Oh, the good old days. Remember when you were in high school and you couldn’t wait to be an “adult”? And being an adult simply meant living on your own, not letting anyone tell you what to do, partying and drinking, and having some care-free fun? Yeah… That’s totally what it means to be an adult.
Then your 20s start coming to a close and you realize that all you do is go to work, go out for drinks (maybe some dancing) and do it all over again the next day…maybe. You may have a job you like, but possibly not. You may have a great group of friends to hang out with, but possibly not. Then you start to think, “Is this all there is to life, to being an adult?” That constant routine of nothingness isn’t as fulfilling as you thought it would be. Then, you think you need to start checking things off the list that people say you should complete by the time (if not before the time) you turn 30. You know – settle down, buy a house, have kids.
Because, being an adult means being married and procreating, right? Ehh…sure.
So, now you’re really an adult. You’ve started checking things off that list. You may not have everything done or, perhaps you do but it wasn’t in the right order. Then, one day, when you finally have a quiet moment you think to yourself, “Is this all there is to life, to being an adult?” You think, “Is my life’s purpose really and truly to chauffeur my kids to daycare, to school, to soccer practice, to their friend’s house and then die a slow and agonizing death at a job I hate because who else is going to pay the bills and for all of the extra curricular activities for my children?” …phew… Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not about to go into why people should or shouldn’t have children. The point here is that nothing outside of yourself can ever give you a purpose if you have no interest in it at all.
I think the moment we truly become adults is when we start moving in the direction where we have some interest. Perhaps, the best way to answer the original question of what it means to be an adult is answered when asked in another way – when do we stop being an adult? No seriously…
“When do we stop being an adult?”
I believe the answer to that is when we continue to live in the rut we created because we are too scared to admit that our idea of what it means to be an adult, or to have a satisfying life, is wrong. That is when we stop being an adult. We are often told that being an adult means to own our mistakes. Therefore, what we do does not define our adulthood. How we react to the choices we’ve made defines our adulthood.
“When we keep moving toward everyone else’s ideas, ignoring our own interests and desires, we lose ourselves. Our shame and fear continues to build up.”
Our guilt continues to grow because we know we’ve betrayed ourselves. You see, even though we were right to question ourselves and the meaning of our lives when we were nearing the end of our 20s, at least our 20s were the result of us trying to head toward freedom – toward something that we thought would have been authentic. We betray ourselves when we start letting everyone else’s ideals define what our lives should be in order for our lives to be meaningful.
So, the next time you question the purpose of your life (and you will at least a few more times), remember that you have the power to change your life.
“You have the power to create a fulfilling life so long as you move toward something that interests you. Something that whole-heartedly creates a stirring of desire.”
Do you really have a desire to work at a job you hate and then go out to get drunk at night without anything of substance in between? It’s YOUR life. Not your parents’ life. Not your wife or husband’s life. Not your children’s life. And certainly not the life of the celebrity you follow on TMZ. Do something that you desire. This doesn’t mean you need to ignore your responsibilities. But it does mean that you need to make your life’s purpose, your happiness, a priority that only you can fulfill. Don’t put that burden on anyone else.
What does it mean to be an adult? Only you can define that. But may I suggest that you think beyond the day-to-day. Think bigger. Think deeper. Being an adult is not about age. It’s not about responsibilities. I think it’s about actions and reactions with room to grow and change. What do you think?