing mostly on the companies who are so greedy for the bottom line they'll do anything. However, I think a little more pressure and less coddling in college, etc. is helpful to push and motivate people who are unsure. In the end we do need to pay our way and care for any children and be "adults." Whatever that amorphous concept may be.

End of rambling philosophical speech

Jan 16, 2008, 5:16pm

Adulthood to me is about standing on yr own 2 feet, but that doesn't mean you dont need support from yr parents or people around you, it's more about finding yr own way of doing things. I am reaching the end of my twenties (29 in march) and i have 3 small children and a home and partner so i dont have time to be selfish, which i think is a priviledge of being a teenager.
You have to take on responsibility and deal with it, whether it be at college, uni, at a job or starting a family and having a home, this doesn't mean adulthood has to be boring though, there is still time to have fun, it's all about priorities and the order you put them in.

Feb 27, 2008, 11:35am

Well, first I want to throw in that if you're interested, Neil Postman is a media ecologist who wrote an article some years ago called "The Day Our Children Disappear: Predictions of a Media Ecologist" which plays with some of the same ideas from above. It was published in 1981 (the year I was born at least), but it's still surprisingly relevant. It talks about the history of childhood, and also about the theory of the adult-child--to sum up, it's the idea that children, adolescents, and adults to a certain extent are merging into an interim maturity level with many of the same desires and sensibilities. It's interesting to read the article and consider all the books and movies in the past years especially that have come out for a dual audience (like HP). Anyhow, it's an interesting short article if you think of looking it up--it was originally published in the Phi Delta Kappan, though I imagine the ideas have shown up in his longer published works since then.

As for me? adulthood is definately a process, but I feel like I can pinpoint my major jumps in a few spots. I worked all through college though my family certainly helped me out, and I think my first big jumps came when I ended up reconsidering (and figuring out) what I wanted to do with my life, which required dropping out, working for a semester, and changing schools/programs, and then second, when I got my own apartment. The last big one came when I finally ended up in a long-term serious relationship. When I got serious with my current boyfriend and we started talking longterm, I made a huge jump as far as the way I thought of myself and what I considered when making decisions. But yeah, college in general wasn't that much of a jump for me because I'd always been serious and always worked--college just meant having to remind myself to eat and not living with pets anf family anymore more than anything.

Sep 18, 2010, 1:34am

I always found it weird when people used to say that once I got out of college I would be in the "real world". I found this mind boggling. After working my butt off in college while working a part time job and taking care of various other family problems, I thought, geez if it only gets harder, then what on earth do I have to look forward to.

As it turns out, working a 40 hour a week job and getting paid actual money was so much easier than getting little to know money and working my but off to get grades. I think the real world aspect that really got me was that I wasn't finding the "dare to be great situation" that had motivated me to work so hard in the first place.

I think "the real world" aspects that people talk about are the things that gradually creep up on you that erode your ability to chase your dreams. I hate to say it, but starting a family is usually one--unless that is your dream. The other is regular bills.

But I think the moment you really know adulthood has hit you is when you have to lecture a kid about something. When you're the establishment then you know things have changed.

Sep 22, 2010, 12:19pm

I believe you can have an effect on "how early" you reach adulthood.

I absolutely agree with this statement and can provide an example with my brother and I.

I'm two years older, but we both moved 12 hours away from home to go to college the year we graduated high school. For me, I moved straight into an apartment with a girl the college matched me up with. I worked full time and paid bills with the money I made. I didn't go home for the summers and eventually moved even further to live with my boyfriend. For me, I was ready to be an "adult" and be independent the day I left high school.

My brother went the other route. He moved into the dorms and goes home for the summers. He still has a meal plan and doesn't work during the school year. His only bill is his cell phone.

The thing is that it works for both of us and I don't think either one of us is "right". As long as you are content with the choices you make then I don't think it's necessary to worry about self imposing deadlines in the time line of your life.

Sep 24, 2010, 6:42pm

i think it's also tricky to use living outside your parents' home as an indicator of your maturity and where you are on the road to adulthood.

i lived apart from my parents for 9 years, supporting myself (well, they paid my school fees but not my living expenses). i lived abroad, i lived in states far away from home, and i lived in the next town over. to an outsider, perhaps i seemed very "grown up."

for myself, however, i feel i've done much more growing up since i moved back in with my parents a year ago. having to make the decision to give up my hard won freedom and seriously change my lifestyle because the economy was bad was a very grown up thing to do. friends of mine have chosen to just continue living as we always did and they are digging a giant debt hole for themselves.

so now, instead of working 40 hrs a week to pay rent and go out to eat with friends every night and go on weekend trips whenever i want, i work 6am-8pm seven days a week (i'm a farmer now). i make meals for the whole family from stuff i've grown myself. i value the times i let myself go out with friends because now i know what that really means to me.

i sometimes still have those feelings that i'm "not succeeding" when i talk to high school friends who are buying houses and having families. and sometimes i am disappointed that i can't run off with my friends for a weekend on the beach. but i think a huge part of growing up is realizing that everyone's journey is different and that it's perfectly ok not to "fit the mold."

none of that would have been possible living separate from my family. they aren't supporting me financially- more like we are supporting each other. i finally feel grown up.

Sep 24, 2010, 11:56pm

hmmm, this is a tricky one for me because I've felt a dichotomy within myself between adult and teen since early high school. We've never been 'well off' financially so as kids we had to make relatively tough decisions. I accepted not have bday parties and everything else low cash entailed. But there were still teen tendencies. I still haven't left home at 22, but I am full time student and work a bunch and have had regular bills since hs. My mom got laid off this year so of the 5 of us, only 2 are working. So it's even tighter, but the only way for all of us to eat somewhat regularly is to stay at home and pool resources. So I feel like I've been in an adult frame of mind for a long time now. I don't think living out of home will change too much of that, just have a different situation to apply it to. Of course, I can't be sure of that til it happens.

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