Adulting Definition: 10 Years in the Working World?

Adulting Definition: 10 Years to Maturity?

What is the definition of adulting?

One definition of what it means to be adulting by Urban Dictionary is:

Being a responsible adult.  Used by immature 20-somethings who are proud of themselves for paying a bill.

They say age ain’t nothing but a number.  I agree to an extent. There are a lot of very mature 25 year olds and there can be a lot of immature 35 year olds.

I found this out the hard way when I was frantically dating a few years ago in my early 30’s.  A lot of the guys I met who were in their mid-30’s didn’t seem very mature.  They didn’t seem like they knew what they wanted even though I knew what I wanted.

Instead of age, think a better gauge of maturity is how many years one has been in the workforce. When you work for 10 years and you realize that you may need to put in another 30 years before you can retire, I think that humility really sets in when you come to that realization.  It really puts things in perspective.

Here’s why I think it’s best not to settle down with someone until you and your prospective life partner have worked for more than 10 years in the working world:

What Does Adulting Have to Do with Finding a Life Partner?

I think it takes a good 8-10 years of working ‘the grind’ before you become an adult and are ready to meet someone and settle down (if that’s what you want in life of course).  A lot of things happen after 8-10 years in the work force.  This is the key time when many people end up in managerial positions, get promoted, or start making that 6 figure income that they were aiming for.

I don’t think I really became an adult until I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I was still naive and didn’t have the weight of the world and the crippling burden of responsibility yet.

Adulting Responsibilities like:

  • A mortgage or rent
  • Bill payments
  • Children  <– I think this responsibility definitely takes the cake and made me become even more of an adult very very quickly
  • Responsibilities to your job like showing up on time to work and being productive
  • Budgeting your cashflow and making sure you are in positive cash flow territory
  • Saving enough money for retirement
  • Taking care of your aging parents
  • To your friends and families and important relationships in your life
  • Learning that your time is valuable and learning to say no

When you don’t understand these things, you’re not being adult-like and you won’t show up as an adult in your relationship.  One person ends up shouldering more responsibility and then feeling resentful of all the extra adulting they are doing.

Being Impatient With Life

I had my life all set out (in my head at least).  I wanted to get married at 30 at the latest, have a first child at 33 (at the latest), and another child at 35 (at the latest).

Ideally, I had wanted to get married at 28 and I’m glad that didn’t happen.  I was jealous of my high school friends who were getting married or engaged at 28.  Even at 28 I don’t think I knew myself very well.

Although I didn’t think like this at the time, I’m glad I didn’t get married at 28. I would have had a very different life. I would probably be divorced. I would be unhappy in a verbally abusive relationship. I would have probably shouldered a lot of parenting responsibility on my own if I stuck with the previous relationship and we had kids.  Having children doesn’t fix your relationship issues, it amplifies it and exponentially explodes them.

Related: Things Do Happen for a Reason: Happiness after Heartbreak

When people used to tell me that your 20s are for exploring and getting to know yourself I used to roll my eyes because I didn’t believe them.  I thought I knew who I was in my early 20’s.  These naysayers (er… older and more life-experienced people I talked to) would say that your 20s are a period of a lot of change and who you are at 21 will likely not be who you are at 29.

Well, these naysayers were correct.  I was so naive.  With age comes wisdom and experience and yeah, these people with more life journey experience are indeed correct.

Who I was when I was 21 is definitely not who I am today.

Grateful Not to Retire Early or ‘FIRE’ So Fast

Although there are a lot of people out there who are gung-ho on retiring in their 20’s (yes, you read 20’s, not 30’s– well maybe early 30’s) or who state they are retired with a $250,000 nest egg, I’m content plodding along (at least part-time) because getting rich quick and is not who I am.

You may think you just want to live a digital nomad life and travel the world in your early 20’s, declare yourself retired, but then you meet someone and then decide you want to settle down, have a white picket fence, and have kids.  Life works in mysterious ways like that even if you think you have it all figured out at 24.

Maybe it’s just me taking longer to figure out who I am but I know that at age 24, I didn’t think like I do now in my mid-30’s.

Even my husband didn’t think he wanted kids until he was in his late 30’s, and then his younger sister had children and a lightbulb moment went off and he decided he wanted children.

Which brings me to a Swahili word learned a few years ago I want to share with you.  One of the Swahili words I learned when I was lacking oxygen while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was “pole-pole” which means:

“slowly, gently, softly, quietly; be calm, take it quietly, don’t excite yourself, never mind”

I couldn’t walk or hike any faster than I could and the faster I would try and sicker I would feel.  So I heeded our guide’s advice and went pole-pole up the mountain.

With life and finding a compatible partner to share the journey to financial independence and retiring early, we should remember that happiness is a journey and not the destination, and pole-pole is the way to go.

Was there a deciding life event for you that made you more mature?

How many years after working did you feel like you really “adulted”?

Was it a lightbulb moment or did you come to this realization gradually?

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9 thoughts on “Adulting Definition: 10 Years in the Working World?”

  1. I like the Swahili verse. I have used similar thoughts when the going gets tough. Anyway, I think adulting is a funny term. I never heard of it when I was in my 20s and 30s. And honestly, I never thought about it much. I’d say it was a gradual process for me, with no defining moment. Maybe I still haven’t become an adult? Tom

    • @Tom- I think it’s a new term. You are financially independent so I think that’s a good definition of being an adult- you worked hard for your money and now are bearing the fruits of your labour!

  2. Having a child is a huge leap in adulting for us. We waited and almost didn’t have one. Mrs. RB40 wasn’t keen on the idea, but I won the argument. 🙂 It’s a huge responsibility. Previously, you’re only really responsible for yourself. Now, another human being is dependent on you. You have to grow up.

    • @Joe- Awe well you are doing a great job with RBJR! It’s so hard to try and set an example, and they watch every move you make and are so impressionable.

  3. For me, several events in my life made me feel more mature and felt more that I was really an adult. Getting married in my early 30s was the first one. Being committed to someone for the rest of your life lets you know that I have someone to depend on and will provide the constructive criticism and support I need and vice versa. Having a kid in my late 30s let me know that we will be responsible for raising him throughout his life.
    Before all these life events happened, I was just being irresponsible by saying yes to almost every social event with friends, not taking finances seriously by being in credit card debt and barely contributing to my retirement account. I thought that in your 20s it was all about enjoying life by partying, traveling, finding out the latest fashion trends etc. But what I didn’t find out until my 30s was their more to it than that. It’s about being responsible for yourself and growing up to feel like an adult. I’m still learning but I feel more like an adult now than 10-15 years ago.

    • @Kris- Awe thanks for sharing! Yeah parenting is huge and being married is huge. Sometimes my husband calls me out for being childish, and he’s usually right haha.

  4. This all resonated SO deep for me. I’ll be turning 30 in September — and I am mostly certainly not where I thought I would be at this point in life, but damn, am I ever glad for that! I think when you’re young and thinking about your life, it’s easy to get caught up in romantic notions about the whole adulting thing. I know that was certainly the case for me in my mid-20s, when all my friends were getting married and popping out kids. It sucked in the moment but I’m glad for it now. Even as a person who is in the category of having to grow up quickly thanks to gross family stuff, I really do feel like my 20s helped me figure out who I am and what I’m about. Glad I took my time (even if it wasn’t necessarily by choice lol)

    • @Tara P- Happy Birthday soon, the big 3-0 that’s huge! I remember it was filled with angst for me as I was internet dating at that time, lol. You’re still young, the 30’s so far have been great, you really know what you want in life and don’t take BS and don’t say ‘yes’ to things that waste your time.


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