The Hairpin ran an article today asking women whether or not they felt like an adult. It’s an interesting discussion. Everyone comes to adulthood differently, and while some people answer “it happens on your 18th birthday,” most of the answers were more vague. It happened to me within the last few years. I remember looking around and thinking, “I live by myself. My name is on a bunch of bills every month. I am solely responsible for the lives and well-being of two cats. I own a car. Who let that happen?” Because clearly, I was a child and the whole world was making a mistake.
Then I got my hair cut short. (Not exactly with my explicit consent, but that’s a different story.) I had a birthday. I found my first grey hair, and was excited that it looks like I’ll eventually have the shocking-white hair from my mother’s side of the family. I realized that when a child on the street points me out to his mother, he’s going to refer to me as “that lady.” All of my friends were women, and we’re all the same age. Maybe I was a woman too? I’d forgive them for occasional lapses in responsible adulthood, so maybe the time I forgot to pay the electric bill didn’t really count against me as much as I thought?
Adulthood doesn’t mean always having the confidence to stand up for yourself when someone is being mean or creepy to your face. It’s not a trophy you can win. It’s not marriage and babies, at least, not for everyone. But it’s bits and pieces of all of these things and more.
Which is why you see so many “coming of age” stories featuring characters in their 20s and 30s. It’s an intensely personal journey for everyone, and yet you may not even realize when you’re on it.