As kids, we tend to think that we simply “become adults,” as if someone waves a magic wand one day and imparts us with all the knowledge needed to run the world. As we get older, we start to realize this doesn’t happen overnight. Adults are created over time by knowledge, wisdom, and experience. The transition from teenage young adult to full-fledged grown-up happens so gradually that a lot of us don’t realize it’s happened until we catch ourselves looking forward to a trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. At that point, you’ll look back and be able to pinpoint everything else about your life that makes you as “adult-ish” as you can possibly be, such as:

1. You save money for different reasons

As a teen, money existed just so you could buy new things and go new places. As a young adult, though you had a few bills to pay, they were an afterthought; money was still primarily used to have a good time. As an adult, you realize your money is never really yours, as it goes straight from your paycheck to your monthly bills. And the money you do keep gets stashed away for long-term savings. While you used to think nothing of spending $50 on a video game, you now see that $50 bill as money that could be put toward your wedding venue or to pay off a credit card. As an adult, you’ll realize you’re making more money than you ever did before…but you somehow still have less of it.

2. You actually need to exercise

When you were younger, going to the gym was no big deal. You went to bulk up, improve your mile time, or play basketball with your friends. But if you skipped a day or two, it wouldn’t make a difference. As an adult, you’re not so much worried about bulking up or improving your mile time as you are actually being able to lift the weight or finish the mile in the first place. It’s no longer about getting “better”; it’s about maintaining. And if you miss a day, you know you’ll be paying for it for about a week. Just like your money, your health is no longer an afterthought.

3. You don’t live for crazy weekends anymore

I bet you can remember the times in your 20s when you passed on going out with your friends. You were always so afraid you’d miss something awesome, so you’d force yourself to get dressed, shell out $50+ on cover charges and alcohol, only to realize the night was a repeat of the weekend before (and the one before that, and the one before that…). As an adult, you really don’t care if you “miss out” on some huge party – because you know you’re not really missing out. You have other things to do with your life, and going out until two in the morning will only take away from these other, more important, events.

4. You don’t care what’s “cool”

Remember as a kid when you used to make fun of older people who weren’t “with it”? Now, you’re one of those people! But that’s not a bad thing. It means you’ve stopped caring about what other people think about you, and are now focusing on what you want to do in life. You’ve stopped trying to fit in with a crowd that you weren’t meant to be in; you don’t even have time to worry about fitting in anymore. By focusing on your own life, you’ve fell in with other like-minded individuals, and enjoy not only their company, but the person you are when you’re around them.

5. You actually enjoy wholesome activities

If you told the 21-year-old me that in nine years I’d be looking forward to going to craft fairs with my wife, I would have thought you were nuts. As you get older, the weekends are no longer about who can drink the most and who can out-crazy who. The weekends become a time during which you can focus on who you are, and who you want to be, as a person. You realize there’s a lot of fun in exploring the local shops in your town that you always ignored growing up. You go to events not for the free drinks, but because you care about the actual event. And, perhaps best of all, you wake up feeling completely fine the next day.

6. Your life didn’t turn out like you thought it would, but you’re okay with it

As I’ve alluded to, kids look at adults as if they have everything figured out, and are exactly where they want to be in life. Most adults know this is definitely not the case. Many, if not most, of our hopes and dreams never come true. But mature adults know there’s nothing wrong with that. As adults, we know we have the power to change our life if we really want to. It might take much more effort than we thought it would as kids, but the true freedom of adulthood is the ability to make something out of ourselves, and to show the world how much we’re worth.

Featured photo credit: Grown Ups / Maryam Hassan via farm2.staticflickr.com

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