• Irene Hau

When do you become an adult?

Read this for a youthful and insightful opinion on the true meaning behind becoming an adult, one that doesn't involve contracts and legalities.


Depending on where you live the exact age may differ, but for most, late teens and early twenties signify the transition to adulthood. Getting your driver’s license, moving out, and starting college are just some milestones within the critical life period, but when do you actually become an adult?

In childhood, development was marked by physical and psychological changes brought on by the entrance into academic institutions; however life after adolescence has no definite boundaries, challenging the denotations of an “adult.” Consequently, the aging youth population faces monumental bouts of uncertainty about their own identity, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, yet the upcoming generation has gifted the public with the concept that even though our achievements and presence do not embody the traditional mold of an independent, indispensable, and influential individual, we are all adults in our own ways.


For many people and establishments, characteristics of being grown include quantitative components, like surpassing a specific amount of years or receiving credentials. Furthermore, a majority of how the general populous classifies an adult is actually synonymous with legislature. For instance, the legal age to participate in voting is 18 years old, as provided by the US Constitution and USA.gov, and a large portion of Americans, including my parents, agree that 18 is an adult due to the civil duties given to an individual at 18.


On one hand, the ties to government ensure that the definition is well explored through multiple faucets with social, economic, and political considerations and provides a general consensus, which can be employed in a multitude of settings. Nevertheless, with processes involving governing bodies and constituents, there’s a high likelihood that not only are articles outdated, but the conclusions of a state do not fully reflect the demographics and beliefs of the people. In cases such as Quinceañera in Latino cultures, where a “girl’s 15th birthday marks her passage into womanhood,” as offered by Britannica, the implications of legal age fail to recognize communities that have traditions celebrating a coming of age.

It's ambitious to contain the meaning of maturity within a contractual realm."

Conversely, we should acknowledge circumstances where adulthood encroaches onto an entity, exemplified during the loss of a parent and the eldest sibling may involuntarily be obligated to take on the role of a caregiver. Given the complexity of life, it’s ambitious to contain the meaning of maturity within a contractual realm.


Although the modern era has expanded the opportunities for occupational roles and the avenues for pursuing them, the hyper-industrialized world burdens individuals into electing responsibilities, in which they have not acquired proper readiness for, leading to conflicting notions of their own identity, most notably whether not they’re allowed to occupy the title of an adult since they must find footing in an ever changing environment and are restricted of self exploration. While the older generations and critics may have you perceive the corridor away from adolescence as cinematic, it can also retain the capacity for hurt, loneliness, and failures. It’s beyond overwhelming to compare the growth and success of your own plot when your peers seem to have harvested a plentiful of fruits. The truth: the bulk of “of age” independents don’t have a grasp of what precisely they’re doing or even why, but we try really hard to. For a subject where even the basic categorization is varied, it shouldn’t waver on your psyche that you don’t fit in; what’s critical to appreciate is that you’re putting forth an earnest effort. Once you do, you’ve gotten half of the "adulting" part down.


*Prompt taken from New York Times list of topics.