2017-04-16 / Community

Becoming an adult takes practice

By NINA COLLAY
Columnist

At this part of my life, it’s very easy to feel like I’m an adult. I’m capable of taking care of myself. I know how to drive, how to hold a normal conversation, how to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

And then I have to raise my hand and ask permission to leave the room to use the bathroom and the feeling passes.

For all the adults in the world who may have forgotten that happened to them — yes, teenagers still have to sit through lectures on responsibility and adulthood and how by this point in our educational careers we ought to have some control of our lives and be prepared to enter the real world in a year, and then be immediately reminded that we really have no control and no rights. And it’s still entirely ridiculous. 

Did you know that countries with lower drinking ages tend to have lower binge drinking rates as well? It’s been suggested that the U.S.’s high binge drinking rate, particularly among college students, is connected to the high legal drinking age.

I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense — if you’re going to get in trouble for drinking at all, why not drink to excess when you get the chance, right? In for a penny, in for a pound. The fact that it can only be done illicitly is only encouragement for unhealthy habits.

It all seems to tie back to this same immensely frustrating dichotomy — there’s this expectation that turning 18, or 21, or however old you consider “adult” will flip some magical switch and imbue all the knowledge and experience necessary for responsibility and adulthood, so there’s no point in giving children or teenagers any actual responsibility to practice with. By the same token, a support system is hit-or-miss enough that if you screw up after the prescribed age of adulthood, it can be permanent. 

I’m not saying we should change our standard metric of adulthood — whether earlier, to 16, or even as late as 25 when the brain’s supposed to be done developing. Or at least, I’m not trying to say that. You’re free to form your own opinions. My point is that it’s unfair and incongruous to expect people to assume new roles and responsibilities while, in many parts of their lives, refusing to grant them the dignity of being treated capable to take on those roles and responsibilities — or at least determining if they need a bathroom break.

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