I read a column today in which a question was posed about the age at which you felt like an adult. The columnist noted that she felt like an adult through various events that so many others go through: getting her heart broken; moving 1,200 miles away for love; meeting and marrying her husband; having children; helping her husband bury his elderly father; etc.
There were various other responses in terms of responsibility - financial, emotional, personal, etc. - being recognized as the marker of reaching adulthood, or the recognition of being adulthood, with general agreement that there isn't a single thing that one experiences - or a group of things that one experiences - that causes one to have reached adulthood.
One person remarked that the realization for her was her finally being comfortable with herself. I think that may be the single best marker of having reached adulthood. All those other things are simply markers that some people hit, some don't, and that everyone reaches at different points in their lives due to circumstances that we can't always control.
This was my response:
However, I think the biggest for me is that I’m finally comfortable with who I am. And I like myself. Yes. This. So much this.
So many of those other things are just markers. Not to negate them or minimize them as means of "crossing that line," but merely to identify that there are things that happen to some people but not to others, or they happen at different times, so trying to say, "It's when I had/did fill-in-in-the-blank" as a marker of adulthood won't work for everyone. I'm so grateful that no one here is saying that.
I turned 40 last week. I married "late" (5 years ago); we paid off our mortgage maybe four years ago; our cars are paid off; our student loans are paid off; we managed to send me through grad school (out-of-state grad school, so higher tuition) with no student loans; just this summer I finally started a full-time job that comes with a slew of benefits and a pension (I'm a teacher). We're childless, and it irks me to hear those with children tell me they didn't really know who they were until they had children. (Again, I realize no one here is saying that; I'm just very aware of that childless state.)
Any of those could be (mis)construed as, "Welcome to adulthood!" For me, though, it's that I'm finally becoming comfortable with myself. Many feel more comfortable with themselves sooner than I did; I'm sure there are those who are never quite comfortable with themselves, regardless of age. I like myself; I see things how I could improve, but as I stand now, I'm happy with how things are.
As an addendum: I think that helping my husband bury his mother 14 months after we got married helped, too, as did my husband losing his job 10 days after we got married. It was a rough start; my MIL wasn’t even 70 when she died, which was six weeks after having receiving a diagnosis (cancer). I remember how undone my husband was; he was 37, which to my mind is too young to lose one’s mother (and I’m saddened when I hear about people who were younger than we were when we lost his mother).