When Did You Realize You Had Grown Up?

When I was in high school I always wondered when I would feel like an adult. Sure, at the time I felt like I knew a lot, I mean, I thought I knew more than my parents so that's all that counts right? But I didn't have responsibilities like adults. I pretty much had zero net worth, I didn't have a career. I wondered at what point in time would I actually feel "grown up".

In college I would gain more freedom but still I hadn't reached any of those milestones that I thought would make me feel like an adult. It's possible that when I was in college I may have even regressed some because I could truly just do whatever I felt like doing:

F<3ck Yeah! by The Chung!
F<3ck Yeah! - by The Chung!

Horrible diet all the time? sign me up!
Walk of shame? Who hasn't!
Learn your limits the hard way? Of course!
Party all night before you have to give a presentation, wake up and run to class in the rain wearing flip flops and the bathing suit that you slept in for some reason? F<3ck yeah!

I didn't have to check in with anyone and as long as I got passing grades... What else really mattered?

My First Real Job

When I got my first real job I knew I had started my career. I was proud to finally feel like I could afford to do the things I wanted and had some real responsibilities at work. But I still played around at work, when I got bored I would spend hours coming up with and executing practical jokes on coworkers to entertain myself. I think my boss appreciated the fun it injected to the office but I'm still not sure how efficient he thought I was.

tin foil office
It's amazing what you can do with a few rolls of tin foil!
But I still felt like I was just a kid just following a script, there was nothing inside me that made me feel like an adult yet. I still went out to bars, drank too much on nights that I probably shouldn't have, and regularly made poor decisions. I bought a lot of stuff out of desire, not necessarily because I thought I needed it, but because I had the money to. Sure I could have been saving more for retirement but I was saving some so I thought that's all I needed to do.

I Bought A House

Surely becoming a home owner would make me feel grown up wouldn't it. It was one of those big milestones that people looked forward to, you were no longer a renter and I was building "equity"... Nope. I was rooted, I had a mortgage, but still nothing had really switched inside of me to make me feel much different than I did before I had bought a home. I was still just following the standard template of what I should be doing as I grew older.

In time my friends would start getting married, some were having kids, but for me... I just had pets, I started with ferrets and moved up to a dog eventually. Sometimes people would comment on how responsible I was for having already saved for a house but I viewed it differently. If I really wanted to, I could sell my house and move on. Sure it would be a pain in the ass, but I could do it. If they wanted out of their marriage that's not so easy, that's like one of those "forever maybe" decisions that takes a judge and court papers to get out of. The way I looked at it, I was the one that hadn't made any permanent decisions in my life yet.

When It Happened

I always thought the day I would feel grown up would be some strange life changing event, like getting married or kids. Well I'm not married, and I don't have kids, but I do feel more like an adult. It wasn't because I was no longer the youngest person at my job anymore. It was something so mundane that I almost feel like I was robbed of a moment that I was looking forward to for so long...

I was at home watching TV after work one day and I realized that I knew a lot more questions on Jeopardy! than I ever thought I would. Growing up I was always frustrated with the show, half of the categories were about things that happened before I was born, and the others just were things I was unfamiliar with. But now, time had changed that. Having a lot of international travel under my belt and just remembering pop culture or events from growing up I realized I knew a lot more of the answers.

Suddenly I felt like an adult. It was something I had looked forward to for so long, and when the day finally came I felt disappointed. The day that I had hoped would be celebrated as a milestone was about as exciting as ... Well, sitting at home with your parents watching Jeopardy and reading about your friends carpal tunnel on Facebook. Ugh. How did things change so suddenly and without warning.

YOLO - Jeopardy!
When did you start to feel like an adult? Was there any particular event?


  1. Great post man - really enjoyed this one :) (And huge fan of Jeopardy too, even though my wife always kicks my a$$!)

    1. Thanks J$, I wouldn't say I'm "good" at Jeopardy, but I still know more than I used to!

  2. For me I can hardly remember when I got to be a kid. I think this is why I don't want kids. As a child I had adult responsibilities as the primary caretaker of my family though I was the youngest. ( Alcoholic mom, meth head sister, gambling addicted father) I started making money as soon as I can remember doing odd things for neighbors then later bindery work ( at age 8) then moved out with a boyfriend at 15 and got a real job to help pay for family stuff. My responsibilities were that of an adult so to ask the question as to when I felt like I became an adult I would say, when wasn't I?

    1. I hope that because you had to take up so much responsibility so early on that you learned some valuable lessons that others might not realize until a later age.

      I realized when I wrote this that there would probably be some responses like this. I know that my life did not have as many personal challenges as others. I guess my personal struggles were more of an internal battle with depression rather than outside factors of the world forcing me to grow up.

    2. Some lessons sure, but I think mostly it is the primary reason why I don't want children. The idea of caring for someone like that again is really hard for me to swallow. Funny though I am the "mothering" type and love to care for people, but I like to do it on my terms. It taught me some lessons that I don't think are healthy really like, "people can't be counted on, only count on yourself". This one makes it hard for me to really get close to others. It also is a major factor in why I have a very difficult time not being able to really plan past what I can see and not take risks that can't be calculated somehow. It makes it difficult for me to follow anything by logic (in other words, my heart doesn't get a voice). I am working on changing these things because I think it has played a factor in me only living my life in contentment, rather than more extremes of happiness and sadness. I think it is why I don't really get excited over things, but rather I am just pleased when good things happen. It's actually a really frustrating way to live life now that I am not longer a young adult as it has put major blocks on my decision making. I am always looking for what makes the most sense/ less loss, etc. rather than taking a risk and perhaps getting even more out of life. So like I look at losses rather than unknown possible rewards. My life is lead more like a series of columns of positives and negatives, but again, not throwing in possible positives, just sicking to the facts in the now. The imagination you get when you get to be a child allows one to explore possibilities where instead I don't see those things very easily at all. My childhood experience made me very independent, but sometimes to a fault, and now feeling dependent on someone has put me at my most vulnerable state lead me to believe I owe them a lot, because I never was able to truly lean on anyone.

    3. Having other people truly depend on you is a difficult thing, and it's a lot harder when you are so young like that. I don't want to say that once you're older and have established yourself that it's probably easier to have children or other people depend on you because I honestly don't know. Having your own children means raising them from they day they are born and at that age you have to care for them in so many more ways because they can't do anything for themselves yet.

      Some of those lessons you learned are your own survival skills though. Humans are trained to remember negative events better than positive or neutral ones. It's how primitive man learned to survive. I'm not saying that those lessons are absolute truths such as "don't count on other people, only count on yourself." but they protect you from situations that you don't want to be in.

      But you're working on changing those things, which to me says that you realize that just because you've been doing things that way for a long time doesn't necessarily mean it's the best way. It's personal growth, it's a part of growing up, and hopefully that never stops.

      I might not necessarily like eating healthy because it doesn't taste as good as eating pizza every night. When I was younger I probably would have lived off of Mac and Cheese, but as I get older I know that it's better to eat healthier so I made changes.

      You don't always have to do what makes sense. If people always took the safest route then there would be less entrepreneurs and start up companies, less innovation because people weren't willing to fail. I wish I remembered where I saw this recently, it was within the past week or so too. Somewhere I read, "Make your decisions based on what your future self 10 years from now would tell you to do." I can't say it's fool proof advise but it's a way to live without regrets.

  3. I enjoyed reading your article. Well, I realized I had grown up when my father died. By that time, I was taken some responsibilities for our family, to work in order for us to recover and leave poverty and to help my sister for her studies.

    1. Hannah,

      That is a difficult way to have to learn to grow up. The loss of a loved one that is so close and that so many people depend on can be a difficult adjustment period. It sounds like you are very committed to your family though and that your loss helped you work together with them to get through the tough times. Thank you for sharing.

  4. For me, it was the sudden realisation that I was looking forward to having a nice, quiet night in on a Saturday night, doing nothing but relaxing. Gone are the days when I have to go out and party at the weekend!

    1. Ha, yeah I completely understand that. There was a time in my life that Thursdays became the new ramp up night for Fridays, which of course lead into Saturdays. And since the work week was about to start up I couldn't NOT go out on Sundays as well... Of course I hated my job at the time so I felt like I had to go out and enjoy all of my free time so I could get through work when I was there. I don't think I could ever go back to that way of life anymore. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Zee,

    For me it was one day about two years ago when I was at the gym, and I thought I was hitting it pretty hard. I got off the bench after putting up some good weight and reps, and felt good about myself. All of the sudden this kid that had a high school jersey t-shirt on jumped on the bench after I was done, loaded up more weight and cranked it out no problem. I was totally winded at 30 years old, and this 17 year-old comes in and whoops me. I felt all of my 30 years at that moment. :)

    Best wishes.

    1. Dividend Mantra,

      Haha, yeah. There's nothing like seeing someone half your age outperform you with ease. Just be careful that you don't strain yourself too much trying to keep up at the gym old man :) (I mean you're like 4 or 5 months older than me I think so it's okay for me to say that right?)

      For me that moment was back when I was 27 or 28, except it wasn't some kid half my age showing me up, it was my own body telling me I was old. I was commuting quite a ways to work at the time and when I got to work I was sitting down all day. Eventually my body got tired of it and I got sciatica which made everyday tasks of standing up and sitting down even painful to do. It took a few years for that to go away but that sure did make me feel old. Thanks for stopping by.


  6. Hahahaha - love that story with the questions on Jeopardy being your "adult" moment. Mine was probably when I realized that I can no longer just get up and go travel for a year. I have a mortgage, dogs, and a fiance to consider.

    1. I guess if I had ever traveled for a year in the past then I would have thought that I was prevented from doing so now. Mostly because of my dog, I don't think I could leave my dog for a year. Most of my vacations are usually 2-4 weeks long so when I get away I try to really get away, but I've never tried a year long expedition, though someday I might.

      I could rent out my house if needed, that wouldn't be an issue, and for shorter trips I can drop off my dog with my parents. But that would only be for maybe a month or 2 at most. Anything longer than that and I would miss my dog. I guess my dog is where I'm rooted now.

  7. I just turned 30 this November and that made me feel like an adult. Well, I turned 30, moved in with my boyfriend of 8 years, splitting rent based on our income not 50/50, and visiting all of our friend's new babies. Hitting my $250,000 savings goal this year also made me feel an adult. I still feel like a kid at times but I definitely look in the mirror and see a woman now.

    1. We have a lot of similar milestones, except I'm nearing 32 soon. I moved in with my dog of 4 years of which we also split the rent based on income, and a lot of my friends have babies too.

      Recently when I look at myself in the mirror I can't help but notice a few stray gray hairs all the time. Before it was just one or two so I would really have to look for them, but now it's enough that I can find one without looking too hard.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I am 38, about to be 39, male, and I am having a very, very hard time with life now because I feel like I have some Peter Pan Syndrome and a lot of confusion. I am noticing that a decade now feels like a year used to feel, and it also dawned on me that my parents are knocking on the door of elderly. I am fun-loving, love life, travel, all the stuff I didn't get to do until I was in my late 20's. I absent-mindedly didn't factor in that one day I'd be old and my family would be gone, but while I wasn't realizing this, I vacationed so much that I learned how I can't be satiated by vacation and leisure only. Family was very difficult (ulcer-difficult ), so I didn't have much interest in going out of my way to become a father someday. I have had very strong tugs internally to choose fatherhood over my current lifestyle, but I am like a scared child at times and I feel like running away from something so permanent, yet I know full well that my fun times now, like any other gluttony I've participated in, will lose its novelty. Someone a few posts ago so wisely mentioned that one should do what the them 10 years from now tells them to do. In summary, I am not grown up. I feel older, things are changing, I am not adjusting well, but hopefully this angst is just a form of growing pains. I went through some torment between college & the beginning of a career, but if that went awry, it would only be my problem. This is harder, and I have tinges of depression that I am not sure are hanging me up with this or are a cause of this. I am getting a glimpse of what I think makes celebrities abuse drugs and such. I'll follow this thread, let me know if anyone wants to chat and I'll get you my email.

    1. I once wrote about how we need to keep challenging ourselves and stepping out of our comfort zone in order to keep growing. Because we're still learning it helps us feel like time isn't passing as quickly:


      But it sounds like the options that you're weighing right now between starting a family versus keeping your current lifestyle of travel (which you don't think will fufill you long term) are much "heavier" decisions than can just be reasoned out. I myself have debated the idea of children. There was a point in my life that I simply thought I always wanted children, but within the past 10 years or so it's wavered, and in the past 5 years I might even lie on the side of no having kids now. A decision like that is much bigger than thinking 10 years down the road, though that is a good start.

      I think you hit on an interesting point though that I didn't completely consider. The difference between feeling older versus feeling grown up. I feel older and wiser over the years, but grown up... Sort of. I have my shit together and I think I know what I want out of life. Even if I don't know what's in my future, I am comfortable with myself and where I am right now and where I think I'm going. I think it sounds like this is where you're starting to lose your path, where you once used to be comfortable you're starting to question it.

      While it does sound like you need a change in your life, starting a family is not a decision to take lightly and it may or may not fulfill you in the ways that you want. I really do hope that you start to find more clarity in this.

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