In August 2010, as a follow-up to my New York Times Magazine article about twentysomethings, the NPR show “The Takeaway” asked their listeners to write in with their responses to the question: “How will you know when you’re an adult?” I was tickled by the exercise – it was the tail end of my 15 minutes of fame after the Times article, which included appearing on "The Takeaway" with my daughter Samantha – and found several of the answers insightful and funny. Among my favorites (and I took the liberty here to clean up the distressingly frequent misspellings – does anyone finally feel like an adult through knowing how to spell "vacuum"?) are the following:

You’ll know you’re an adult . . .

  • when you get excited over the silliest things, such as a new vacuum (Sarah from Michigan)
  • when you realize your parents aren’t as old as you thought (Reid from Memphis)
  • when your parents aren’t around to complain to, or to go to when life gets rough (Sharon from Lubbock)
  • when you go out to the garage, gather up all of your garden hose, connect it end to end, and the total length exceeds 300 feet (Steve from suburbia)
  • when friends start lending you their apartments and not the couch (Nicole from NJ)
  • when you accept responsibility for your mistakes (Marcus from Boston)
  • when no one wants your ideas carefully articulated on paper every day, and you’re not even close to being the cutest or cleverest person around (Jennifer from Greenwich Village)
  • when my parents asked what you want for your birthday and all you can think of is a self-defrosting refrigerator (Julie from New York)

I probably didn't think of myself as an adult until I'd already been married for two years and got a job that forced us to buy a car. Commuting from Evanston, Illinois out to Schaumberg every day listening to All Things Considered on the car radio -- that made me feel grown up in a way that years of public transit commuting never did, even though the commuting was to actual, grown-up jobs.

How about you? What is, or was, the "aha" moment that lets you know you're an adult?

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