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At what point can we call ourselves actual adults?
Legally, Filipinos reach the majority age and become adults at eighteen. In practice, most Filipino parents begin to treat their children as adults when they graduate and start their careers. But as someone quite past the age of eighteen and has already been working for a number of years, I still don’t feel like an actual adult.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Looking at the sentiments of other people online or going by the stories of my friends and previous classmates, it seems like the status of being an adult is one we can’t fully grasp. Whenever I share these thoughts with people older than me, there’s one thing they always say: “But you’re still so young.”
Still so young
I would wager that this phrase is something most of us have heard at least once after talking about our adulthood woes.
It’s universal enough that Kayleen Schaefer, in her book But You’re Still So Young: How Thirtysomethings Are Redefining Adulthood, focuses on unpacking this loaded phrase and the development of the concept of adulthood in contemporary times.
The book is a compilation of different stories shared by thirty-somethings. Each chapter talks about one of the milestones sociologists have identified as the markers of adulthood: 1) completing school, 2) leaving home, 3) marrying, 4) becoming financially independent, and 5) having a child.
So we redefine milestones
While the book’s chapters revolve around the markers of adulthood, it subverts these by showing how our generation has moved beyond meeting milestones.
The chapter “Leaving Home” was one I found particularly relatable. Schaefer notes that the majority of the people who shared their stories in the book moved back home at some point in their twenties and thirties – a behavior that is particularly striking because the people in the book were mostly from the US, where it’s a norm to move out after high school. It’s something I did at the onset of the pandemic, which I believe most of my generation also experienced.
“Beyond living with your parents past a certain age, generally anything that seems like delaying adulthood is seen negatively,” Schaefer wrote. Throughout the book, it becomes apparent that it’s this idea of not meeting time-bound constraints that make us worry about not being adult enough.
But we’re already in the middle of all these delays. What do we do?
And we share our stories
This is a personal answer to the question I just posed. I believe that sharing stories is the key. Much like what Schaefer accomplished in her book, collecting stories from other twenty- and thirty-somethings seems like the answer to our concerns of not being adult enough.
When we listen to or read the stories of other people our age, our experiences become the new standard. These stories legitimize the changes we are going through because of new factors earlier generations didn’t have, such as the pandemic.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people from our generation went back home. We’re marrying later. If we don’t share our stories, many of us would continue to think that our experiences were a cause for concern.
So can reading books about adulthood help with adulting? I wholeheartedly answer “yes!” With the help of books written by people also trying to figure out who they are, I’ve come to realize that reaching adulthood is no longer about just ticking off the five markers the older generations have identified.
Schaefer said it best: “Adulthood no longer has to follow a strict order. Nothing is required, but that also makes everything unknown.” Good thing we have each other to help us reach full adult status. – Rappler.com