When Are You Supposed to Feel Like an Adult?

When I was a young boy, I was reminded to grow up and act like an adult whenever my behavior was considered childish. My parents repeated this often, but their sometimes hypocritical conduct had me questioning what it meant to be a grown-up—parents are just kids raising smaller kids, aren’t they? But to this day, I don’t think mine have figured it out themselves. I don’t fault them because what adult has? I have some theories and abide by a few basic principles myself but, truth be told, I’m winging it out here. Is it because a giant part of me still feels like a wide-eyed kid stuck in a grown man’s body? Does that feeling ever go away? When are you supposed to feel like an adult?

Note: I use the term ‘kid’ loosely as I apply it to anyone who has yet to finish college, or has not yet reached a level of maturity fitting for the ‘adult’ label. You can refer to this link which lists the stages of development I vaguely reference throughout the article.

“Growing Up”

When I was a child, I felt like a child, partly due to the dichotomy between adult and kid. Adults are the authorities, the protectors, the ones counted on to provide sustenance and love. The role of the child is to pee, poop, make mistakes, and test boundaries in preparation for life outside the family nest. It was easy to feel small when giants were around watching, critiquing and disciplining you for everything. Feeling like a child was also caused by limited, and not yet fully developed, cognitive functionality married with dependency, world inexperience, unrelenting optimism, wonder, and an abundance of cuteness.

I miss those days terribly because ignorance to adulthood horrors were not only acceptable, but desirable among many families (I’m not condoning over-protection; merely stating how nice it was to be blind to the evils of the world). Regardless, the lived differences between a kid and a grown-up were ingrained in my mind, which could explain why I feel a disconnect when interacting with other adults. Perhaps I associate the physical attributes of adults with dominance, resulting in a sense of inferiority when in their presence.

Once I grew into a teenager, I felt like a teenager for reasons similar to the ones mentioned above, except hormones were involved. Hope was kept alive by potential and vivid dreams of a future that seemed all but impossible. My brain was still developing, but I was allotted a smidge more independence, and I was still being molded into a person capable of navigating the trials awaiting me in the “real world.” Those older than me were still considered authorities, of whom I rebelled against, but their temperament was a lot less forgiving than it once was. Their anger reached levels of ferocity since my mistakes carried more weight; repercussions for my actions were potentially greater.

Again, adults were considered superior during the majority of my (most people’s) developmental phases. Maybe, it takes a few decades before the association wears off.

Anyway, compared to these two eras of physical and mental development, adults were considered to be in a league of their own, and I knew I wasn’t one of them yet.

I Didn’t & Still Don’t ‘Feel’ Like An Adult

My perception was that once you became an adult, you instinctively knew how to behave and act appropriately in every situation, like something would click once I reached a certain age. Unlike during childhood and adolescence, I never felt like an adult. Nothing ever clicked. Experience has made me wiser (I hope), but it doesn’t affect how I feel—only how I react to circumstances.

The only real difference I feel is the need to govern myself; no adult will do it for me at this point.

Sure, I can feel my body telling me to slow down, and I can see what time is doing to it, but my, how easily the mind forgets. Put a baseball, basketball, or football in my hands and I suddenly think I can do everything with as much athleticism as my 16-year-old self. One would think after suffering from several pulled muscles and cramps tighter than I thought humanly possible I would learn my lesson, but I guess the kid in me prefers to learn the hard way.

My behavior has mellowed but I think it’s largely due to forced restraint and fatigue. Adults have to acclimate to weariness and must conform, but the immature side surfaces when I watch cartoons (pretty much every day), push the boundaries of telling jokes with those I’m comfortable with, or have a bit too much to drink. This is the part of me that longs to break free and express my youthful nature, but it is the adult side that fears negative consequences. An immature adult is bound to wind up in trouble eventually.

Plus, I’m too tired on most days to act a fool.

It’s Hard to Explain

Despite not feeling like an adult, there are things about being one I feel/experience: tired all the time, countless responsibilities, wiser than younger people, body aches, white hairs, crows feet, cracking joints, earlier bedtime, harder to lose weight, don’t learn as much, can’t retain information as well, ear hairs, decrease in testosterone (sad face emoji), harder to bounce back from drinking, increased pessimism, routines are now fun, dreams are based in reality…the list could go on forever (there are good things too, but they’re not as funny).

There are circumstances when I have to step up and be an adult. There are even more when I’m reminded that I’m not a kid anymore, but the overall feeling has yet to catch up with me. I know I’m an adult and not a kid, but something inside generates the sensation that I’m not as old as my body indicates. Maybe I’m in denial or have a mental disorder, but I don’t believe I’m the only one who feels this way.

Does anyone else feel how I do? If you don’t, can you please explain when the feeling of adulthood is supposed to come over you?

Please feel free to voice your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section!

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Through the Devil's Eyes is Also Available on Amazon!
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1 thought on “When Are You Supposed to Feel Like an Adult?”

  1. As I became older, being an “adult” meant that I was free to have my own beliefs, feelings, and make my own choices in all areas of life without having the control of my parents holding me back from becoming the true me — telling me what to believe in, what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. The times I rebelled as a kid, I feel, was a result of not being able to express how I felt on many levels and being controlled, so to speak. As I have grown older, while my physical capacities decline, I will always be a youngster at heart. If we don’t hold onto our youthful exuberance, we can become sedentary and complacent. As a child, time seemed to standstill. The older we get the faster time passes. Hold onto your inner child!

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