I have always considered myself to be a part of the “adulthood starts at 30” belief. At just twenty-one years old I insist that I am not a “real” adult. My parents still do my taxes, I don’t own an iron, and my curtains are hung up with command hooks because I bought the wrong size curtain rod in September and haven’t replaced it yet. Despite this, I still consider myself to be kind of an adult, and this was a slow realization that happened over years. The best way I can describe this personal, yet hopefully relatable, journey is through a timeline of experiences that all led to me realizing while walking to my research assistant job that I was like kind of a grown up.
All photos are of me.
The excitement of being a teenager set in and suddenly I felt like I was sooooo grown up. Adding to that, I’m Jewish so 13 means a Bat Mitzvah and being recognized as an adult in the Jewish community despite being nowhere near responsible enough to adult at all.
The beginning of high school for me meant the beginning of college for my sister and I became the oldest sibling living in the house. To say it made me grow up would be a lie, I was still only capable of cooking pasta and didn’t know how to do laundry.
There is something about getting your license that makes you feel more grown up than ever before. Suddenly I had the freedom to explore the whole world — well, my whole state — and drive to and from school. Being the first of my friends to get my license automatically made me the “mom” that drove everyone around, a title that I still hold on to.
If I had to choose a year that gave me the most growth it would be 18. I went from a confident high school senior to a nervous college freshman. I drove across the country with my sister, said goodbye to my family, and moved into a tiny room with a complete stranger. The moment that sticks out to me most as adult-forming was two weeks into my freshman year when I went ice skating with a group of people from my floor. One of the girls, someone who I hardly knew, fell and broke both her wrists. My mom instincts kicked in and I rode with her to the emergency room and stayed with her until well into the morning. After taking a cab back to campus at 3 a.m., and helping a girl with two arm casts swipe into Warren Towers, BU finally felt like home.
After conquering my first semester of college, the idea of “adulting” became more concrete. I still lived in a dorm, but I could navigate my way around campus, handle scheduling doctors appointments when I needed physical therapy on my ankle, and was mastering the art of not crying in office hours. The moment I was the most proud of, was handling my mental health. I have ADHD, and it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I was able to get a proper diagnosis. I handled looking up therapists and going through my insurance company to find coverage, and I got a sense of confidence that I could, in fact, survive without my parents.
My first feelings of real adulthood came with my summer job as a nanny, where from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. I was in charge of two small children. When I returned to school after the summer I felt like I carried this feeling of adulthood into the rest of my life. I was able to deal with landlords in my new apartment, call the maintenance guy when our garbage disposal broke, and reset the fuses in my kitchen. I took a grad level class and, although I was the youngest one, I felt like I could fit in. I voted in my first presidential election and stayed up to date with the trainwreck that followed. I was becoming someone who was in control of her own life.
It wasn’t on my 21st birthday when I finally bought my first legal drink that I felt like an adult, or when I talked to a family friend about her college search and realized I was over halfway done with school. It wasn’t when I was no longer able to keep up with the slang my high school brother used, or when my sorority got new members and I was considered “old”. It wasn’t even when I sat with my best friends from elementary school and caught up on our college adventures. Those experiences made me feel old, but not grown up. I felt like an adult, a real true adult, when the curtain rod in our living room became detached from the wall and without putting much thought into it I grabbed a toolkit and some screws and reattached it. It was an incredibly small moment, but maybe that was why. I realized while I used a toolkit I owned to fix something in my apartment that I was someone who could take care of herself.
I am in no means a certified adult. I still call my mom when I’m sick and ask my dad literally any question about money. I still wait until the last minute to do laundry and eat take out more than I would like to admit. Maybe adulthood is more of a journey than a destination. Maybe I’ll never shake the imposter syndrome, but I know that with each day I get farther and farther from the irresponsible thirteen year old girl, and closer and closer to someone who owns a mixer and eats more than just pasta.