When Are We Officially Grown Up?

I pulled three cards from my prompt deck, and all three are pretty good, I think.


Interestingly, I took a workshop that required a reflection paper on the one about adding value to relationships (one point: humor is necessary for genuine connection). But since I had to write an actual paper on the topic, I kinda don’t want to do that here.

I’ve written about new skills before, with crochet and Spanish. I’m still doing both. In fact, I bought this today to have a little fun with the Spanish. Can you tell what it is?


So I decided to go with the only topic I haven’t discussed yet: when did I realize I was a grown-up?

Of course, legally was at 18. I suppose when I graduated college at 22 could have been it. Car rental places would say 25.

Adult GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But I don’t think I had really “grown up” by those ages. I was mature enough to hold a job, get married, and have kids, but there’s one element that didn’t kick in until later, and it offered a sense of “arriving.”

When I was 32, I quit my full-time teaching job with no plan for the future. It was totally out of character for me. I had always been studious and responsible, and—here’s the key—did what I thought others expected of me, regardless of how those things impacted my well-being. Of course you keep your job because that’s what a good working mother does. Severe exhaustion and stress is just part of the deal. Suck it up, buttercup. Your family needs your complete sacrifice.

But that year, my tenth year in the classroom, I hit bottom. I had been burning out for a few years, and by the time I quit, the fire was out. I remember exactly where in the room I stood and even which kids I was looking at (those exact kids didn’t push me, haha), when I knew I was done.

I walked into my principal’s office at lunch and told him. I finished the remaining three months of the school year and walked away.

When I told others about it, they always asked what I was doing next. I told them I didn’t know. A few seemed confused. A couple recoiled. One directly confronted me with questions. But most were supportive. I think they’d been where I was, a somewhat scary place of uncertainty but also of possibility.

growing up

The beautiful thing is after that, everything fell into place. I found a part-time reading specialist position at a school where an old friend was principal, a position that allowed me to focus on the reason I went into teaching in the first place: the kids. I didn’t have to deal with grades or parents or extra meetings or any of the other hundreds of things teachers have to do. The part-time hours gave me more time to focus on my family, and after a while, time to discover another passion–writing–something I would in no way have had the time or capacity to do as a full-time teacher. I hadn’t even had time to consider it.

So my grown-up moment is that: shedding something crushing, even when it was scary, to figure out what I really wanted to be.

What about you? Was there a moment when you realized you’d fully adulted?

14 thoughts on “When Are We Officially Grown Up?

  1. Bravo. I call it the moment of truth. I had voluntary retired and am presently blissfully engaged with myself, my family. What many of us do not realise is that, to do nothing, to be with oneself has it own charm. It is like life has finally arrived at your doorstep. I feel that one needs to be comfortable with oneself rather being driven by external forces. We have only one life to live. So might as well as live it by our own terms.

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  2. Bravo. I call it the moment of truth. I had taken voluntary retirement and am so blissfully engaged with myself, my family. What many of us do not realise that to do nothing, to be with oneself has its own beautiful moments. It is like finally letting life arrive at your doorstep. At the end, I feel one needs to be comfortable with oneself rather than being driven by external forces. There is only one life to live, so might as well live it by your own terms.


  3. Loved your post and the topic! For me, the best life to live is being an adult while still keeping the inner child alive. Loved this quote from Ursala K. Le Guin:

    The creative adult is the child who survived after the world tried killing them, making them “grown up”. The creative adult is the child who survived the blandness of schooling, the unhelpful words of bad teachers, and the nay-saying ways of the world. The creative adult is in essence simply that, a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, that’s a good question, and mature of you to figure out your “adult” moment. It makes sense, too. On that idea, I’d say I became a grown up soon after I married (first husband) and suffered through graduate school, realizing 3/4s in that I didn’t really want a Masters in English literature, I wanted to BE part of literature. I finished my degree but also started writing stories on my own. It took me a long time still to get to the place where I believed in my writing, and began to teach creative writing to others, but it was a great “adult” moment.

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