How to become an adult

When does someone become an adult?

Society isn’t absolutely sure.

You can join the army at sixteen; start driving a car at seventeen and buy a drink in a pub at eighteen.

The age of consent for sex is sixteen in the UK, though it varies from twelve to twenty around the world.

Meanwhile, you can become an MP at eighteen but interestingly, the youngest judge in the UK is thirty two.

So you can have been making laws for fourteen years before you’re reckoned wise enough to make judgements on them.

In the end, being an adult is not about age; but about being able to make good choices for yourself and for others; and I don’t believe we can become such adults before our late twenties…by which time quite a few big decisions have been taken.

Why our late twenties?

It takes time to put clear blue water between ourselves and our childhood influences; without such awareness, we might not be making the free choices we imagine.

We also need to experience the life of work in our twenties, experience the world of relationships; and perhaps watch the wheels come off some of our assumptions.

I sometimes call it ‘the quarter life crisis.’

So we may be able to become an MP at eighteen; but the earliest we can reach emotional adulthood is at least ten years later.

Some, of course, never make it; sadly, emotional adulthood eludes many. We’ve all known powerful men who remain angry two-year-olds – but in long trousers.

We’ve all known high-achieving women/men who remain children, still using the anxious childhood survival pattern of people-pleasing.

In the end, true adulthood is not about age – but about the ability to make good choices; and it takes time.

Adulthood arises in each of us, like a beautiful flower, from the rich inner soil of awareness, courage, honesty…

...and self-kindness.

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