Guest Blog; Written by Ms Tola
2020 was an ‘unprecedented’ year to say the least and for many people, no amount of planning could prepare for what ‘She’ had in store (I don’t know why but I imagine Corona to be female; this kind of power can only be possessed by women – when we need to be heard everything stops, things shut down, the world must listen). Unsurprisingly, events of this last year propelled me into my Mother’s bosom, kicking and screaming back to my youth. As I lay there in my childhood bed, I couldn’t help but feel, I’m not ready for this adult life.
Eight years ago, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’ feeling overwhelmed with the abundance of things I felt I should have learnt at that stage of my life. I summarised Adult101 crash course into three bullet points I believed would help me transition into Adulthood. At that time I understood Adulthood to mean:
- You were finished with schooling.
- You had a job. Or a career if you were ‘adult-adult’. If you were real grown you had your own business, with each business adding to the level of adult you were. The more money you had, the more bills you could pay. And we all know paying bills is the hallmark of adulthood.
- You lived in your own space. The ‘kinda-adult’ would rent, the ‘adult-adult’ had a mortgage, but the ‘REAL-adult’ owned outright (there’s levels to this thing you know).
- You were married.
- You had children and/or the optional pet(s), because nothing screamed ADULT like being responsible for someone other than yourself.
And as I slowly approach my mid-thirties having arrived at the consecrated pillars, the same ambivalent feelings surround me and I wonder why do I still not feel like an adult? I see the trail to adulthood stretching deeper into the horizon and what I thought was the summit, turns out to be just the halfway point. Or one third of the way. Or three-fifths. Who even knows?! Having painted a picture of what Adulthood looks like and therefore what my life should look like, and feeling incomplete with said criteria, I believe it’s time to rethink what it means to be an adult!
Gone are the days where the journey to Adulthood could be perceived as a visibly demarcated life stage with universal understandings of what it means to become, and be an adult. A status originally defined as the onset of puberty was redefined to include the acquisition of social roles and responsibility at ages 16, 18, and 21, eventually being dominated by abstract concepts and evolving feelings of maturity, independence and personal control. Changes in the economy, education, work, marriage and parenthood have significantly impacted the transition to adulthood and those traditional markers are more fragile and reversible in today’s climate. With jobs for life being a thing of the past, career trajectories have become more fluid, as entrepreneurship and creative, flexible and multiple streams of income become the norm. Re-entry into the educational sphere has increased due to an emphasis on self-development, with more flexible modes of study such as part-time, online and distance learning, as well as a variety of courses that cater to both the academic and creative career paths. Even the transition into marriage and parenthood are being delayed (or forgone altogether) with statistics showing the current average age of marriage in the UK for men is 38, and 35 for women, a dramatic rise since the 1970s.
Overabundance of choices coupled with uncertainty of the future climate, extension of schooling and delay of work and attaining financial goals, has meant entry into this ‘adult’ status is harder and takes longer than it did a generation ago. But it has also afforded greater freedoms to create alternative paths, in a less uniform and more gradual manner.
This is for them twenty somethings
Time really moves fast, you were just sixteen
This is for them thirty somethings
That didn’t turn out exactly how your mom and dad wanted you to be
This is for them forty somethings
Well raise up your glass and laugh like a motherfucker
This is for them fifty somethings
Hell, you’re halfway there, baby take it to the head
Beyoncé – Schoolin’ Life
All this to say, the journey to Adulthood is just that – a journey. Though, we never really arrive ‘there’ because, this is a journey with no finish line and in an era of expanded opportunities and choices,there is no normative path or gold standard for defining adulthood. Adulthood is a social construct, evolving across history and differs between society, context and cultures. My ambivalent feelings of becoming adult stemmed from characterising the ‘Big Five’ traditional markers as universal and natural. I was measuring my current path against criterion that were not complete or accurate indicators of my subjective journey through adulthood.
I conclude this post with some encouragement for those that are fluctuating in between feeling like an adult and not quite adult; becoming an adult is a dynamic, uneven, and lengthy process. As much as it requires maturity, taking responsibility and making decisions, it also includes states of instability, imperfection and dependency. Whether you follow the linear path of the traditional ‘Big Five’ or not, these markers (as with others) are important turning points in one’s life. But in and of themselves, do not award ‘Adult’ status. The emphasis should be on developing your own sense of IDENTITY!
So, on that note, the pilgrimage continues!
Ms Tola x
In her own words, “Ms Tola is a Clinical Senior Data Manager, aspiring Psychologist, passionate about all things Faith and Mental Health, and a lover of books, food, films and travelling. As a person who thinks too much and feels too deeply, writing is a place she can freely express herself, being heavily inspired by love, relationships and meaningful conversations!”
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