According to the law, at eighteen you're an adult.

But I personally feel there is no outside authority that can tell you when you are an adult. It's when you decide you are one. That doesn't mean at some time you decide you're an adult, and then for the rest of your life you are. You can always stop being one, whenever the mood hits you to be a kid again, or maybe just a teenager.

When sitting down and taking care of the bills or your taxes, you tend to be an adult. Often at work, depending on your job and who you're around, you're an adult.

I try and spend plenty of time not being one. I feel I've gained the maturity to know when I have to be one, and to do so, but I still have that spark which lets me play tug-of-war with the blankets on a silly Sunday morning. Or to totally blow off doing some cleaning in the apartment because I'd rather sit and play pinball or go in-like skating.

It's your mind. You currently have to grow older. It's a good idea to mature. But growing up is entirely optional.

I was hanging out with a friend and came to the astonishing (to me) discovery that everything i've been doing (for the past few years) falls into the subset of experience named My Adult Life. So i could say "I have effectively been in this relationship all my adult life" or "never, in all my adult life, have i dyed my hair purple."

I don't know when or how it happened. Suddenly my mother doesn't argue with me any more. I want to do things for myself.

I kind of wish there had been a border or boundary to pass over; maybe i would have felt it more if i had graduated college. As it is, sometimes people take me for 3/4 of my age occasionally. And sometimes it's easier that way. We just don't have the same kind of life rituals as other societies: my anth professor made an argument that college is a liminal period, when i was considering leaving. If there were a(n observable) transformation somewhere between halcyon childhood and My Adult Life, what difference might it have made? Might i feel more entitled to people's respect, and fuller in my sense of belonging to something?

I guess that's what i really want, maybe, is to belong to something. I claim adulthood, even though i scorned the category before, and it is cold to me. Funny, huh?

I do remember thinking in a less rational fashion. I remember going various mental stages. I remember going through at least some of the ethical stages some philosophers use to model ethical development.

There is a difference between children and adults. There is a whole collection of events you go through to get to the stage where you are considered 'adult':

  • Learning to take decisions for yourself, without your parents taking ultimate responsibility.
  • Moving away from home, potentially for the first time experiencing real loneliness.
  • Going through a romance, learning what the love between man and woman (in the cliche variant, at least) is.
  • Learning to extend activities over time - not living only in the present, but focusing your attention on the future.
  • Making serious mistakes, and having to live with the consequences.
  • Learning to use abstract thought - the ability to work with abstracts, e.g. to play chess, is normally not fully developed until a child reach the age of 12.
  • In our society: Learn to read, and pick up the background necessary to be a normal member of society.
  • Spend the physical time necessary to get past the raging of hormones to being more guided by experience than feelings.
  • Taking a job, and thus leading a life where you are not directly dependent on a particular set of people.

All these experiences combine to form what we know as an 'adult'. Different people experience different amounts of each of them. For most people in the western societies, the point where they have enough experience (of various kinds) that the total weave becomes an 'adult' is somewhere in the range of 16 to 25 years of age. Age is coincidental, but the correlation of random and stereotypical events make it most often correspond.

Being an adult has nothing todo with chronological age. I know some 16, 17 year olds who are years ahead, emotionally, rationally, of some 21+, even 25 year old people i am acquainted with. It's how you've lived the time you have, what you've done to it and what it's done to you, that shape these things.

a 27-year old, pampered and spoiled all his life, still being paid for by his parents, has not *lived*, really, in many senses. A sixteen-year-old, working, paying his own bills, maybe living in his own place, is far more adult in he has taken on more responsibility.

The people who can drag their heads out of the clouds and deal with practical things, examine the world logically and understand--grok--how it works, these are adult.

People who have known extreme pain and hardship, and have survived it and become stronger, better, learned more about themselves in any tiny way... they are 'growing up' from this. becoming more adult. A person for whom everything goes perfectly may be adult, but they lack the experience, the knowledge that comes from hurt.

A person who is mentally an adult, or at least as much of one as the can possibly be at their stage of development--these are the people who appear "ageless"--you look at and you can't tell if they're 17 or 27. The people who are chronologically 'adult' but act not like it, the 21-year old person who you *know* is a college student because they *act* like one... may be older... but not adult.

It's not an age thing... chronology is meaningless. it's a frame of mind.

Kudos to my mother on this one, one that I understand now but still don't quite live up to.

I always asked my mother when I would be considered a man. My father didn't live with us and as the only male in the family I felt that I should be the man of the house.

Whenever I asked, however, I got told simply
"A man is a boy who has stopped trying to prove he's a man"

Now I get it, I understand the difference between the child-hood want to be somewhere that you aren't and the adult acceptance of who and where you are. Like I said, I don't always live up to it but it always gives me comfort when I take the time to think on it.

Erik Eriksen describes life as a series of conflicts or tasks that we have to face in order. If we don't resolve the conflict/accomplish the task of each stage, then we won't be able to successfully move on to the next one.

His theory has been criticized for being ethnocentric, but it has always made a lot of sense to me.

According to him, the conflict of adolesence is between identity and role confusion. In other words, teenagers have the experience of feeling like different people at different times and spend a lot of time experimenting with different identities. In order for identity to win out, you have to develop a sense of who you are that remains stable even when you find yourself in different situations and with different feelings.

After that, you're ready for the next conflict--intimacy vs. isolation. In early adulthood, now that you know who you are, you have to figure out how you're going to relate yourself to other people and how to develop intimate relationships with them.

(Feel free to replace man with woman, etc. I'm too lazy to do it myself. Sorry. Oh yeah, and in speaking of coming of age activities/rituals, I'm not speaking strictly of small tribes in the rainforest. We more "developed" peoples have our own...)

Ah, the flexibility of our culture.

Used to be that you'd go out and perform , and then you'd be a Man. Nowadays, there is no ritual to perform that makes you a man. You just... are.

In some ways, this is a fine thing. After all, piercing your cheeks with sharp twigs is distinctly unsanitary, and a bit, well, brutal. Although I can see how, in some ways, it can hasten adulthood... By requiring each person to individually reach adulthood, our adults are probably stronger. After all, it's one thing to have someone say "You are an adult now", while it is another to claw your way up to the point where you can claim it yourself, and none will argue.

In other ways, it's a bad thing. It's easy to stay a child - as I'm sure some so-called "adults" you know have done. Indeed, I think that one reason so many coming of age activities are painful/violent/gorey is to act as a slap in the face, a sort of shock therapy, saying, "Guess what! You're a Man now. That means that you need to be able to handle yourself, whether it feels good or not."

Not that it always works. But I think in some cases, the coming of age, and the preparation for it, do help.

Being an adult essentially means being mature. Maturity is extremely hard to define or discern. Given a choice between the 26-year-old student who's going directly from Mum's lap into Dad's law firm without ever having had to earn a penny himself and the 23-year-old who learned the masonry trade at 16 and now already has a broken back and is struggling to get a start-up enterprise going (I know one of those), it's clear -- the ex-mason clearly is more of an adult.

Is he really? (Now I'm drifting into fiction.) The cute little ex-mason has, for some eight years now, been treating people of both sexes like dirt -- picking up and dumping girlfriends all over the place, all the time; deceiving his friends in any way imaginable. He clearly is responsible for himself, since he lives on the money he earns. But other than that, he's as egoistic as a little child.

The student, on the other hand, may look like an arrogant, useless git. But he knows what his duties are. He votes; he abides by the law; he'll always pay his taxes; he will pay for his ex-wife and children, should he ever have to divorce. He knows a fair bit of the inner workings of our society. And even if he's never had a supporting role in it -- when a crisis comes up where his help is needed, he'll try to help. Probably, he'll just go down, his flag gallantly waving, because his skills are rather limited. But the ex-mason-turned-entrepreneur will probably just run away if something looms at the horizon.

What does this tell us? Not damn much. Maturity is a way of thinking and not a material way of living.

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