Ten warning signs you’re an adult

My Mortgage Docs to be Reviewed by an Expert
My Mortgage Docs to be Reviewed by an Expert (Photo credit: Casey Serin)

We all know the standard metrics: graduate college, grad school, marry, have kids, acquire property and a vehicle.

I never had kids, so that typical dividing line into Maturity escaped me.

But for many of us, different moments mark a definite end to innocence.

Here are ten that resonate for me:


I grew up in a family of freelancers whose approach to paying income tax — which is never deducted at source, for those of you who’ve never done it — was, hmmm, variable. One day my Dad said, “I have two pieces of advice for you about taxes.”

“Running and hiding?”

Suffice to say I now have a very good accountant and genuflect to him deeply.

A mortgage

In New York, getting a mortgage is like some bizarro obstacle course littered with lawyers with out-stretched hands. Check, check, check, check!

Knowing — and caring about — your FICO score

For those of you outside the U.S., this is your credit score whose quality determines whether life is pleasant (low interest rates on mortgages, car loans, credit cards) or a hell of slammed doors refusing you access to any sort of credit. Surprisingly few consumers realize what sort of leverage you have with a good score — a lot!

Giving informed consent for my mother’s brain surgery

That was very weird, given how deeply private she always was. I looked, literally, into her head, staring at the four-inch tumor on X-ray that soon, successfully, came out.

Putting my mother into a nursing home

Pretty much the hell you’d expect: having to sell 95 percent of her things and make consequential decisions quickly. Being an only child makes it both easier and harder.

Getting a colonoscopy

For those of you under 50, something to look forward to! (And those putting it off out of fear, it’s no big deal. You have one wearying day beforehand to cleanse you colon, go to sleep during the procedure. Done.)

Knowing your neighbors

When you’re young, single and often behaving badly, you may not want to know your neighbors. Who was that guy/girl skulking out of your apartment? What were those weird noises at 3 a.m.? Once you’re a bit older, maybe traveling for work, maybe with a place you own and/or value more than a dive shared with six roomies, having kind and watchful neighbors is a wonderful thing.

Regular mammograms/Pap smears/prostate exams

I’m always a little stunned when I hear of someone, (who has health insurance, which in the U.S. means these are no-brainers), who skips these essential tests. No one wants to hear bad news. My mother has survived breast cancer, so mammo day is always a little shaky for me. But seriously? Just do it!

Joining a faith community

No disrespect to atheists and agnostics. But for many of us, finding a congenial place to nurture your spiritual growth is a major step. It’s easy to focus solely on family/work/friends/fun — until the shit hits the fan.

Making a will/living will/power of attorney/health care proxy

So cheery! But if you have been fortunate enough to have accumulated anything of value, it’s worth deciding who to leave it to. And facing any sort of major surgery — even childbirth, my mom-pals tell me — means facing the scariest of fears about mortality or severe injury.

How about you?

What milestones have marked your path to adulthood?

19 thoughts on “Ten warning signs you’re an adult

  1. smartcookiemedia

    Wow thanks for sharing this. I couldn’t agree with you more. I reached my 30th birthday last year and ever since then I’ve been thinking about quite a few of your top ten. I think my biggest milestone so far this year has been recognising I’m an only child which as you say can make things easier…and harder. x

    1. Thirty always feels like a scary number…I have to admit that I didn’t really pay attention to some of these until much later. I didn’t have to deal with my mother’s surgery and nursing home until my late 40s and beyond. But it’s never too soon to know, and use, your FICO score.

      Being an only gets more challenging if/when you have to make major decisions about an ill or aging parent.

  2. kenyatta2009

    Great. I identify with much of what you said. I wrote a couple of blogs about my experience with my recent colonoscopy. It was very positive. In it I also referred to pap smears and other preventive health measures. I even found a wonderful video about the procedure.Also I recently moved into an area where I want to learn about my neighbors instead of avoiding them. Thanks for your comment on bullying.

    1. I recently had a full day of pre-op testing at a hospital and learned that many people (!) do not get these tests as they are too scared of the results. I’m scared, too, but you can’t treat what you don’t know exists.

      I am appalled that it’s now been recommended American women only get Paps every 3 years. I asked my GP and he said it’s bogus, a great way to boost profits for the health insurance companies. I plan to pay for mine out of pocket annually if necessary.

  3. For me, moving away from my parents was a big step. We’re not all that far away – a little over an hour’s drive – but up until that point, a decent chunk of my family all lived within a few miles of each other (parents, sister/brother-in-law, grandparents, aunt and cousin). I was the first to journey out of our county, and choose a place to reside where I’d be out of the immediate loop of family activities. Of course we still see them regularly. But not being there every day, the way we had been, made me feel a little less like my parents’ daughter, and a little more like my own daughter’s mother.

    1. That’s interesting, and probably very true for many people. I’ve lived many thousands of miles away from my mother since my teens and was totally out of touch with my father for a few years in my early 20s when he was equally far away in Europe. I can’t even imagine — which I’m sure is pleasant! — having a family nearby and emotionally so close. I wish…

      But it does make it more challenging to set up your own home and ways of doing things.

      1. Being in such close proximity to my family had its good and bad points. It certainly wasn’t all negative and I do miss certain things about it. But when we decided to make the move, my husband and I had plenty of good reasons to do so, trust me. 🙂

  4. I related to just about everything you wrote! The last four years or so (since I turned 49) were real eye-openers for all of these things. I would add that hubby and I have also talked with each other about what we want to have happen to our bodies when we die. It’s important because we plan to deviate from the norm for our religion, and so we must put it in writing to ensure that family members follow our wishes. It seems morbid, but hubby’s best friend died a few years ago at age 48, so we know not to put these things off.

    On a positive note, we recently relocated because, with kids grown and parents gone, we could ask ourselves, “Where do we want to live?” So, there’s a lot of fun to be had as an adult, especially at this age!

    1. Cool! I suspect some of this is very much age-related. I didn’t have to think much about mortality in my 30s or early 40s as no one near me was dying; then in 2006-7 we lost 12 (!) people we cared about and were worn out from funerals. (None of them were in our immediate families.)

      I really like your outlook. We’re tied to NYC for now thanks to my husband’s job; in our field, even having one at this age is now rare.

  5. I think for me, the biggest milestone was making my own money. I moved to Australia at 18, but my parents were still helping me out with living expenses, so finally graduating from uni and supporting myself 100% was when I felt like an adult – since the folks weren’t paying for anything, I got to make my own decisions and they had to accept it. This was something both sides adopted intuitively. I love that my parents are super good at letting go.

  6. how odd, I still have the kenel of the young man I always felt I was. When you realize more of your life is behind you than ahead of you, it certainly awakens you.

  7. These are big things!

    Another only here too, and yes, easier, but maybe made easier by my partner who my mother loved anyway.

    But just no to the tests!! Any of them. My other hat was as cancer services and cancer screening manager…. Plenty of cloudy posts on that one should you choose to read..

    We’ve always been incredibly lucky with lovely neighbours. No more to say on that one.

    That will do for now. 🙂

    Oh no! I see you too lived in Aus. And you turn 55 in June, whereas I will be 53 then.

    1. They are indeed!

      I hear you on the issue of non-conclusive tests…but my mother has survived four kinds of cancer (!) so I tend to be hyper-vigilant about my own health as a natural consequence of that.

      55. Shriek. Impossible but true.

      1. I think I have just found your 15 post!! Most cancers are not genetic you do know that I guess? I’m also speaking from the perspective of a UK health service manager who looks at how money is best spent. There isn’t enough money in the system to test low-risk people and treat people with expensive drugs. Simple equation really. Feel for your mother though, I did catch a couple of posts and thought I was hallucinating, – different one each time 😦

        Nothing was worse than 40. Well, to date.

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