The greatest thing about becoming an adult (and I promise it is not what you think)


Growing up, did you dream of becoming an adult?

I know I did.

No curfew. No homework. No parents telling me to eat my vegetables or clean my room. I couldn’t wait for the freedom of adulthood. To finally do everything that I wanted to do.

And for a season in my 20’s, all my adulthood “dreams” came true. I fully embraced the TV-sitcom-life, a few commercial breaks the only thing that stood between ME doing whatever ME-wanted-ME-to-do.

And yet, I always felt there was something lacking.

Picture: The Jump of an Adult
Picture via Fav Photographer – Amanda Tipton – Creative Commons



The Greatest Thing About Becoming a Real Adult

But then you wake up in your mid-20’s with a real job. spouse. baby. credit card bills. real responsibility that isn’t as glamorous or entertaining as the sitcoms made it look.

Go figure.

Then you finally understand that the real secret about becoming an adult is:

adulthood. never. stops.

My college loans and car payment don’t take a summer vacation.

My baby isn’t self-cleaning, self-eating, self-sleeping — she isn’t self-sufficient at, well, anything.

Then you realize that truly becoming an adult isn’t about the freedom of ME doing whatever I want ME to do. No, the greatest, yet hardest, thing about truly becoming an adult is killing ME.


The Sweet Death of an Adult

As Kerry wrote so eloquently last week in response to the biggest surprise about becoming an adult that no one talks about,

“Being a wife” never stops, and if I were a parent “being a parent never stops.” There’s no ME, by MYSELF, only caring about what I feel like caring about anymore. Marriage and parenthood aren’t like trying a food and thinking, “meh, don’t really like that, think I’ll avoid anchovies from now on.” Once you’re in you’re IN, and you have to be ALL IN. That kicks me in the pants just about… every day.

Becoming an adult is about getting the ME surgically removed.

Your job, your spouse, your bills, your two-year-old who’s discovered how fun it is to throw the remote control in the toilet —  all take their turn scalpelling the selfish right out of you.

And does this process hurt? You bet your selfish ass it does.

Getting the ME cut out means — it’s 6:15 a.m. with a toddler that,  for the love of  God, is going to do whatever it takes — scream, claw, slap, your adult booty out of bed.

It’s wanting to watch the basketball game but scrubbing the bottom of tub and toilet instead.

Becoming an adult is daily putting yourself in a fire and watching all the excess-self be burned to ash. This is what emerging into adulthood is all about.


Still a Choice

But it’s not like I don’t have a choice here. I can hold onto ME. I can be unbending. Uncompromising.

I can force ME.

I can make the world around me crash into this un-moving iceberg.

But is it worth watching everything that I love the most in life crash and drown?

Sure I could’ve kept the “free” adult life that I always dreamt about. Drinking beer, watching sports, hanging out with friends whenever I wanted — yeah it was free, but it was also unfulfilling. I remember laying awake anxious and depressed wondering what was the purpose of ME, MYSELF, and ME.

The Greatest Thing About Becoming an Adult

I don’t lie awake anxious and depressed now. Because with responsibility comes fulfillment. With this life of an adult comes intentionality, comes purpose. It’s not easy, but it is freaking great.

Sure I still need ME time — I don’t want to become a martyr to adulthood.

But I’m learning that maybe the truest freedom of becoming an adult is daily trading that freedom in.

Because the life of ME wasn’t much of a life after all.

Can you relate?

Photo Credit: Amanda Tipton – Creative Commons


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Like advice from a wiser, funnier, older brother Paul's been there, done that, and wants to save you some pain and some trouble.

– Seth Godin, New York Times bestseller and author of The Icarus Deception

  • Sarah Noonan

    I don’t think I’m quite ready for the life stage where you are yet! Maybe someday…

    • Paul

      Ha. Thanks Sarah.

      The more I grow up the more I realize that becoming an adult seems to happen in thousands of small installments.

  • Morgan

    Being a kid was easy – being an adult is not. But all in all, I’d much rather stay an adult because I was oblivious to so much as a kid and always being kept in the dark. Now, as an adult, maybe I don’t have a whole lot of ME time, but you know what I do have? A LIFE. I’m able to go behind the scenes, I’m able to have a spouse, I’m able to have kids, I’m able to cook my own meals and have my own pets.

    It’s tiring, but it’s a true adventure!

  • Paul

    “It’s tiring, but it’s a true adventure!”

    Well said Morgan!

  • http://Website Kerry

    Hey! Thanks for the cameo! Now I just have to make sure Marcus doesn’t see this or else he will hold me accountable on that “being selfish” thing. 😀

    • admin

      Thank you Kerry for the great insight.

  • http://Website Kelsey

    Are most 20-somethings married with children?

  • Samantha

    I beg to differ. Since when has personal fulfillment mean giving up your life for someone/thing/job? Cant your own life-doing, seeing, experiencing what YOU want-be your own personal fulfillment? If becoming an adult “is daily putting yourself in a fire and watching all the excess-self be burned to ash” & then justifying it… I’ll pass.