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What Makes You an Adult?

The line between adulthood and childhood is blurrier than ever in the realm of postsecondary academia. We are as overworked and caffeinated as our middle aged counterparts, yet we still aimlessly reside in our college bubbles, thriving on a timeline broken into semesters. Although the law attributes our age to adulthood, completing anything of ordinary maturation feels like an accomplishment, like scheduling our own doctor’s appointments. We are making major life decisions but still structuring our days around classes.

Many people associate adulthood with role transitions, like leaving your hometown for university, starting a career, or engaging in a serious relationship. Despite these shifts, no life event miraculously transforms you into an adult at the age of eighteen. This is the reason why many psychologists exercise the phrase “emerging adulthood” to describe this chaotic and confusing period when you are not entirely independent, but are on your way to achieving self-sufficiency. Though you may toil through a rigorous class load to strategically save your childlike shenanigans for the weekends, there are general characteristics of maturity that push you over the line into adulthood.

The first threshold into adulthood is typically the most tangible, and it is therefore easy to recognize: financial independence. Paying your own way comes with the monetary freedom and responsibility that is desired especially in American culture. Achieving financial independence comes with prioritizing needs over wants and the ability to differentiate between rational decision making and emotional impulse. Although it is almost impossible to cover all of your expenses as a student without a sufficient income (especially when attending a university as costly as BC), contributing to your livelihood is a way to loosen monetary ties to your childhood.

The next attribute that is crucial to beginning an adult life is making your own decisions. By being able to answer certain questions independently, like What should I major in? or What career should I pursue?, you are pursuing a quest to determine your own identity. An evident indication of adulthood is when you begin contemplating big life questions that no one but you can answer. However, this process requires much patience and flexibility. Often times, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to figure out these identity questions, and sometimes, our parents or competing peers can add to it. But with time and persistence, these questions are eventually answered.

Lastly, one of the most commonly known characteristics of adulthood is one that is least often followed by young adults: taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. It involves accepting the consequences of your actions without expecting anyone else, especially your parents, to protect you from them. In order to retain ultimate responsibility, you must be willing to utilize negative feedback as a tool for self improvement and understand that open communication is the key to such progression. In all areas of life, a sense of maturity manifests itself when you can recognize that you will not always find yourself on top, and you must learn from these mistakes or mishaps without dwelling on the outcome.

What is most important to remember is that maturity is a constant course of development, not a destination. Therefore, one must continuously engage in self-improvement in order to build upon his or her foundation of adulthood.