What makes an adult?

Adulting. We dread it but want the title of adult more than anything. All those years waiting for your 18th birthday to finally come around, but once it does you feel no different.  

People say you’re an “adult” now, but are you? The huge milestones of growing up are spread out across multiple ages, so it’s hard to say when one really has become an adult. 

Now you can go to war, but don’t you dare touch a cigarette; you’re too young. Feel free to get married, but buying a gun is for grown-ups in most states. Not old enough to drink alcohol, but make sure you vote because the future of our country is in your hands. 

From ages 16 to 21, the rules of what you can and cannot do based on your age seem to be completely randomized. So, you ask your parents why, only to hear that your brain isn’t fully developed until 25. What happened to 18? 

Now that you’re thoroughly confused, we can look at what really makes someone an adult. 

According to the American Psychological Association, “It isthe period of human development in which full physical growth and maturity have been achieved and certain biological, cognitive, social, personality and other changes associated with the aging process occur. Notice the keyword: maturity. 

Because we are not clones or robots, and everyone’s brain functions differently, governments use age to define adulthood for the sake of laws. However, on your 18th birthday, were you automatically self-sufficient: Ready to pay your own bills, cover tuition, have a career, buy a car? Most of us still get shaky when we have to make our own doctor’s appointments.  

These things come with maturity, not age. As I’ve gotten older, I noticed that every year I change so drastically that I feel like a different person. At 21, the thought of my 18-year-old self makes me cringe. 

Maturity, responsibility and brain development together should be the deciding factors of adulthood. It’s true, 18- and 19-year-olds are able to understand the world around them just fine and do not need to be protected like children. But when it comes to making life decisions, we’re not the best at it; I won’t lie. 

Some people mature faster than others. Even though your brain isn’t fully developed, your circumstances play a big part in how quickly you mature. For example, those who had to parent their little siblings from a young age or the people who had to leave home at 18 and now support themselves are more likely to see the world through an adult lens sooner than most. 

Being an adult isn’t defined by what you are allowed or not allowed to do. It is where your mind goes when things are no longer easy. When something difficult happens in your life, do you wish someone could swoop in and fix it for you, or do you face the problem head-on? 

Do you take responsibility or shift the blame, looking for an easy way out?  

As soon as your primary focus switches from yourself and what’s best for you to others and how your actions impact the world around you, you reach adulthood. Or age 25. Whichever comes first. 

Barber is the off-campus news editor for the Liberty Champion

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