Growing up. Getting older. Paying taxes. Call it what you’d like, but becoming an adult is something we all ultimately have to face. Starting the journey to adulthood can be a really rewarding, albeit terrifying experience, but how do we know when we’ve achieved it? What even classifies someone as a real adult? Unfortunately, the answer is going to be different for everyone, but there are a few key milestones most of us will hit on our way there. Here are the top ten signs that you may be approaching adulthood.
10. You make your own doctor appointments.
Making your own doctor appointments is often the first obstacle teens have to tackle when reaching that age. You’ll never forget that fateful day where you woke up feeling icky and asked your parents to make you an appointment, only to have them give you the dreaded “Do it yourself, you’re old enough.” Most of us have gotten past this stage, but if you haven’t it’s okay—making phone calls gets less terrifying. I promise.
9. You pay your own bills. Well, most of them.
Phone bills, car insurance, rent and loans. If you asked most college students how their parents afforded paying all of these things for them, they’d laugh straight in your face. While some are lucky enough to have parents cover everything they need, most of us don’t have that luxury. Realizing you need to stop hitting the alarm and get up for work, or else you won’t meet rent that week, can be the ultimate wake-up call into adulthood (pun intended). Granted, if you can make it through the phase in college where you’re REALLY broke, you’ll do just fine after graduation.
8. You prioritize your income.
Similar to number nine, once you become responsible for most (if not all) of your bills, you learn the true value of money, very fast. In particular, you realize just how long it takes to make enough cash to buy whatever expensive gadget or clothing item you’ve been eyeing next. You start to wonder if the next Nintendo Switch game is worth your weekly income, or if the money would be better suited for new socks since you’ve just lost your last good pair. Spoiler alert, the socks are always worth it.
7. You stop sweating the little things.
You walk in late for your 8 a.m. class because Starbucks took an hour for your order, the professor announces that you’ve missed a quiz, and you begrudgingly head to your seat, praying for the class to be over. While this might be enough to ruin a high-schooler’s entire day, being an adult (especially one in college) means you have to get over things, almost immediately. Sure, it’d be nice to rant to friends about how the server messed up your drink—not once but twice—but when you’ve got a test coming up in the following class, an article to polish due that night and several other deadlines to meet, the littles worries get put on hold. Permanently.
6. You take responsibility for yourself.
We’ve all been there. It’s sixth grade, and it’s your turn to present your final paper in class. Of course, you completely forgot. You beg the teacher for an extension, explaining to them that you didn’t realize it was due today, or that you had an away game that weekend which ate up most of your time. You might even call in your parents for help. Whatever the reason, there comes a point in adulthood, whether its going to college or getting your first job, when you realize every mistake you make is on you. Not your clubs, your memory, or your alarm clock. The work was up to you to finish on time.
5. You make decisions for yourself.
Similar to taking responsibility for yourself, you also learn to make decisions for yourself. This one is definitely the hardest to accomplish. Throughout K-12, it’s your teachers, parents and guidance counselors that pretty much make all your decisions for you. They tell you what classes to take, what activities to participate in, and even what to eat for dinner. Then suddenly you finish high school, and that obligation leash is let loose. Now, every single decision that will directly impact your future is on you. You have to weigh the pros and cons when making essential choices such as your major, your school, your trade or really any of your future life plans.
4. You plan for the future.
At age nine someone asked what you wanted to be when you grew up and you said a superhero. Everybody in the room said “aw.” At age 19, you’re in a job interview when you’re asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years.” Suddenly, the superhero answer doesn’t cut it anymore. Part of being an adult is having focus or a general idea of where you’ll be headed in the future. It doesn’t have to be a concrete plan; after all, life sure loves to throw curveballs, but having goals to work towards and then accomplishing them is a part of what makes adulthood so rewarding.
3. You become grateful, really grateful.
Do you remember being asked what you wanted for your birthday as a kid and having a rapid fire response? That doesn’t really happen anymore as you get older. The answers slowly shift from a new Nintendo 3DS, to a new northface jacket and finally ending at some sleep and peace of mind. Materialistic objects stop mattering. Eventually, we find peace and comfort knowing we have a warm bed, accessible meals, caring friends and a loving family. We stop taking so many things for granted and start appreciating what we have while we have it.
2. You realize the importance of having family.
Everybody, and I mean everybody, will go through this phase. At age 14, you absolutely hate your mom for grounding you and controlling your entire life. At age 20, you find yourself missing her and wishing you had the opportunity to listen to her advice just one more time. Of course there’s always an exception for toxic people. However as a whole, there comes a time when you realize your environment and friends might only be temporary; it’s your family who will always be there for you no matter what.
1. You stop caring about what other people think.
By far, this is the most important milestone on this list in terms of reaching adulthood. It’s most often middle school and high school where we find ourselves being the most insecure, and trying to compare ourselves to others. We all copy the same fashion trends, listen to the same music and never dare to stray from the status-quo. Otherwise, you’d be labeled as weird and essentially shunned from the popular kids. However, the shining moment you realize it’s okay to be different is the moment you’re freed. Allowing yourself to be completely open and true is the most rewarding thing any person can experience. If people don’t like it, that’s their problem, not yours. You will unapologetically love yourself, and never take crap ever again. You’ll also find yourself making true friends along the way. To all my younger readers, good luck. You’ve got this.