What does it mean to be an adult?
Every definition is varied when it comes to an answer to this question.
There are some who would say that adulthood isn’t a specific marker that can be reached and rather is a transition that happens gradually, yet there are others that would say that one isn’t truly an adult until they’re living the American dream with half a million dollars in their bank account before they’re 30.
An article from The Atlantic discusses the issue of what it means to be an adult quite well, using examples from readers and cultural, biological, and skeletal examples to explore the true meaning of transition into adulthood.
At 28, I can say that sometimes I feel like an adult and a lot of the time, I don’t. Being a Millennial and trying to adult is wildly disorienting. I can’t figure out whether I’m supposed to start a non-profit, get another degree, develop a widely profitable entrepreneurial venture, or somehow travel the world and make it look effortless online. Mostly it just looks like taking a job that won’t ever pay off my student debt in a field that is not the one that I studied.
Then, if I hold myself to the traditional ideal of what it means to be an adult, I’m also not nailing it. I am unmarried, and not settled into a long term, financially stable career. Recognizing that I’m holding myself to an unrealistic standard considering the economic climate and the fact that dating as a Millennial is exhausting, it’s unfair to judge myself, but I confess I fall into the trap of comparison often enough. Sometimes because I simply desire those things for myself, and sometimes because Instagram. My ducks are not in a row, they are wandering, said an Atlantic reader, Maria Eleusiniotis.
In today’s world, millennials feel more pressure than ever to become successful at a young age and prove their worth.
There’s an unspoken timeline full of markers to fulfill (get a steady career, get married, being independent from your parents and getting your own place), so that by the time you hit thirty, you’re thirty, flirty, and thriving.
However, this puts an immense amount of pressure onto our 20’s. The stress of figuring out a career, starting over, or being unsure of what you want to do isn’t an easy option anymore, and the stress of getting it together to ensure that you’ll make it as an adult is constantly playing in the back of your mind.
A research professor of psychology at Clark University, Jensen Arnett, has come up with the Big Three criteria for becoming an adult, the things people rank as what they most need for be a grown-up: taking responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent.
Of the Big Three, two are internal, subjective markers. You can measure financial independence, but are you otherwise independent and responsible? That’s something you have to decide for yourself.
But is it truly possible to measure the standard of becoming an adult?
To sum it up: Taylor Swift was right. We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s a brilliant insight.