Spurred by a recent essay that argues that the line between childhood and adulthood is blurrier than ever (this morning’s column is an example of that), The Atlantic has been publishing a series called “When Did You Become an Adult?” about the moments or events that propel people into adulthood — a world of responsibilities, difficult decisions, and deeper consequences. The entries in the series are both moving and relatable. One person recounts coming out of the closet, another discusses her rape, another says parenthood made him an adult, and someone else says becoming her parent’s caregiver made the difference.
I suspect my own answer is pretty similar to a lot of yours. For me, there wasn’t a specific moment or incident that felt particularly heavy in a sense that it pushed me over the blurry line between childhood and adulthood. Rather, it was as series of incidents — my first broken heart, adopting a pet, moving out of state with my boyfriend, ending that relationship and moving out on my own, paying student loan debt, paying movers to move my stuff across the country, getting married, having a baby, having another baby, supporting my husband through losing a parent — that carried me over into adulthood not in one big bang of a moment, but in gradual anticlimactic fashion. How very adult. And through it all, perhaps one of the biggest byproducts of reaching adulthood has been embracing, and then adapting, to my changing dreams.
Even as recently as a couple years ago, I dreamed of doing something big. Or, bigish — publish a bestseller, have my own show, maybe write a screenplay and see it become a movie (not that I’ve really pursued any of these dreams). Now, I dream of cultivating as much love in my life as I can, spending as much time with my loved ones as I’m able to, seeing the world, and enjoying my kids well into their adulthoods (and maybe, if I’m so lucky, becoming a grandmother one day, too, with enough energy and good health to be active in my grandkids’ lives). Maybe it was the moment I realized that these are truly the Big Things that I became an adult.
What’s your moment?