What’s a real adult, really?

June 12, 2017, 2:24 a.m.

In the United States, the legal definition of an “adult” is eighteen. At eighteen, we can vote for the president, go to prison, serve in the military, sign our own waiver forms, buy our own lottery tickets… basically do everything besides drink or rent a car (which you can’t do at most companies until you turn 25. Which is just plain strange, unless they’re trying to make a reason for people to actually be excited to grow older than 21?)

At nineteen, I should feel even more of an adult, right? After all, I’ve had a whole year to live without my parents. But honestly, there’s so much about being an adult that I still fail to understand. Because let’s face it, some arbitrary age imposed by the United States government definitely does not make me an actual adult.

So here’s the start of what’s probably a lengthy list about why “adulting” can’t just be measured in years…

  1. Paperwork. I don’t know why, but I simply get so overwhelmed by all the words and tiny fine print and the exceptions and rules that I just freak out, worrying that I’m filling it all out wrong and that it will mess up my summer internship and it’s just really confusing ok?!?!?
  2. Driving. I procrastinated and procrastinated and finally got my license right before starting my senior year of high school. And although I’m theoretically a fine driver (I religiously follow speed limits to the point that cars will aggressively tail me) I also have random freak-outs when driving sometimes where I’m utterly incompetent, like the time this year when I volunteered to drive people to the beach and then forgot to put the car in park when we stopped for gas, and then later started driving the wrong way down the road (!!) because the signs were confusing.
  3. Taxes. I don’t have to pay my own taxes (thank goodness) but I did have to fill out a tax form recently for my internship this summer, and although it was literally half a page long I spent a good two hours staring at it in utter confusion trying to figure out if I was exempt or not and what allowances even were. Eventually I gave up and just called my dad, who literally had the tax lawyers at his law firm tell me what to do because I’m just that bad at “adulting.”
  4. Calling people on the phone. Calling people to make doctors’ appointments or dinner reservations always involves about five minutes of me giving myself a pep-talk and reminding myself that “they’re just random people and they won’t even remember you after five minutes and you really just need to chill and dial the number.”
  5. Answering my phone. I will never pick up unless you’re either 1) already in my contacts or 2) you call at least three times and leave a voicemail.
  6. Acting like a normal adult in public. One of my friends recently called me out for dancing at the Starbucks register while I was paying for my coffee. If I hear music, I want to start dancing. I’m sorry, do normal humans not do that?
  7. Keeping my room habitable. A few nights ago, both my roommate and I were sitting on the couches outside our dorm room, which deeply perplexed many other people in my dorm. “Just look inside our room!” we told them as an explanation, which earned a shout of laughter when they did walk into our room and saw total disarray. It was so messy that we couldn’t stand to be in there any longer… but was our solution to clean it? Nope! (Ok, for all those concerned, we did eventually clean it. Just not until the next day.)

This list could probably go on a lot longer, but I’m going to try to be a responsible adult and do some work instead of procrastinating by writing this article, so let’s leave all the Ls at that, shall we?

Contact Caroline Dunn with tips on how to be a proper adult at cwdunn98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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