Standards for Adulthood

I am new enough to the whole adulthood thing that I still feel like I’m pretending.

Whenever I’m uncomfortable anywhere, I’m certain people can tell that I’m really fifteen and that they’re probably mad I’ve managed to trick them so far. But when I confidently do something quintessentially adult, I feel like I’ve finally stepped into the center of the Venn diagram dividing who I am and who I feel like I ought to be.

What I’ve noticed is that when I feel this way, I observe the action in third-person. I watch myself behave appropriately and, rather than continuing to do so, while continuing to think whatever it was I was thinking that made me act correctly, I instead congratulate myself on a performance well played. I usually can’t hide the smile, and the whole facade comes tumbling down.

The only thing is I’m still not sure exactly what my criteria is. I imagine it’s gotta be some combo of television, movies, and observed parental behavior, but those are all derivative of those adults that came before. Parents looked at other parents, media looks at other media…

I can’t even identify consistent themes. Going drinking after work, for instance, is an adult thing, but so is staying up all night with your kid. Making easy conversation with strangers I think is pretty adult, but so is sitting comfortably by yourself. It’s obnoxious, isn’t it? Like, how am I supposed to meet these standards I’ve imagined for myself if they’re completely arbitrary?

The weird thing, though, is that these arbitrary standards make me happy more often than they make me sad. On Sunday, my wife and I hosted my family at our own house and sat across from each other at the dining room table the way my parents always did, and all I could think was, “yes, adulthood!”

In fact, we had spent the entire weekend working on the house, and I’m pretty sure that was powered near entirely by those standards for adulthood.

But I’m still not sure if these ideals are actually a good thing. Actually, I’m now wondering if their existence is a barrier to their achievement. Can you be an adult if you’re still wondering if you’re an adult?

Maybe that’s the trick. I’m probably thinking too hard.

Maybe adults don’t think this hard.

Maybe adults don’t think at all…


That explains a lot, actually.


One thought on “Standards for Adulthood

  1. We should have told you before that everyone wonders whether they have become an adult. Right up until the moment when it’s just you and a screaming small person in the house, and you think, “Well, somebody has to be the grownup here, and I guess it’s going to be me.”

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