Adulthood is a subjective concept. In America, you receive the title of “adult” at the age of 18, but it actually takes much longer to really kick in. My father has complained about the recent popularity of the term “adulting.” He thinks it is just another example of young people looking for excessive recognition for doing things that they should already be expected to do. And while I understand how a 50-year-old man who has already been well established for half his life may raise an eyebrow at a 19-year-old being excited about buying a banana or going to the dentist by their onesie, I disagree with his general assessment. Becoming an adult does not happen with the flip of some independence switch that magically appears on your 18th birthday. It is a major transition which takes years. And for those of us who have been working on the process for several years already, every next milestone is an accomplishment. Having been on the earth for approximately 19 years, I’m independent in some ways, but in other ways, I still act very much like a child. So, until complete independence becomes my norm, I will continue to be proud of my increasing moments of “adulting.”
Each child’s transition from tiny human to actual person takes a different course. But, no matter the order in which it comes, probably the most significant step toward adulthood is getting a job. I have never been too keen on the idea of growing up. Freedom has just never been something that appealed to me. My parents and I get along pretty well. They are reasonable people. And any rebellious impulses on my end were probably instigated by my mom. So not having to run errands, have crushing responsibility, or pay for anything myself, was a deal I wanted to hold on to for as long as possible. For example, I had my driver’s permit for 3 years before I finally got my license, one month before I went away to college. No better experience than being thrown into the middle of a city 4 hours from home!
But anyway, not everyone chooses to delay adulthood as I did. Some crave the sense of empowerment and responsibility which accompanies joining the workforce. And while I personally dreaded the thought of having to deal with my own money, there is something about a job which makes you feel like you are officially a part of the rest of the world. Nothing says adult like providing a service for a larger corporation and getting not nearly enough recompense in return. But, once you get a job, you are past the point of no return, because the odds are that you will be working for the rest of your life from that point onward.
Despite all of these causes for hesitation, once I got to college, I could not help my desire to begin my life of toil. I might be exaggerating a bit when I use the term “toil” because I will admit that my job is pretty great. I work for a babysitting agency, taking care of the children of families vacationing in the glitzy West Palm Beach. There would probably be some legal/contractual/”I’m too young and broke to be sued” consequences with disclosing any details but basically it’s fun and calling it “work” is an overstatement. But even that does not diminish the experience that comes with any job. Having to answer to someone who doesn’t care if you are sick, or have a 20 page essay to write, or have tickets to the fair is good for any budding adult. (Side note: That’s a true story, I really did ask to not go to a job because I wanted to go to the fair. But in my defense, I had never been before. At least I didn’t ask off to video call some friends. Also a true story, but that one wasn’t mine. It’s all a learning curve, folks!)
Every single job has a million different situations that you have to deal with and you would never have been able or even thought to prepare for half of them. No matter how many times you read the handbook, you can never predict every possible circumstance. You are forced to be resourceful and think on your feet in a way that you may never have been asked to do before. This is an invaluable skill, not only for a future career, but also for the unexpected nature of life. Not to mention all of the other useful skills that odd jobs can teach you. I’m not really sure how, but knowing my way around every hotel in West Palm Beach and knowing the perfect way to tip the valet will come in handy someday. Whether a job is your first step to adulthood, or one of your last, it is one that makes all the difference. It is the beginning of making a place for yourself in the world and differentiating yourself from the dependence of childhood. You mess up and feel inadequate but that is what happens in life too. It tests you until you learn to prove to yourself that nothing can break you unless you let it. This realization just might be the key to maturity, because once you find that strength, you feel like you can do anything by your onesie. Although it never hurts to have your parents supporting you along the way.