It is strange to be twenty one, on the cusp of twenty two and a bachelors degree. You’re about to be thrust into the “real world,” but didn’t you just learn how to tie your shoes, like, yesterday? It’s a middling, in-between state where you’re stuck somewhere between being a kid and being a bonafide adult. You’re grown up enough to know that if you drink too much and get sick in a plastic bag on the way home from a night out that it is entirely your fault. You’re not grown up enough, however, to be above pretending like it was totally all your friends fault. (She knows you can’t handle tequila.)
Approaching adulthood, I’ve come to realize, has many of these scenarios. I’m a grown up. I can make my own decisions. BUT. There is always a “but,” a “however”, or any other number of transition words that lessen the load of your responsibility. It’s like having one foot in the door marked “Real Person” while the rest of your body is desperately trying to get away; to somehow go back to the days when impending student loan payments didn’t have you on the floor in the fetal position.
I’m one of those people with one foot in the door, who keeps a list of those transition words handy. I’m close enough to peek inside and look at what the Real People, the Grown Ups, the tried and true Adults, are doing. From where I’m standing, it seems like there are certain unspoken rules that all grown ups follow. So, naturally, I must assume that these are the things that make you qualified to enter Adulthood:
Adults must always carry cash. Paying for a pack of gum with your credit card is no longer cute, it’s just aggravating. Adults have their checkbooks readily available. I’m not sure why or what kind of establishment doesn’t take cash or credit, but adults carry their checkbooks. They know how to write a mean check. . . without double checking with their parents that they did it right. Oh, and they can balance those checkbooks like it was their god-given mission to do so.
When it comes to alcohol, Real Adults don’t just drink to get drunk. They respect their limit at all times. The exceptions to this rule are such grown up things as going through divorce and midlife crises. Boxed wine is a mortal sin—instead adults drink old fashioneds and know a thing or two about good scotch and whiskey. Adults would rather go to the doctor and get a shot than go to a bar and take a shot.
Dating can no longer be defined by making out with a kid from your poli-sci class a few times at the grimy college bar. Relationships are Serious Business, because the next person you date could be the last person you date. Adults are on match.com and eHarmony, but definitely not Tinder. When an attractive person walks by, it is no longer crazy to check to see if they’re wearing a wedding ring. If someone in their thirties hits on you, it’s OK, because ohmygod 30 isn’t as old as you once thought it was.
Being fiscally responsible is secondhand nature. Adults save their money for the important stuff, like houses and retirement. Adults definitely don’t spend their money on tickets to see a One Direction concert (unless it’s for the their children), because they’re too busy with their W2s and 401ks. Adults know what W2s and 401ks actually are, not just that it’s money stuff.
Adults are above all clean. They do their laundry regularly, and more importantly, correctly. Grown ups do not just pick any old thing off the floor and wear it, especially if it is of questionable cleanliness. Dishes get washed, dried, and put away. Beds get made every morning. Pillowcases are switched every two weeks, because that is the responsible thing to do. Refrigerators are organized and fully stocked at all times. Adults do not eat microwavable ramen under any circumstances.
If we’re going by the law, I am an adult. I’ve technically been an adult for almost four years. These years have been arguably messy, a little bit silly, and each day a smidge different from the last. So I am technically an adult, but it feels like I am not quite a Real Adult yet. My mom still gives me presents from Santa on Christmas. I’m not quite sure how American Idol is still on TV, but my grandma ensures me it’s better than ever. 401ks and W2s are still just far off money stuff to me.
I’m starting to figure out that there are quite a lot of qualifications one must meet to fully “enter adulthood.” In all probability, I haven’t even begun to grasp the extent of them. Grown ups might read this and think “Oh, she has no idea!” And I might not—I’m still on the outside looking in.
Chances are I won’t understand the weird, wonderful, and difficult truth of being a bonafide adult until I actually am one. Even then, I might not fully understand, and that’s OK. From where I’m standing, with one foot in the door, it looks like Real Adults are still trying to figure it all out, too. But until the time comes for me to truly enter Adulthood, I’m happy to chow down on some Cup Noodles and get away with being a kid for just a little while longer.
Emily is a New Jersey native and NYC college student. She likes to spend her free time reading and netflix-ing. She believes in all things Mindy Kaling, the NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Red Sqaure, and Diet Coke. Emily identifies as a Ravenclaw and is almost always down to go to Chipotle.