As a 12-year-old, you probably looked at 20-year-olds and thought they were so grown up. But once you hit 20, you likely didn't feel grown-up at all. And then you hit 25, and as it turns out, you still don't feel like an adult! So when do we really transition into adulthood? These people share the exact moments they knew it was time to grow up.
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#1 Stop Acting Like a Baby
It happened this summer actually. I was just feeling depressed and sad one day and I started thinking of my friends who had jobs, had cars, had boyfriends, were doing well in school, and were paying bills. And then there was me, laying in bed, crying while playing video games. And then my mom barged in and told me that I had to stop acting like a baby. I felt that she was right, so I immediately got up, took a shower, drove down to the DMV, and started the process of getting my license.
#2 Too Old to Be Waiting Tables
I was waiting tables at 25 and noticed that all of my coworkers were younger than me—under 21. They all celebrated their 21st birthdays and would quit a few months later. One night, someone called me the creepy old married dude and it got to me. I didn’t party with the kids so I was creepy apparently. I quit a few days later and got a job in insurance.
#3 That Can't Be Me
I was 22 and working as a stir fry cook in a Vietnamese restaurant. I loved the job because I love to cook, but after seeing the revolving door of people in their 30s floating from job to job, often getting in trouble, I thought, “That can’t be me. I need to grow up and actually put some effort into life.” A couple of months later, I got my first full-time job where I eventually met my husband.
#4 A Close Call
Nearly getting kicked out of community college. I was always the guy who could get As and Bs in high school without needing to try very hard. In college, the laziness I had grown accustomed to mixed with anxiety resulted in me constantly running late. When I was running late, I got too nervous to actually walk through the door and when I missed enough classes, I got scared to even show up on time because I was afraid someone would point out that I hadn't been there. In my first two semesters, I only passed two of the eight classes I had taken. I didn't even bother taking the finals for the other six. In my third semester, I was facing expulsion if I couldn't get my act together, but something finally just clicked. I basically forced myself to act like I loved school, and by the end of the semester, I didn't really have to force it anymore. I'm going to finish my undergrad in the next one and a half years, and I'm thinking about graduate school after that.
#5 Proving Him Wrong
When my ex, who I lived with for a year, suddenly let moved out without notice, I was left to live alone for the very first time in my life. I had a part-time job, went out every weekend, and was completely dependent on him. Now, I’ve lived alone for the last two years, have a full-time job, and I’m working on getting back into the dating world. Things have been tough, but I’m more mature now. I later learned that one of the reasons my ex left was because he thought I’d never amount to anything in life. Well, guess who just got accepted into college? I’m starting my life the way I want to, and I’ll do great. He can’t tell me I’ll never amount to anything. I’m proving him wrong.
#6 The Ex
I broke up with my ex under the worst circumstances. It’s been almost two years and I’m way more independent. I'm more emotionally mature and more clear about what I want to do with my life.
#7 Bugles Deceived Me
My toddler son was eating a bowl of Bugles one day. Not having had Bugles in a number of years I went to him and said, "Hey check this out: witch fingers!" I then attempted to place my fingertips inside the Bugles to give the appearance of spindly witch fingers. Alas, my fingers wouldn't fit inside the Bugles. A chapter of my life closed, and my childhood ended at age 25.
#8 Dangerous Driving
Getting pulled over for speeding for the third time in about two months. I admitted I saw one of those "your speed" signs and sped up to see if I could "beat the record." The officer let me off with a warning and told me I need to look down at my speedometer periodically. I don't know why but something clicked in my head and I've taken more responsibility for how fast I'm going ever since. No tickets in over 15 years!
#9 Independence? Check
My mom passed when I was nine years old. My sister and brother are nine and seven years older than me respectively. At that point, they'd moved out for college, so it was just me and my dad at home. I was still a spoiled kid back then, being the youngest child by a big gap.
Then, one day, when I was about 12, my dad fell sick and had to be hospitalized in the next town over. My dad left me home alone with just enough money to last for a week. Turns out he needed more time for recovery, so I had to stretch that money to two weeks. I learned independence and cash management then and there.
#10 Rude Awakening
My wife and I had a baby and the hospital sent us home with a newborn with no instruction manual.
#11 Eye Opening
I got fired multiple times within the span of a few months. I realized that if I didn't start taking responsibility for my own issues instead of blaming everybody and everything else, that I would keep having problems. I realized that I would eventually end up in a situation that I couldn't bounce back from. I ended up going to therapy, making some major lifestyle changes, and eventually got back on my medication.
#12 I'm A Big Kid Now
I was 20 and hiking on a mountain with my mother's friend's kids, who were around 16, and they wanted to go inside this cave. We were just playing around but one of them almost fell. I managed to catch him and thought, "Man, I almost had to call an adult here." Then, I realized that the reason they were able to go up there was because I was entrusted as the adult! ME! I just hit me that I was a grown up, I needed to get my stuff together.
#13 That's Not How it Works
I was spending my probation period at my first job. It was supposed to be three months, so I thought I didn't really have to work hard during the first few weeks because they would wait until the end of the probation to decide if I could stay or not. I was wrong, they fired me after three weeks.
#14 Time to Grow Up
I had such high standards for women I was potentially interested in, but I was a lazy, unemployed snob myself. It was the people I was hanging out with that made me feel like I was the greatest person ever. I thought just because I was book smart and funny it would be enough to get me a beautiful girl. I realized how stupid I was for having this mentality sooner than later! I’ve been going to the gym five days a week for a year now, I dropped all of my toxic friends, I stopped partying, I’ve looked out for my health a lot more than before, and I’m saving up for a car so that I can stop having to borrow my mom’s.
#15 This Seat's Not for Me
When I was on a swing at the park with my friend, a mother and her kids came in. The kids were speaking to her and I heard her say, “Just ask the nice ladies if you can have a turn." I thought to myself, we're adult woman taking up room in an area for children, when there are children here. No matter how much fun I was having, it wasn’t a space for me. We got up and left.
#16 No More Self Pity
I was going to a job that I hated every day and then wallowed in self-pity. After months of it, I just woke up one day and thought about what I was doing. I could either keep on making myself and others around me miserable, or I could shut up. Or I could walk away. I handed my notice in and went on a road trip for three months and without exaggeration, I've never been happier.
#17 Heal Myself
After I broke up with my then-boyfriend, I realized that up until that point, I'd been defaulting my decisions and beliefs to how others wanted me to live my life. I hadn't fully developed myself due to my dysfunctional upbringing. So, I decided to heal myself, get to know myself, and rebuild myself. I know that I chose the right path because it gives me the courage to believe that being a late bloomer is about taking things seriously. Building a brighter future is better than having to start over later in life as a result of my bad decisions.
#18 I Talk Too Much
I remember hanging out with some new friends when I was 18. Up until that point, I could tell that they liked hanging out with me, but I didn't feel like I was part of the group. Once, one of them turned to me and said, "You know you talk a lot man." For half a second, I got mad, and then I realized he was right. I was ANNOYING. I learned about situational awareness that day and how I present myself. I have way more friends now.
#19 A Bad Day
Right after I finished high school, my Mom and I had our house foreclosed on. It was the middle of the summer and we had to move all of our stuff out, including emptying our fridge, in 100-degree heat with no A/C. Losing your childhood home is really something. That's when I learned that I needed to grow up.
#20 Divorce Sucks
When my parents got divorced. Someone had to be the adult.
#21 Mom's Not Going to Hold My Hand
When I was 16, my mother had to leave me alone for two weeks at a time to go to work as a carer abroad. At first, it was great, but then very dark anxiety set in. It was then that I realized that I had to do things for myself and push on with school. I could've easily sat back in the darkness I was feeling and let myself go, but instead, I decided to grow up.
#22 Baby Changed Everything
I was in my late 20s with no steady job. I had reasonable income from an IT consultancy I was working for, but it was very irregular. Then my girlfriend became pregnant. Three months in, I landed an eight-week fixed-term contract on the lower rungs of a large corporate IT department. Six months later, they gave me a permanent job. That was in 2010, and I'm still there now.
#23 Thank You, Hans!
My first boss asked me a question he didn't know the answer to. He knew that I knew, and he actually needed me. I was useful! I wasn't just a kid anymore, I was someone who knew something! I still quietly thank him on a regular basis for that huge chunk of my self-esteem. Thank you, Hans!
#24 Toxic Life Leads to Love
When I realized how toxic my life was, I finally realized I needed to get my life together and be a grown-up. I got myself out of my family's house and moved into my own apartment with two roommates. I fell in love with one of them and we are talking about getting married now.
#25 Good Mentor
A mentor and a man I admired greatly listened to me tell him why, once again, my error wasn't my fault. He looked me straight in the eye and quietly said, "I had really high expectations for you and you haven't shown me a thing." Ouch. That turned me around. It took a few years, but I earned his respect again and I promised myself I would never hear someone say that to me again.
#26 It's Not My Fault
A key moment in my development happened in a summer job that I had when I was 18. One of my duties at this small industrial facility was to open up the garage-style overhead doors at the start of the day and close them at the end. One day, I went to close them and discovered one had been pulled so far up that the roller had come out of its track, and I couldn't get it to go back down.
I got Frank, the low man on the totem pole at this place. He looked up at it and said, "Did you do this?" I explained that it wasn't my fault, that there should have been a stop or a guide or something to keep that from happening. Again he asked, "Did you do this?" Again, I evaded. Finally, he said, "Stop making excuses, admit you made a mistake, and let's fix it." I admitted it was my fault and we fixed it. That lesson is still fresh after a third of a century.
#27 That's a Lot of Money
Right when I graduated college and moved out on my own, I received around $100,000 in inheritance money and started spending money like it was nothing, to the point where I finally checked my financials and realized I had spent $30,000 in nine months. It was only when I ran through the numbers that I realized I was being a total, complete idiot.
I think this really helped later on in life, though. It caused me to save and invest as much money as possible, even when I had a really well-paying job. While people at my level were buying either a Lexus or a Mercedes, I was clinging onto my Honda Civic then later bought a Prius.
#28 Pregnancy Changes You
I found out I was pregnant. I had a part-time, travel-only position and the previous year, I made money from digital consulting. I was just fooling around with my life and didn’t really have any goals except to eventually get a full-time digital position. Within four months, I acquired a vehicle, my own place to live, and full-time position. I was in no way ready to have a child. Now, I’m in a better position than ever.
I had a child. It wasn't just me and my fully-capable wife who could take up the slack if I screwed up—I now had this helpless little person relying on me. Until she was born, I hadn't held a job for over a year. When she was born, I got a job and held it for eight years. When I did switch jobs, there was a significant pay increase and now I've been there for four years.
#30 Never Showing Up on Time
After I dropped out of college, I worked at a Home Depot as a cashier for a while. Then, I got fired for never showing up on time. After not being able to cut it as a cashier in retail, I thought, "It's probably time to get my act together, huh?" I did. I currently write code that organizes financial data.
#31 Never Lie
I was in my mid-20s, at a job interview for a job I really wanted. I had already been in the field for a while and thought I was great. This would have been a huge step up in my career. I thought the interview was going well. At one point, the hiring manager asked me if I had experience with a certain subject. I said "yes" and lied my way through the questions successfully. Or so I thought.
After the formal interview, they asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with them. We proceeded to go to the nicest, fanciest place I had ever been to up to that point. They treated me very well. On the way back to their office, the hiring manager said, "Let me give you a piece of advice: if you don't know something, it's okay to say you don't know it. It looks a lot worse if you try to BS your way through it." I knew right then that I lost the job opportunity. The combo of how well they treated me, and how matter-of-fact the advice was at the end, really stuck with me.
#32 Let Go of Your Ex
I went to a party where I knew my ex was going to be with his girlfriend. We dated for about four years and had been broken up for two years at that point. He started dating his girlfriend within a few months of us breaking up, and I guess I hadn’t gotten over how much that hurt me. So, I brought a date to the party, told everybody he was my boyfriend, and got absolutely trashed. I woke up the next day and hated myself. I realized I needed to let it go, so I did. That was a huge growing-up moment for me.
#33 Enough Eviction Notices
The look of disappointment on my wife's face when we received our third eviction notice while on vacation with my family. I spent the money on everything else rather than paying bills first.
#34 Stepping Up
My husband has depression and lost his job a few months back so he's not in a good place right now. We're in our late 20s and have always muddled through together, but this is the lowest he's ever been. Stepping up to keep us going through this has definitely made me grow up. The positive side is that we're coping well and he's getting help. I'm quite proud of us.
#35 Speeding with Consequences
I got pulled over doing 90 miles per hour in a 55 zone. I was 17, and in my state, that's when you are legally an adult. I was still in high school and on my way back from my military drill that weekend. The officer had me stop the engine get out, and then proceeded to handcuff me on the side of the road, in my uniform, and had me sit on the grass. Then, we proceeded to have a nice, long talk about making choices and the consequences of my actions. He then took off the handcuffs, handed me my keys, and told me that he better not see my name come up anywhere for anything ever again. He then let me go. I was shaking so bad I could barely drive off the highway. Suffice it to say: I've never had another traffic violation.
#36 Time to Adult
Paying rent for the first time.
#37 Not a Frat Boy Anymore
I was arrested for drinking too much. I realized at that point that almost every problem in my life was related to the fact that I was acting like a frat boy at 27 years old. I never quit drinking completely, but I stopped making it the focal point of my life. My entire life turned around immediately.
#38 Teaching Made Me Do It
I started teaching right out of college at 22. I got a job in a school teaching 5th-grade science and social studies. Most students were held back at least once, and I had several students who were 12 and 13 years old. On the first day of school, I remember feeling so strange that I could shut my classroom door and be trusted to be responsible for the science and civic education of 90 fifth graders. At age 22. My first few years of teaching taught me a lot about how the world worked. I also grew a thick skin, learned to stand up for myself, and developed a desire to always improve myself.
#39 Thanks, Mom
When my mom passed, I had to square with a whole lot of "suck it up and deal" moments with myself so that stuff could get done. She had been sick for a long while but had always been private about it until the last few months, when she was rapidly getting worse. It sucked horribly and it was the worst year of my life, but it was definitely a growing experience in terms of just learning how to get stuff done, even in the most horrific circumstances.
#40 The Importance of Socializing
When I realized that I needed to start socializing with people, otherwise I couldn't get anywhere in life. I'm mostly an introvert and I hate to go outside because the grind never stops. At some point, though, I realized that if I never socialized I wouldn't make any friends and would never feel good about myself. Ever since that moment, I started going out with people, chatting with people online, and I started expressing myself better.
#41 Life Takes Money
Realizing that I wanted to spend my life with someone, but didn't have the means to move in with that person, or to get married or start a life. I started driving and got a real job. I'm saving up to get a house with my partner so that we can have a happy life together.
#42 Roommates Change Everything
Living with roommates. As a teenager and in my early 20s, I figured being lazy with dishes wasn't that big of a deal. Then, I lived with roommates who didn't do their dishes for days at a time. I was forced to wash my dishes by hand because there was only room around the sink for me to hold up a single plate over their mountain of dishes. The rare moments when the sink was clear were fantastic. I would stare at it, sometimes just overjoyed that I could use the sink. But inevitably within two or three days, it would be full again. And the cycle continued. We moved out because of this and it really made me realize how nasty I had been before this.
#43 Be Nice
When I was 22, I would always insult my brother as a joke. I never complimented him or anything. One day he kind of exploded on me and before I could say anything I realized he was right. All I did was try to bring him down for no reason. I stopped, which, ironically enough, annoyed him for a while because I would throw in compliments—he thought I was still making fun of him.
#44 Moving Home to Be an Adult
In my late 20s, my mom needed open heart surgery, so I moved home for over a year to look after her. Up until that point, I honestly couldn't think of a single responsible thing that I had really done.
#45 Parenting Parents
My parents started making dinner for me only, saying they already ate. Me, being a dumb kid, just believed it. Eventually, I put the pieces together. They hadn't eaten. They were prioritizing feeding me and we were hurting financially. I went into town and got a job at Carl's Jr. My first paycheck, I bought groceries as a surprise. Sure enough, they were at the dinner table with me that night. My mom told me later on that her dad had done the same thing when money was tight. My family is incredibly diehard loyal to their kids.