Why don't they let me grow up

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Prepare lunch, quit smoking, think about retinol, have a professional application photo taken, know which wine to order, home insurance, lose a parent, just have one drink in the evening, download a finance app and actually use it, Saturdays at Garden centers, own a dishwasher, buy flowers yourself. This is just a selection of the answers I got when I asked my colleagues in the office what “adulthood” means for them in 2019. Personally, I won't feel grown up for as long as I haven't invested in a decent collection of cashmere sweaters and I like whiskey.

Legally we are adults from the age of 18, but when we look at which traditional symbols of maturity in our materialistic culture are considered to be signs that one is no longer a child, growing up begins much later. Adulthood in the classic sense means: having your own home (as if), being married (the age of marriage has been moving downwards for years) and children (the age at which women have their first child is also moving downwards).

Legally we are adults from the age of 18, but when we look at which traditional symbols of maturity in our materialistic culture are considered to be signs that one is no longer a child, growing up begins much later.

But is even one of these definitions really enough to make you feel adult? In addition to purchases such as matching towels or a "real" couch, we have to face the truth: There are also married people with children who own a condominium and are not adults. (It's similar to work: Just because you've finally got a great job, the feeling of just fooling others doesn't go away on its own.) Meanwhile, there is a debate as to whether growing up should not be perceived as an inner, psychological process should.

Neuroscientists at Cambridge University claim that we really don't really grow up until our thirties. At a congress in March, Cambridge Professor Peter Jones said that the transition from childhood to adulthood is “much more nuanced” than legal age could represent. He called it “increasingly absurd” to define an age at which you move from one level to another and also said that we all mature at different rates. “Important maturation processes take place in the brain from puberty through to mid to late twenties. The focus here is on the word process: this is not something that is completed at 18. With some it is faster, with others it takes longer, ”he told Refinery29. He is referring to research results from the most recent studies that he and his colleagues have carried out. In doing so, they looked at how the changes in the brain affected the behavior of young people. (Nonetheless, he believes it is "reasonable" that there is a fixed age in our society at which young people, on average, are "mature enough to make different decisions and take on responsibilities.")

Neuroscientists at Cambridge University claim that we really don't really grow up until our thirties.

His comments sparked sighs of relief among people in their mid-twenties who saw the research justification for their, well, turbulent lifestyles. "Thank God, now I have no more pressure," tweeted a man, for example. Fascinated by the idea that everyone reaches adulthood at different times, I asked several young women at different stages of life what adulthood means to them in 2019.

Martha Nahar is 24 and works for internal communications in London. She says that while she has a husband and a steady job (both of which "feel like grown-up things"), she doesn't have a house of her own or a "big responsibility" like a mortgage or kids. She also says she still has an immature sense of humor and fear of the future. All in all, “I feel more like a lost pup than an adult most of the time. As a young person in my twenties, I'm still looking for the right path for myself and I definitely don't have my life under control, ”she says. She admits that hearing the results of the Cambridge study reassured her. "It's almost like taking a pressure cooker off the stove and taking a deep breath to think about your own life."
Your definition of adulthood is complex: “For me it consists of economic and psychological goals. A nice car or house shows that you are in control of your life. But you also need to be balanced, rational, calm and confident. ”However, if she looks at the economic climate we live in, she believes that material security is the most obvious sign of maturity in the world today.

Rachel McCarron, 33, is a mother and carer of a family member. For her it was new financial and family responsibilities, as well as overcoming adversity, that drove her to grow up. "I didn't feel like a full adult until I had to start dealing with council tax bills, my daughter was there and a death around me forced me to mourn someone who wasn't about my grandparents' age, but actually my age. ”An awareness of politics - something she believed was a" problem for adults "in her teenage years - and worries about money were also indicators of maturity for her, she adds.

“Ultimately, I believe that you are fully grown up when you have to take responsibility for someone or something other than yourself every day. My daughter made me grow up because everything I do or let has an impact on her life. In my thirties I avoid the risks I took in my twenties because I now know that my actions have serious consequences. "

Hope Virgo is a 28 year old writer and often gets compliments for looking young. She doesn't want to “grow up too quickly”. She defines adulthood primarily as self-confidence. “I have a bed full of stuffed animals, so I feel pretty childish. Plus, there are still moments when I just have to cuddle with my mom. Additionally, I hate hanging up laundry and love to eat in bed. These are all not particularly adult behaviors. "

She believes that it would be good for many young people to embrace a looser definition of adulthood. “It is refreshing to read that there is research that suggests it is ridiculous to assume that when we are 18 we are all of a sudden grown up overnight. I hope that this awareness will also reach psychiatric care and that people will no longer be treated as adults immediately after their 18th birthday, even though they are actually still children. That can only be unhealthy. "

While the main characteristics of growing up can vary from person to person, there seems to be a broader consensus on the age of legal age: 25. Virgo says, "I find it ridiculous that you, when you are 18 is suddenly supposed to be an adult. That's not how it works. People are making great strides in their early twenties, so I believe that for many young people it would be better to raise the legal age of majority to 25. "

Nahar agrees. “I wouldn't leave it at 18 years old. Simply because not everyone is ready for the big wide world by the age of 18. I think at 25 you understand the world a lot better, have more life experience and develop a better feeling for yourself. At 18 I was much more naive and definitely not aware of the things I now know at 24. "

Even so, it is unlikely that criminal liability will be increased to 25. Indeed, most 18-year-olds will probably know the difference between right and wrong. "I don't think the law needs to change, but what I would suggest is that people do community service instead of jail time," says Rachel.

Life can be tough at times, and reading a comment like Professor Jones' is comforting. When you're 18, you can choose to drop out of school or college, buy alcohol, take out a loan, and be treated like an adult by the police. Even so, at the same age, all you need is a hug from your mother or a word of encouragement from a teacher. Rachel put it pretty well, I think: “There are a hundred different ways to grow up. Everyone has had different experiences in life. With age comes a deep understanding and a resilience that you can feel in yourself at some point. I think that's where you really feel grown up. "


Text: Natalie Gil

Illustration: Stefanie Berkmann for femtastics


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