If there’s one thing the Internet is obsessed with at the moment (besides endless debates on poorly covered real news), it’s articles and quizzes either predicting your age or telling you what your current number of years lived means. For instance, I never knew, until Mother Internet told me, that I cared about my retirement options or that I wanted to go to sleep before midnight on weekends. What knowledge I’ve received from this painstaking research!
The reality is, age is weirdly subjective, especially if you don’t spend every single period of your life in the same living situation. Canadian grad students in their 40s definitely don’t behave like 18-year-old Dutch kids that decide against college and live the dream as underage app developers. These are outliers for sure, not part of the statistic norm, but wait, isn’t it problematic to shove statistic norms down the think tubes of everyone, especially when it’s pretty clear how little people actually know about themselves, regardless of age?
Mainly, this age-related content has to do with whether or not you identify as an adult. Adults, according to the Internet, have done a certain amount of things on a prescribed list, such as driven a stick shift, had their heart broken at least once, learned to not burn a grilled cheese sandwich, and maybe even done their taxes without calling their parents in a panic. All of these events, though, seem to be characteristic of an engineered lifestyle, in which all the supposed craziness of youth filters away, leaving the beautiful, smooth boredom of adulthood. Maturity apparently means having a plan that will last until you’re super dead.
Of course, having this as the adulthood many people aspire to experience breeds a special sort of person who decides to inject total madness into their lives, uprooting what they’ve believed in and blowing apart their own perceptions because of this engineered norm. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with the majority of these people? Not easy, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong in your own life.
So we have two perceptions of adulthood: the adult who’s relinquished their youth to glide into life before doom, and the adult who’s taken such epic stock of life that they’ll refuse to chill down in the realm of board games and cheese plates in fear of having their soul crushed (are offices really that terrible?). It’s hard to know whether you can call yourself an adult, or even want to, with culture being this apparently overbearing and polarized. Oh, to be a secure sheep, or a badass rebel swan?
The only creature that can assuredly tell you that you are indeed an adult is you. Every person is an individual in that sense, or should be. The moment I paid my rent without the aid of my parental units was when it hit me that I’d grown up, but I’ve still incurred the wrath of being called immature for refusing to get a “real” job and stop freelancing (how’s that daily commute on the highway, all Americans I know?). I believe you are an adult, whatever that means, when you say you are, and more so when you feel you are. But I also believe you should never allow the entire foundation of adulthood dictate that life plan of yours. Someone is not more mature if they want to live out their days in an insurance office and digging on minivan shopping, and not less mature if they wish to travel the world with a backpack filled with power bars, guidebooks stolen from your local library, and condoms. Our error is defining our own adulthood against other adults, and allowing sketchy definitions to puncture a happiness that’s only ours to possess.
So the next time you ask yourself if you are an adult, ask yourself other questions first. Do you feel secure in what you do and what your personality has grown to be? Do you trust your own decisions, whether they lead you to a sweet-ass retirement plan or sleeping in a cathedral/free art museum because hostels are too expensive? If the answers are yes, then you’re probably set to enjoy the adult identity of your choosing, and if you are like, “I don’t give a donkey’s behind yes or no,” then you’ve been an adult all along.