In the month when I turned 24, I embarked on a project: asking people from various walks of lives on their take on adulthood. I aim to get 24 responses, and ended up getting over 60.
These are their answers, and together, they account to over 16,000 words. For the sake of readability, I’ve broken up their answers to ten on each page. The answers are of random order.
To everyone who has contributed to this project—thank you. It’s been a pleasure knowing you.
- What, in your opinion, being an adult really means?
- Do you consider yourself an adult? When did you first consider yourself an adult? Or if you haven’t, why?
- Anything else you’d like to add?
How society defines it? How our parents define it? We can Google the first part. The second one would depend on how your parents demonstrated adulthood to you.
Personally, I never got into such labels and definitions. Should I be a role model to my children or younger generation? Of course. Should I attend to my financial responsibilities. Big time. That to me covers adulthood and then I can go back to pursuing my happiness. Of course, as a parent, by then, your happiness is superseded by your children’s.
As to wardrobe, that I’m not sure. In my time, people my age were conservatively dressed. Then the world changed. Even the corporate world changed from IBM suits to Apple, Google, Microsoft casual clothes. It became less restrictive.
At the end of the day, I strongly believe that adulthood depends on how one is honest with one’s feelings. Are you in denial of your responsibilities? Or are you attending to them?
[On considering myself an adult], this goes back to labels and definitions. There are a lot of times when I goof off or mess up that my wife thinks I’m her eldest child. But whenever something needs to be done, I’m there. For the wife, for the kids, for the responsibilities. Am I old, yes. How adult I am defined depends on someone else’s perspective. From mine, I just do what needs to be done whether it falls under one category or not.
Adulthood is indeed over-rated. No one actually knows how one is gonna act on what age because it’s the first time they’re becoming that age. Whatever it is they do depend on two things: act on how they were molded by their parents. Or act according to one’s will. Responsibilities, of course, are another part of the ballgame.
But believe me when I tell you, enjoy your life as much as you can regardless of age and you will cover just about everything. Then that makes you an interesting human being.
– Mark, 47, Southeast Asia Director, JUMP Digital Asia
Being an adult is when we are held responsible of every decision that we make. Yes, I do consider myself an adult. I first considered myself an adult when I am being independent of my parents, meaning I have my own income and I can cover all my expenses thus I am held responsible of every decision that I make financially and non-financially. I used to think being an adult is when I am no longer using my parents’ money, but as I think about it just now, I realised it doesn’t really matter whether you are using your parents’ money or not, if you have no responsibility whatsoever with what you have, I don’t think you can consider yourself as an adult.
– Stacey, 24, Employee
I think it is all about setting up priorities. In this stage, we might already pursuing our goals, whether it is having a dream job, taking a postgraduate study, turning hobby into business, and many other exciting things. At the same time, there might also pressure from your surroundings: friends, families, or boy/girlfriend. They want you to do something differently, apart from your goals.
This is the challenging part: are we going to accommodate those pressure or ignore it? For me, having my own goals is very helpful. Still, observing friends on what they do and noting advices given from families are also giving me ideas to manage my goals. At the end, it’s me who make decision by considering all the benefit and challenges that I will face. It is important yet fun to have you own strategy in life, isn’t it?
Looking at myself, I am beginning to think that I am an adult. Precisely, a young adult. It’s all started when I decided to pursue my postgraduate education abroad in NZ. Here I have to juggle between study, social life, organisation and my own spare time. Every new experience can bring a new excitement. However, I can’t always take all of them. I have to look at my own priorities.
Same issue applies when I look at friends that I left in Indonesia. As the life goes on, some of them already engaged, married, having babies, moving from a job to another, creating their own business and many more. I realise that they have set their priorities for that. Me too, my top priority would be finishing my study on time and make the most of my stay in NZ. I can move to another goal afterwards.
Dealing with priorities is interesting. We could eliminate doubts by considering pros and cons before making a decision. Sometimes we need to hold ourselves from creating too many goals (or desires) since managing their priorities could be more complex. In the end, instead of always being rush about something (like studying, learning new skills or even in a relationship), why don’t we enjoy it first by living in the moment?
– Wayan, 25, Postgraduate Student in Computer and Information Science
Being an adult means being trusted with a substantial degree of responsibility. The kind of responsibility that involves and affects both yourself and others around you.
I do consider myself an adult. When? Probably when I start to be aware that what I do and what I think brings a certain effect to my own life and my surroundings.
Knowing that you are not the most important person in this world but in spite – what you do and think and say does matter and it CAN matter a lot to yourself or loved ones.
And again, got to be responsible when you are ‘trusted’ with that kind of power.
– Hadi, 26, New Media Entrepreneur
Being an adult – taking ownership of your life and your directions in life.
Do I consider being adult? Age-wise and in my work role yes. But other life matters – not fully, yet. [I first consider myself an adult] when I graduated from uni and financially became independent. It came with a lot of life decisions that I have to make for myself. it also signifies a transition from a student to a professional.
[But] part of me feels I am not because there are a lot of life stages that I have yet to pass or decide upon. Like, career, living arrangement, relationship. Paradoxically, I feel as I went straight through 6 years of med school from high school – I ‘grew up’ in life slower than other people. At the same time, I have seen a lot in life that other people have not and those experiences do give perspectives and make me grow as an adult.
– V, 27, Medical Doctor
I think I considered myself an adult when I had to start paying my own bills, even though I didn’t feel like a full-fledged one.
Are there stages of adulthood? I’d like to think so. So I felt like a ‘green’ adult when I was jobhunting and stopped relying on my parents financially, but I guess to even get to that point I had to make certain decisions from the time I left for Australia. I think being an international student helped me greatly in that area.
I still feel like a kid-ult sometimes, since after moving home I need to report to my parents about where I’m going/if I’m coming home late/if I’m going for a holiday etc. But I don’t think it’s all black and white, because there will be times when we revert to our roles as kids – when we need advice from someone older – and there are times when we just have to stand up and take responsibility for our own choices and actions.
Guess at the end of the day that’s what adulthood is about – it’s not a status symbol or a series of achievements/possessions, but understanding your role in the world and how to carry it out.
And that in itself is not black and white. It’s learning to live the questions and live purposefully I guess. And I’m still a work-in-progress, guess we all are.
– Diane, 25, Digital Journalist
Being an adult is being able to take responsibility for your own choices. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing for everyone. I used to think being an adult means having a job, a stable income and a home. That, I realise, is one form of what it looks like. Evidence of having made choices and being responsible for them. It means different things for different people and it looks different person to person. It’s being able to be self-aware and understand that one is not entitled to anything and that we have to work for it to get what we want.
I do consider myself an adult. I’m duh, 41. That moment when I moved out of my parents’ home and started my own life in another country, another city. That moment when I left the comfort of home knowing that there is no certainty in my future but I’m headed onwards anyway, figuring it out as I go along, is the start of adulthood. When you stay with your parents, you will always be their child and it comes with a set of hangups psychologically. I mean, something as simple as worrying about your own meal, laundry and rent in itself changes your world view. Managing your own finances, life choices, bearing the consequences, without them previously handed to you in the comfort of your parents house or pocket, is the beginning of adulthood. I guess being independent is probably the closest word to define that.
– Charles, 41, Musician
Being an adult is taking ownership of your own life – realising that nothing, and no one, will make things happen except for you. You are accountable for everything you do (and do not) do, your failures and your successes.
Yep, [I consider myself an adult] when I finished uni at 22. That was when I realised that ‘the program’ is over, and from this point on my life is what I make of it.
It is not an easy transition to make, coming out from two decades of having everything planned out for you. But once you found your own two feet it could be very fulfilling and exciting. Also don’t let yourself be pushed around to do things you don’t want to do, or hand the reins to your life to someone else (parents?) just because it’s the easy way out.
– Yosua, 25, Start-Up Hustler
I’ve recently turned 30 and I still feel exactly the same as I did when I was 20 – and I certainly don’t feel any more of an adult than I did then. I couldn’t tell you what being an adult means.
Sure, I have all the external markings of making it as an ‘adult’. I run a department at work, my compensation package is roughly $140,000 per annum and I live in my own purchased property. The staff working for me are married, some are parents, and they are fully qualified accountants. But I still feel like a kid – in contrast to them, I am younger, I’ve never even started taking the accounting exams because I hate studying, I am single and have not been in a relationship in years. In truth, all I want to do after work is go home and play video games just like the 20 year old me, and I don’t really have much use for money, so most of it goes into stocks and property. I see work as merely an elaborate and challenging game. Money is a trite and somewhat meaningless way of keeping score. I don’t want to be anyone’s boss, I just want to be your best friend.
– H, 32, Finance
Being an adult means being able to be independent and is responsible. That does not rule out the need to depend on others, though. No one is perfect at everything (to be fair, who’s perfect in anything?).
At this age, I should be an adult, and I should act like so and so, but honestly I connect better with the younger generation. Although, I am certain that I should be a role model, now, and set a good example for the younger ones.
Adulthood is funny, though. Now, my diet would consist of more variety of food and drinks and my ‘flavour’ has become more conscious of it (liking stuff that I never did, eg. Guacamole). I would joke that now I can’t just eat meat on its own. It doesn’t feel right to have a meal without vegetables anymore. The taste buds of ‘adulthood’. This ‘taste bud’ goes beyond food, though. Music genre, even to the specifics (i.e. artists’ intentions and backstory). Movies. Books. Art in general. The urge to explore the new, yet cling onto the old, is strong at this age.
I’m a millennial, born in the early 90s, and this is the moment in my life that a lot things are changing rapidly. Adulthood starts from taking on responsibility. So let’s choose wisely, and do it carefully, but enjoy it, ‘cos we only get to live through this once in this life.
– JD, 24, Graphic Designer in the Printing Industry