When Are You Really an Adult?

What adulthood means in a society is an ocean fed by too many rivers to count. It can be legislated, but not completely. Science can advance understanding of maturity, but it can’t get us all the way there. Social norms change, people opt out of traditional roles, or are forced to take them on way too soon. You can track the trends, but trends have little bearing on what one person wants and values. Society can only define a life stage so far; individuals still have to do a lot of the defining themselves. Adulthood altogether is an Impressionist painting—if you stand far enough away, you can see a blurry picture, but if you press your nose to it, it’s millions of tiny strokes. Imperfect, irregular, but indubitably part of a greater whole.

Julie Beck writing in The Atlantic 

Both Tough and Tender

In many parts of American society it is considered inappropriate for men to express any emotion save one--anger. When a man learns to express other feelings and not be so concerned whether as to whether others think he is strong or “manly” he takes a major step forward.

Sure, there’s a time and place to "come on strong and take no prisoners." But it's a denial of your humanity to oversimplify, hiding behind a narrow definition of manhood. Men must be both tough and tender. Maturity comes when when we understand which one is appropriate at what time.

Stephen Goforth

unrolling a person

Development is an interesting word derived from a linguistic root meaning “rolled” or “folded.” An envelope is a folded sheet of paper, and to develop is to “unroll” something that has been heretofore so tightly rolled that we could not see what it really was. After the child has grown up, we can say that she was that way from the very start. But when she was a child, it was anyone’s guess how she would turn out.

The particular individual is an entity that is both utterly unique and profoundly like others. In this paradox of sameness and difference, we are like leaves on a tree or waves on the ocean.

The path of development is the fishtailing course we follow as we let go of what we have been and then discover a new thing to become—only to let go of that in time and become something new. This is the Way of Transition, the way or path of life itself, the alternating current of embodiment and disengagement, expansion and contractions.

William Bridges, The Way of Transitions