The Fine Print that No One Ever Reads
At eighteen, you can be shipped to fight someone’s else war. You can legally fuck and marry any consenting adult you want (some restrictions may apply). You can smoke cigarettes and choose a new figurine for the country to gaze upon. In everywhere but America, you can get wasted and wander the dark streets singing some weird mash of MC Hammer and One Direction. If one of your parents is only financially in your life, that motherfucker is happily signing the last check on you. If you’re an American male, you can get fill out a card that makes you Uncle Sam’s bitch for life. And if you’re like any other person who has surpassed eighteen, you are wondering why any of this matters.
The short answer is that it doesn’t. You will not wake up with a mustache (or a lady mustache?) and your life will not magically be in order. Eighteen is just Uncle Sam (or Aunt whatever country you reside in) telling you when your childhood is over. If you’re like the rest of us, the deadline means nothing. Sure, you can’t trick or treat anymore and it’s kinda creepy if you buy non-sexual toys for yourself, but you also aren’t suddenly obligated to pay bills and become Bill Gates.
The long answer is that it does. Eighteen matters because legally, you are no longer a kid. The reason the government cut off at eighteen is because kids in the “good old days” were working as soon as they could walk (sooner if they were slaves or migrant workers), which wasn’t right. But they didn’t want all these lazy humans just taking advantage of the government. So, eighteen seemed like a good cut off. But honestly, I would highly suggest for you to forget that “being an adult” shit. Believe it or not, adulthood is just something that hits you really hard really fast (like a ninja).
I became an adult in an Italian airport six months ago at nineteen-years-old (that sounds like a transition into a Mile High Club story, but I promise it’s not). Up until then, I was a sheltered baby bird clinging to a twig on the nest so that I didn’t have to fly by myself while my mother was trying to shake me off and my father was trying to stop her. I had decided to travel from the school where I was studying abroad in England to Italy alone to meet a friend I had made online in like 2015. (Checks for parents). It was a DISASTER. I was scared shitless because Italians can’t drive (sorry if you’re Italian), I was basically meeting a stranger, and I was alone. But, I also realized that this was basically adulthood because you can’t always go with other people, so my actions were essentially justified.
On the day of my sudden level up into adulthood, it was the end of my three day weekend in Pompeii, and I had gotten zero sleep because of a mix of anxiety, a terrifying storm, and a fucking rooster that I wanted to chop into chicken nuggets. I had crammed all of my stuff into my backpack and was charging my phone for the last half an hour or so of me being in Italy before the cab that my friend had called me arrived. I saw that the cab was there and followed the AirBnB instructions and left the room with my stuff. I had gotten to the cab and guess what I forgot? My damn phone. And, lucky me, I didn’t speak Italian, my flight was leaving “soon” (I had missed a flight before so I was anxious to not miss one again) and I was sleep-deprived and panicking.
There was a woman entering the building (which I had locked myself out of) and I tapped her and started basically begging in Spanish to help me get into my room on the second floor because I left my phone in there. She seemed to understand and let me in, and I got my phone and basically sobbed (without tears because I did not want il cab driver to judge me) to my friend that I nearly fucked up and I hated being an adult. Forty minutes later, I was like an hour early to my flight, had fed myself, and had not died in Italy despite making a series of horribly stupid decisions. Do I regret them? Yes and no. But, my troubles aside, all of that was to explain a point that the world and this conservative ass country often dances around.
You have already become an adult. Like animals, people are taught and grow more and more over the years. Can you pay a bill yet? No clue, but if you know how to pay for something with cash, you can figure out how to pay a bill. Can you successfully hold a job? I have no idea, but if you can survive school or dutifully do chores five minutes before your parental unit(s) walk into the door, you can figure it out. Can you be an adult successfully? I hope so because everything you’ve learned and every mistake you’ve made and stumble you had is kicking you through the archway of adulthood. And luckily for you, there are no tests when you’re an adult! (Unless you do college which is a WHOLE other story).
So, if you’ve learned nothing else, just enjoy eighteen. Don’t fret about trying to be an adult because everyone around you already sees that you’re an adult, and one day, it’ll randomly hit you and you’ll look around like, “I’ve got this adulting shit down”. Enjoy being in that awkward phase of being a baby bird that is kinda sorta keeping itself afloat. Expect everything to get weird (especially dating because you’re in that awkward 18-23 range where you’re too old or too young for everyone that’s not 18-23). Try to not get arrested, because if they can try you as an adult, they will. Some racial bullshit clouds those lines but just avoid the legal system altogether. Listen to people’s advice (except mine, ironically, because I’m kind of drowning over here). But most importantly, eat some cake. Now that you’re an adult, you can finally eat cake for breakfast (results may vary).