What makes someone an adult? Many of us, as we move into adulthood, look for one definite moment or milestone or marker that we have finally reached ~adult status~. But it’s rarely that simple. The road to becoming an adult isn’t necessarily smooth — and that’s OK. If you feel like you’ve made progress only to feel like you’re pulled back again, try not to sweat it.
“Instead of feeling frustrated… embrace your young adulthood and learn from those around you, so that you may be a self-sufficient adult when the time comes,” Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. tells Bustle.
The moment when someone finally feels like an adult won’t be the same for everyone. Some people want kids, a dog, and a house before they can check the “adulthood” box, whereas others will be celebrating the first time they make spaghetti without lighting their kitchen on fire. That’s totally fine, because there really isn’t a single moment that announces you’ve reached adulthood.
In fact, these 13 women shared the moment when they first felt like a real adult and, as you might imagine, there was a huge range of experiences. Here’s what real people had to say, because everybody’s journey looks different.
1. Alexa, 25
“Personally, I’ve recently felt like an adult when my weekends aren’t spent out at local bars, but instead, relaxing at home catching up on reading and straightening my living space. It’s funny, because I might be ahead of my friends or peers in this development, but for me, I like to use my time wisely :).”
2. Samantha, 46
“Since we’ve chosen not to have children and couldn’t legally marry until a few years ago, my wife and I don’t have the usual markers for adulthood that many of our friends and family share. So neither of us really felt like we were ‘adults’ until we started our own business and signed on the partnership agreement. The responsibility of providing employment for other people is a heavy one. Combine it with things like payments for an SBA loan and all of the costs of running a small business to feel responsible!”
3. Emely, 31
“Unlike most teenagers my life took a complete 180 at the age of 19. I had come from a very strict family who did not support the idea of a ‘child’ living out of state for college … it was their way or the highway … I chose the highway. I was 19, a newly Miss Texas with two suitcases, a garbage bag full of shoes, a boxed beauty crown, no money, no home, and not a clue on how to balance a check book, or even sew a button. But I was FREE. I remember the feeling of relief as I sat there with all I could take with me. For the first time in my life I was ready to be an adult and be treated as such. l quickly learned the cause and effect of my choices, learned how to independently make money, learned about branding, paid for tuition on my own, my own apartment and still was able to juggle all the silly things that come with being 19. Sometimes becoming a woman is on your own terms … and enjoying the ride.”
4. Maria, 30
“I first felt like an adult when I got a full-time job at 23. I had part-time jobs and interned for free throughout summers in college, but getting a full-time job — a steady paycheck, a title, a 401k, and benefits — felt so adult to me.”
5. Maria, 54
“The first time I felt like an adult was when I bought a house. That felt even more momentous than when I got married. I bought it with my now ex-husband. The feeling returned when I bought my own house after our divorce. It was the first time I ever lived alone. I now know the difference between being alone and being lonely.”
6. Heather, 30
“The first moment where I felt like I was truly growing up was the first time I tried on my high school uniform. I was 13 and had just enrolled as a freshman in a Catholic high school. I was very excited to wear one of the pleated, plaid skirts I had often seen other high schoolers wearing around my neighborhood — everyone who wore these skirts always looked so mature and sophisticated. My mom took me to a special store to buy it and I did a little twirl when I came out of the dressing room. She clapped and smiled because she was just as excited as I was — I had officially left behind my grade/middle school years and was about to embark on the next chapter of my young adult life. (If only I knew back then just how much homework and nights spent cramming for tests was ahead of me!)”
7. Dannie, 24
“For me, the first time I felt like an adult was when I had to make decisions about what would happen upon my death. I was 21 and the company I worked for put on a will-writing workshop, encouraging all their employees to have a living will. We all sat through the workshop and made decisions on what would happen if we were permanently in a coma, if we died, etc. and never before had I felt so grown up.”
8. Regina, 24
“When I first had a bill in my name or when I realized most adults still don’t have a clue.”
9. Zoe, 31
“When all of my rent and bills went out of my bank account and I still had money to actually LIVE for the month!”
10. Helen, 32
“I first felt like an adult when I was old enough to get public transportation by myself. Journeying around on my own felt like a big adventure.”
11. Zara, 28
“It may seem like a little thing, but going on a vacation with my boyfriend was the first real adult moment, I think. We rented a car and hotels and something about saying my name and having the keys handed over felt like a super adult transaction!”
12. Michelle, 31
“When I moved out of my parents’ place and into my first apartment a few years after college at 25. It was the first time I knew I wouldn’t live at home with my parents again and the first time I really had to learn how to budget.”
Being an “adult” means something different for everyone. From paying a bill for the first time to buying a house, there’s not one definition of what it means to be an adult. And if you don’t feel like an adult yet, that’s OK, too. Based on these women’s experiences, it seems like one day, something just clicks.
Originally posted on Bustle