Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I sent an e-mail to a friend yesterday that said, in part, "I'm all settled into the apartment, and it's nice, I really like it. Almost feel like an adult...." The response I got back simply said "Resist Adulthood." Along the same lines, I got an e-mail just now from a 23-year-old reader, starting law school in the fall, that said, "I'm convinced that adulthood is a big hoax anyway. Avoiding it is working out well for me so far." This all makes me want to write something, but I'm not sure what I really want to say.

It seems pretty clear that we're able to push adulthood further back than any previous generation. Thanks, grad school. The New York Times had an article maybe a year ago about how more and more twentysomethings are living at home while they get started in their careers, to save money and avoid "becoming an adult." What does it even mean to be an adult? I know I've said this before, but I used to think that at some point it all clicks and magically you're an adult, and life makes sense and you have all the answers. The older I get the more I realize that just doesn't happen. Adults get scared too. Adults make bad decisions. Adults do the wrong thing sometimes.

I think what it means to be an adult is that you act like you're responsible for your choices. I mean, we're always responsible for our choices, but, if I'm being honest, at this point I know that if I did something bad -- got addicted to crack, gambled away every penny I have, joined a cult -- my family would be there to help me start over, and I wouldn't be homeless, I wouldn't be destitute, and I would still have a chance. There's a safety net. But wait. If the definition of an adult is not having that safety net, then the bar is really high. You can be an adult and still have a safety net. But maybe it's the flip side of that. Maybe it's when you're someone else's safety net. When you have a child. When you're married. When you're forced to take care of an elderly parent. Maybe that's when the switch gets flipped. But wait. If the first definition seems too broad, this one seems too narrow. I know people who seem like adults who haven't had to deal with any of this. And people who have and yet still seem like kids.

So maybe it's less about life circumstances and more about mindset. Whether you're the kind of person who leads or who needs to be led. I feel like I'm only really driven to be a leader in a very limited set of spheres. I like when other people make decisions. I'm happy to defer to people about what movie to see, where to eat, what train to take, which shirt to wear, and how to get that stuff moved over there. (In exchange, I'd like if you'd give me just a little bit of credibility regarding how to write that thing.) But that doesn't entirely make sense either. Because sometimes adults are passive and sometimes kids are not. But there's something to this. When I think of an adult, I think of someone who makes decisions. When I think of the people I know, and which ones I see as adults and which as kids, I see the adults as people who make decisions. Who don't get flustered. Who can be relied on to make choices. How do we get him to the hospital? When should we leave for the thing? Which is the best thing to order? Adults make choices. Kids don't necessarily. I don't always want to make choices. I don't always feel the urge to. I'm not an adult.

But this is unsatisfying, because I don't really want to say that you become an adult when you start being obnoxious about things. I don't think that's true. So I haven't stumbled on the right answer yet, I don't think. What makes someone an adult? And is it good to be an adult? Or should we be trying to avoid it? I really don't know. Hence, this post. :)