People Share The Life-Changing Events That Forced Them To Grow Up
Growing up stinks, but there’s no escape. It seems like the responsibilities of the world all just come crashing down on you one day, and nobody even has the courtesy to pass along the instruction booklet! If there’s any solace to be found, it’s the fact that we’re all in this together. These Redditors passed their knowledge along by sharing the brutal, real, and intense moments that forced them to grow up.
1. Returning the Favor
My parents started making dinner only for me and saying they already ate. Me being a dumb kid of 16, I just believed it. Eventually I learned the heartbreaking truth. They hadn’t eaten. They were prioritizing feeding me, and we were hurting real bad financially. I went into town and got a job at Carl’s Jr. First paycheck I bought groceries as a surprise. Sure enough, they are dinner with me that night. My mom later on told me her dad had done the same thing when money was tight. My family is incredibly diehard loyal to their kids.
2. Toilet Paper Bandit
I was managing my money so poorly that I had to steal toilet paper from work. Definitely a “time to grow up” moment.
3. Entering Survival Mode
My mother left me in a restaurant when I was a freshman in high school. She gave me $20 and moved across the state without me. My grandparents drove five hours and to give me a place to stay while I went to high school. It was an awful experience, but being with my grandparents show me the real meaning of love and family.
In the end, I emancipated from my mom. I feel bad for my little brother though who she took with her everywhere on her drug-fuelled life. To this day, he can’t be too far away from mom in case she needs his help.
4. One Pain After Another
When I was in the hospital, my entire life came crashing down on me, and not for the reason you’d expect. My girlfriend left me when I was recovering. While I was stuck in the hospital, she also broke into my apartment, stole my medication, and then ran off with a heroin addict. Soon after getting out of the hospital, the addict assaulted me and I had to call the cops. We had been together for two years.
5. For Mom
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 can’t think of a single “responsible” thing I had really done.
6. Too far, bro
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 at me. Looking back, I should have seen it coming, but at the time, nothing could have prepared me for his response. I realized he was right to be mad. All I did was try to bring him down for no reason. I stopped, which ironically enough annoyed him for a while. I guess he wasn’t used to me giving him compliments instead of insults.
7. New Kidney, Who Dis?
Having a kidney transplant at 17. My life and expectations changed significantly. But I’m still healthy and alive 26 years later.
8. Support Your Friends
I met a girl freshman year of college. We constantly dissed each other and pretended that we found it funny. One time we were drunk and she said something utterly heartbreaking: “I don’t think you’ve ever said one nice thing to me.” Up until that point, I’d never thought of it that way. I started dialling back on the insults and she did the same. Flash forward to a few years later: we’re best friends who actively try to build each other up instead of breaking each other down for laughs. Be nice to your friends!
9. Teacher Taught
I started teaching right out of college at age 22. I got a job in a Title I school teaching fifth 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 (three sections of 30 kids) fifth graders. At age 22.
My first few years of teaching taught me a lot about how the world worked. I grew a thick skin, learned to stand up for myself, and developed a desire to always improve myself.
10. A Harrowing Moment
When I was a young boy, my dad hid a dark secret. He was an alcoholic. He’d hide alcohol all over the house and often go to the bathroom for hours to just hide from my mother and drink beer without being lectured by her. He had a lot of problems. One day I was watching a movie with my dad and brother when my mom came over, screaming at him because she found more hidden alcohol. He was pretty drunk at this point and must have reached some sort of breaking point because he just jumped to his feet and immediately shoved her, knocking her to the floor.
She just got up and screamed, “I’m calling the police!” before dashing through the kitchen towards the phone. He followed her and grabbed two knives from the counter while her back was turned. I must have been around 12 at the time, but the moment I saw him grab the knives I lunged at him and latched myself onto his leg to slow him down.
This alerted my mom to the issue of him running towards her with a pair of knives. She bolted out the front door to the neighbors. He simply stopped at the front door and after several moments I followed my mother to the neighbors. About five minutes later my little brother showed up as well. I didn’t think I was traumatized by the incident or that it had any effect on me, but looking back, there was a fairly dramatic change in my personality.
11. Rug: Pulled
I made around $34 an hour my second year out of the army. I was on top of the world. I could afford to have my wife stay at home with our infant child at the time. It wasn’t until six months later that everything came crashing down around me. The company went under. My wife eventually found a $12 an hour job while I stayed at home receiving unemployment and searched for work. Took five months until I finally found a job. In the end I sold my house and moved into a smaller, much less appealing place. We’re finally back on our feet two years later, my wife is back to staying at home, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons.
12. Pretty Typical Roommate Experience
As a teenager and in my early 20s I figured that being lazy with dishes wasn’t that big a deal. Then I lived with roommates who didn’t do their dishes for days at a time. Left them to sit with nasty starchy food on them to rot and stink. Put them in the “drying side” for weeks at a time and never put them away. The rare moments when the sink was clear were like a rainbow for me.
But inevitably, within two or three days, it’d be full again, and the cycle would continue. I ended up moving out because of the dish situation. I just couldn’t stand being in the kitchen because it was a complete sty for 128 of the 132 days I lived there. It really made me realize how freaking nasty I had been before this, how unreal it was to assume people would be fine with my gross kitchen.
I made a lot of excuses for myself as a teenager. I made my mom’s life that much worse by shirking my one freaking chore because it’s gross and my feet hurt. It’s not that hard! It’s not that freaking hard! I’m an adult! It sucks, but it’s not that freaking hard, and then I get to have a clean kitchen, which is a genuinely healing experience.
13. BDFI Move
When I got arrested for BDFI (being a drunken freaking idiot), I vowed to change my life. I realized that almost every problem in my life was related to the fact that I was acting like a drunken 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.
14. Forced to Grow
My mom found out she had MS when I was nine or so. At the age of 12 I had to take care of her by myself while also taking care of two little brothers. Three days before I turned 19, she passed away. But the nightmare was just beginning. It happened on my birthday. I had to go into where you confirm the body. I’ll never forget that sight.
It made me realize that after that I had to grow up and make sure my brothers had a roof over their head. I’m 23 now. I’m a CNA and on my way to become a nurse. I’m dating a girl that has two kids and I love them like they were my own. My brothers are at the age where they can take care of themselves with a family member of mine. I think I did a pretty good job.
15. It Takes Time
My dad was killed in an accident. That didn’t make me grow up. My mom decided to deal with it by watching TV. Forever. Barely ever leaving the couch. That didn’t make me grow up. The rest of the family exiled me for not participating in their religion. That still wasn’t enough to make me grow up. I was two years post-graduation, unemployed in a dead-end gig-economy career path, spending most of my time on an X-Box. That didn’t make me grow up.
But then I had an epiphany. My girlfriend’s friends had an intervention and told her she could do better than me. That made me grow up. She was my first and only girlfriend. We had basically grown up together. We read the same books. I’d beat her at Smash but she’d beat me at Mortal Kombat. I’m not a complete person without her. Her friends weren’t wrong, but I wasn’t going to let them be right.
Two months later I had a bad minimum wage job that I worked for a year before it fell through. Then I got another bad minimum wage job that I worked my butt off at for almost a year and then got promoted. Took my “real” job money and found a place to live. A year after that, she agreed to move in with me. We’ve been married adults for almost a decade.
16. At the Edge
I was on Google looking up the best way to end it all, until I looked up some “Today I Learned” posts and was reminded of the power of negative association. I quit my graveyard shift gas station job and moved out of my parents’ house. Within two years I was married, had a good job, and bought a house. Just when I thought I had it all, everything changed. Within two years, my wife left me, I lost my job, and my dad died of cancer. Now I feel like I need to grow up again.
I grew up in college. I didn’t know how to properly work and got slapped across the face by disastrous grades.
18. A New Start
In December 2006, I finally faced my shameful secret. I had been a drug addict for 15 years. Even the people who desperately loved me were about to cut me off. I knew in my heart that this was my last chance to get my life in order otherwise it would be the end. I waled back into the rehab center that I had left six months prior. I vowed to complete the program and turn my life around. I did it.
19. Never Too Late
Watching all of my friends move on with their lives and graduate college, while there I was still working at the same grocery store. Now I’m two years into a computer science degree. Better late than never, right?
20. Bitten by the Social bug
I’m mostly an introvert, but at some point I realized that if I never socialized, I wouldn’t make any friends. Ever since that moment, I started going out, chatting with people online, expressing myself a little better, and might have a girlfriend soon. Honestly a good thing. I don’t know if it counts as a “grow up moment” but I hope it does.
21. Do What you Love
For years, I worked so hard to get into I.T school and become a programmer. But then I had a chilling realization: I wasn’t even interested in that line of work. In fact, the work made me so unhappy that I developed depression, was alone, and always angry. I now am going to school for art and design, have incredibly calmed down, and found the love of my life.
22. That’ll Do it
When I was 11, my mother gambled our rent away. I started working the next month.
23. The Scary Cop
I got pulled over for doing 90 mph in a 55 zone. I was 17, and in my state that’s when you are legally an adult. The officer had me stop the engine, get out, and then handcuffed me on the side of the road. I thought he was going to put me in his car, but instead we talked. I never could have anticipated what he had to say. He told me about making choices and the consequences of my actions if I had crashed or lost control and what would happen if he booked me for this: reckless endangerment, operating a motor vehicle 35 mph in excess of the speed limit, reckless driving.
After scaring me straight, he took off the handcuffs, handed me my keys, and told me that he had never see my name come up anywhere for anything ever again, before letting me go. I was shaking so bad I could barely drive off the highway. Suffice to say: I’ve never had another traffic violation.
24. Three Special Words
“He’s yours now.”
This was said by the nurse as she wheeled my son into my hospital room two days after he was born (he had to go away for medical complications). As I stood over my son’s bassinet, several realizations hit me in a way they hadn’t before: I am now responsible for you for years to come. I hope I do not screw this up. And really, this is a lifelong responsibility even when the legal aspect ends. And oh god, what if I screw you up?
Becoming a parent was sobering in a way I never expected.
25. Beating the Odds
My parents were not good people and preferred to take vacations and eat out constantly while my mentally handicapped brother and I starved in an infested shack with no heat, water, electricity, or walls in one part of the house, with the six dogs that they adopted and similarly neglected. I frequently fought with them and tried to convince them to at least not buy a fifth motorcycle in favor of perhaps feeding my brother.
I remember at one point, they parked their car behind mine in the driveway. The houses were such that I was totally blocked in. I asked them to move it so I could go to work (you know, to afford food for us to eat) and they refused. Okay, gimme the keys and I’ll move it. Nope. Move it five feet and I’ll go through the lawn. Nope. Eventually I blew up because they were taking away the only chance I had to feed my handicapped brother and I walked to work (three miles, I was late) and issued a terrible threat. I told them that if their car wasn’t moved when I came back, I was burning the house down. It terrified me that I meant it.
The final straw was when the house got fleas. I worked in food service and couldn’t keep my job if I had fleas. I slept in my car and never went inside. I offered to put the dogs in a kennel and let my brother have the car to sleep in if they’d hire an exterminator. They wouldn’t, but they went on a vacation to Vegas the next day. That was the last time I spoke to them, I left home as soon as they’d gone and never went back.
For nine months I lived out of my car. I would eat a loaf of bread a week, flavored with honey or taco bell sauce. I worked two jobs, 13 hours a day, just so I could stay out of the cold.
26. Dealing With it
Going to college. My first month there I realized (through some rather ugly incidents with friends) that the depression and anxiety I had been dealing with for years wasn’t going to go away just because I was out of high school. I needed to get help. I went to see my doctor to figure out next steps. Ever since then, my mental health has been better than ever. I do still have moments where I’m so anxious or upset that I need to be alone for a while, but they’re much easier to manage.
27. A Really Bad Interview
I was in my mid-20s, at a job interview for a job I really wanted. I’d already been in the field for a while and thought I was hot stuff. 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 bluffed 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 bluff 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.
28. Alcohol: Not the Answer
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.
29. Different Fates
The realization that I was a completely different person from who my parents were grooming me to be. Grew up the son of a Pentecostal minister. They wanted me to go to bible school after I graduated. I said no and then they informed me that bible school was the only thing they would pay for, so I joined the military. Now I live in Cambridge, UK and have been able to travel the world and fund my own education.
30. Get A Real Job
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. That was my rock bottom. I had to confront the truth. I couldn’t even cut it as a cashier in retail. It was probably time to get my act together, huh? Well, I did. I currently write code that organizes financial data.
31. The Power of Children
I had a child. It wasn’t just me and my adult, 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. I then had that job for eight years, and when I did switch jobs there was a significant pay increase. Now I’ve been there four years.
32. Living the Big Life
Right when I graduated college and moved out on my own, I received around a $100k inheritance and started spending money like it was nothing, to the point where I finally checked my financials and made a chilling realization. I had spent $30k 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.
33. Excuses, Excuses
A key moment in my development happened in a summer job 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 (besides me and the other summer hand).
He looked up at it and said, “Did you do this?” I hemmed and hawed and 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 screwed up, and let’s fix it.”
I almost uttered some more BS but instead said, “Yeah, I did screw that up. Let’s fix it.” And we did. That lesson is still fresh after a third of a century.
34. Tough Lesson
My father has always had a few screws loose. One day (I was about seven or eight), his entire family decided to totally ban him. No more contact, no more financial help. This was shortly after my mother left him and filed for divorce. As I can barely remember, he would beat on my half-brothers and my mother. I’m not so sure if he did me… I think I may have blocked it all out.
My mother didn’t have it in her to keep me from seeing my dad and having him in my life, as her previous husband (father to my half-brothers) had been murdered, and the pain of them without their father was just terrible. After all, my dad and I had a much better relationship than anyone else in the family. Maybe because I was his little girl? I still don’t know why I didn’t get it as bad as my siblings.
Years go by, and I have to live with the terrible truth: I am the only one that will be there for my dad. He became homeless while I was 16 years old. Addicted to drugs, lying, cheating, stealing. I knew what a terrible person he was, but that is my dad. I had to do something. I went to “Street School,” worked full time, moved out of my mother and stepfather’s house at 17 and let my father move in. I couldn’t handle seeing him so desperate. None of it benefited me in the slightest. It was all a waste of my young years, and my hard-earned money. But, dang, I learned a lot.
35. One Special Person
Met my wife, wasn’t on a bad path but had no real direction. Realized very quickly she was not going to stick around if I had no direction. Made sure to fix that.
I’m not sure if this counts, but when I realized how toxic my life was around me (family, professionally diagnosed mental health, abusive relationships etc), I finally realized I needed to get it together and be a grown up. I got myself out of my family’s house and moved into my own apartment with two people. Then, something incredible happened. I fell in love with one of them. We’re getting married later this year.
37. Turning it All Around
A few months ago, I divorced my wife of two years. It was amicable, so no hard feelings toward her. But once I got my own apartment, I took a deep nosedive into alcoholism. Completely wasted every night, it was a wonder I actually showed up to work every day. I got used to being hungover at work as the norm, and went straight home to drink another 24 pack alone in my little apartment every night.
This inevitably led to lack of sleep, which combined with all the alcohol, started giving me a warped, though still (barely) functioning view of myself and the world. Luckily, I had a friend who I could rant to and explain how depressed and drunk I was, and how I loved humanity, but hated myself for such inaction. She was extremely helpful in letting me vent, but obviously I was getting worse and worse.
After a few months of this, I started getting into (well-intentioned) bar fights, and swiping through tinder, falling in love for a day and coming on super strong, then completely changing my mind and breaking all these random girls’ hearts. Finally, the friend who I would drunkenly rant to suggested that I go back and read through all our conversations, sober. So that’s what I did this Monday. It was pretty entertaining, but very eye-opening. I went home that night and drank the one beer I happened to have left in the fridge. I haven’t had another since.
I’ve been cleaning up my apartment, apologizing to all the random girls, practicing the piano, and trying to eat healthier. I even have something of a job interview tomorrow! It’s really surprising how good it feels to actually get enough sleep and not be hungover all day. Let’s just hope it sticks this time!
38. Worst… Speech… Ever!
When I was in eighth grade, the principal gave a speech a couple days before our graduation. This is a transcript, to the best of my recollection: “You are the class of 2000, the first graduates from this school in the new millennium. Some of you I only met this year, some have been students of this institution for the entirety of their elementary and junior high school education. I can say, with maybe four or five exceptions, that you are the single most difficult, insufferable, delinquent group of students I have ever been forced to put up with.”
“I’m going to use some adult language, because in a few short years you will be adults: Nearly all of you are screw ups. And you need to hear that, because it seems like no one has ever said that to you before, and you can’t improve if you go around every day thinking you’re perfect. Yes, your parents love you and they think you’re perfect, your friends love you, your brothers and sisters love you; but the world out there isn’t going to reward you for being a loving son or a cool friend.”
“The world is going to expect you to perform and it’s going to punish you when you can’t. I’m not going to punish you, though, and I’ll tell you why: a lot of you don’t meet the requirements to graduate, either for academic or disciplinary reasons. All that is going to be corrected, on paper at least. Every one of you is walking down the aisle and getting a diploma tomorrow, not because you deserve it, not because I believe in you, but because I refuse to tolerate your presence in this school for another year. I tried as best I could, but I’m done being responsible for you. So there you have it, you’re welcome: none of you have to repeat the eighth grade. Good luck in high school.”
39. Taking the Wheel
I knew something was going on but didn’t know what. My son’s mom started being late for everything. Baseball practice, getting him to school on time, and eventually started forgetting to pick him up for school. The last time it happened the school called her dad, who hates me, to pick him up. He ended up keeping my son. We never had any kind of visitation set up because it was never a problem until that point. I went like two months without being able to see my son.
Then I got a court summons in the mail. I couldn’t believe what it said. My ex-wife’s sister was trying to get custody. It turned out that my ex was addicted to drugs and was running my name through the mud. Anytime they noticed her acting erratic or anytime she asked for money, she’d blame me. Her family started to hate me. We all ended up in court, fighting over my son.
The judge made my ex start taking random drug tests and all kinds of classes and some stuff. Her family thought for sure my son would go with them but when the judge asked, I said I wanted him. I went from living like a bachelor with a kid on the side to full time dad. We had to deal with child protective services for close to a year. Home visits, drug tests, mental health evaluations. It was a nightmare.
During that time my baby’s mom lost her house, failed tons of drugs tests, and went to prison for theft. She is out now and has supervised visitation on Thursdays but never shows up. It’s really sad to have to explain to my son. Her side of the family has come around. I let them see him whenever they want, I’m happy for the help really. The whole situation has really changed my outlook on life and then some.
40. Destroying Addiction
When I had been doing ecstasy two to three times a week for over a year, my memory became utterly ridiculous. I could barely string a sentence properly without thoroughly thinking it through. I felt anxious about everyone and everything probably due to lack of serotonin. I’m now a month sober, which may seem small to you, but is a big deal for me.
41. Permanent Retreat
Going to a job I hated every day and then wallowing in self-pity and petty office moaning. 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. I could shut up. Or I could walk away. Sounds silly but up until that moment I forgot I had a choice in the matter. Handed my notice in and went on a road trip for three months and without exaggeration, I’ve never been happier.
42. Shut-In Life and Death
I used to be an extreme and unapologetic shut-in. I moved to a new city to attend university but stayed very isolated. I used to take regular trips back to my hometown for weed and beyond that the only significant social contact I had was one friend from back in high school who was studying in a different city on pretty much the other side of the country. He lived the shut-in life, too, but didn’t smoke and always seemed to have his life relatively together. We regularly skyped for hours and hours, since we both spent a lot of our free time in front of our computers.
At some point, I started running out of money and had to start taking jobs. Around that time, said friend committed suicide.