Adulthood?

It’s been driving me nuts.

This question of significance, this existential asking–this idea of who that has no concrete definition…

Someone told me recently that I wasn’t an adult.

“But, I’m 23,” I said.  “I’ve been an adult for five years.”

Apparently that wasn’t a good enough answer.

So I went looking for the definition of adulthood.  You know what I found?  Semi-vagueness.

Adulthood seems to have two common definitions.  One is a noun of a physical nature, of bodily maturity.  I meet that specification–I’m no longer a child, I don’t grow anymore–the only growing I’ll be doing is growing old.  I am an adult.

The second definition is an adjective, a describer of persons.  It’s an attitude of being, a subtle maturity that cannot be defined in specifics.

I believe this definition is subjective.  That it means different things to different people based on their presuppositions about life and their values.

It’s the anti-thesis of “immaturity” which is usually the blending of recklessness, stupidity, and the idea that one does not have to become accountable for one’s actions and situation in life.

When I was in high school, I was “mature” because I wasn’t sleeping around, doing drugs, or skipping class.

When I was in college, I was “mature” because I wasn’t getting drunk and partying every weekend.

Now that I’m out of school, I’m not “mature” anymore because I don’t live on my own.

But I have not changed all that much from my high school days.  I still don’t sleep around, do drugs, or party every weekend.  But suddenly it feels like I am no longer “mature.”

That does not mean that I cannot claim the moniker of adulthood as my own.

What frustrates me is that I have spent years rejecting the notion of adulthood, trying to cling to the wisps of my childhood, and now that I’ve finally accepted my transition to another life stage, I’ve been told that I don’t qualify based on a subjectively vague idea of adulthood.

It frustrates me because I no longer qualify for the criteria of childhood, or teenager-ness.

There is no middle ground.

Us twenty-somethings are cast off in the pool of unknowing.  We have no set definition, no set criteria of what we are.  We are forced to figure out who we are on a year-to-year basis–and I think that’s what makes us so amazingly vibrant.

Curiously, there is no in-between for maturity and immaturity either.

Because there is no middle ground, I can claim adulthood.  But I can also claim some aspects of my youth.  I can be flighty, imaginative, and free-spirited.  I can travel.  I can explore new things and revel in the wonders of life.

But I can also be mature, predictable, and persistent.  I can hold down a steady job, pay my bills, and be a good pet-owner.

I am an adult, but I’m not only an adult.

I find myself undefined.

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One response to “Adulthood?

  1. 23? Hell, my dad is 63 and he hasn’t even reached adulthood yet. I think adulthood is just something we get our kids to believe in, like Santa or the Tooth Fairy, in order to convince them to trust us.

    In any case, as far as being undefined or progressing into and regressing out of adulthood, I highly recommend the surrealist novel “Ferdydurke” by Witold Gombrowicz. It’s about a thirty year-old aspiring author whose old professor sends him back to high school. Then, as the story continues, the protagonist encounters more and more belittling and infantilizing experiences which push him back in age until he is but a helpless little boy.

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