How do you know when you’ve become an adult? Do you buy clothes and shoes based on comfort rather than style? Did you stop eating junk because your metabolism just isn’t the same anymore?
I knew I was adulting when I would leave parties early, so I could get eight hours of sleep. I also started avoiding certain restaurants because they were just too loud. My god, I hate loud places, I do not like staying up all night and I get a rush of endorphins when I make my bed in the morning.
Being ‘old’ is a state of mind, rather than turning a specific age. Some people I spoke to said they felt old when they had to start dealing with their finances, while others said they knew they were an adult when a new kitchen sponge made them feel happy. These people were in their early twenties, but were already feeling the ramifications of adulthood.
The body is a big indicator to many people that they are “getting old”
“I started realizing I was getting old, when I would wake up in the morning with back aches,” said Fatma to Gulf News. It is not uncommon for people’s bodies to change and lose vitality, as they get older.
“My knees started hurting and my metabolism started to slow down,” said Nadia.
“I once instantly got severe knee pain when I agreed to play football… I simply agreed, I hadn’t even played at this point. It’s like my body is anticipating it,” said Moumen to Gulf News.
Elma also realized how her body reacts to movement and injuries. “I knew I was getting old, when my once small injuries started taking much longer to heal.”
“I knew I was getting old when that first grey hair showed up in my beard,” Ibrahim told Gulf News.
“ I now cook my own meals at home and drink more water, because I just needed to be healthy so that my body could feel better,” said Shady to Gulf News.
Younger kids make you feel old
Others had awakenings that were more psychological. “When my baby sister started driving,” said Mahitab sadly. Others realized they grew up to sound just like their very grown up parents.
“I started realizing that I wasn’t the youngest in the office anymore… by a long shot,” Alexandru told Gulf News.
Having young people around is a reminder that we are getting older. “I once got called uncle by a kid. That was when I realized that I actually am considered an adult now,” Seif said. His cousin Sherif was also called an uncle by a random kid on the streets of Egypt at one point. I am not old! I am only 30!” Sherif exclaimed to Gulf News. But children will look up at anyone older than 22 and consider them an adult.
“I felt old when I started realizing that people who were born in the year 2000 are now grown up members of society,” said Randa. “They can drive, they can be tried as adults in the court of law.”
No more all nighters
Staying home more often was one of the most common answers when Gulf News polled its readers. “I secretly started wishing that a night out or a party would get cancelled so I can sleep,” said Pakinam. Gulf News reader Safa also agrees, “I knew I was getting older when I started sleeping early and coming home straight after work, instead of staying up or partying.” Liliana explained that she now stopped scheduling plans on Friday nights. “I just want to stay home on Friday nights, so I either cancel plans or just not schedule them,” she said.
Some choose to still live life to the fullest by going out with friends but just leaving events early. Shelly said to Gulf News, “I started leaving social events at 9.30pm, so that I can get 7 hours of sleep.
Started turning into my parents
“When I realized I sounded exactly like my dad with some of the things I was saying,” said Tarik. “I still find myself saying and thinking like he does.” Starting to sound and do things the way our parents used to is an indicator that we are officially adults. Parents raised us a certain way and said things a certain way. Now we act like them, talk like them and would probably raise our kids the same way they do. For example, get married and have kids. “I had to tie the knot to really feel grown up,” Sara told Gulf News.
“I started feeling old when all my friends had babies,” Marina told Gulf News.
“When I got pregnant,” said Salma. “I am young, but I also now feel like a grown up,” she said.
Unlike big life changes like marriage and children, some people get excited about meal prepping and cleaning. “New kitchen sponge, new mood,” Mahy told Gulf News.
“I got super excited when I bought myself a fancy vacuum cleaner,” said Dawn.
“When I went to see an accountant!” said Lina.
“When I paid my first rent,” said Maryam.
Adulting…. makes people feel like… well… adults.
I don’t understand slang anymore
“Someone once used the words ‘peak’ and ‘bare’ and they did not mean the top of a mountain or empty. They were millennial terms I just couldn’t understand, so I had to google those words,” Alexander said to Gulf News. “I had to download the urban dictionary app, so I can understand what half of the kids are talking about these days.”
Zaib also could not relate to slang at one point. “I felt old when someone called me a ‘boo’. I am your what? Your boo?” (Editor’s note. Boo is someone you love. Someone you care about. Someone who is a lifetime best friend.)
“I started disliking the younger generation and not understanding their trending terms and abbreviations,” Osama told Gulf News.
So, we asked Aamnah Husain, American Board Certified, Psychologist
Is age really just a state of mind?
Age is a measure of time spent in this existence, in this mind and body. As we age, we mature and develop, mentally and physiologically. Well into our early adulthood the brain grows in different regions and becomes more sophisticated for example the pre-frontal cortex, a part of the brain that is linked with reasoning, executive functioning and logic, and in older age we see a reduction in the thickness of the pre0frontal cortex. Wear and tear of the body as we age is real, but our brain also has neuroplasticity, which means that exercising different parts of the brain and our behaviors and environments can help us actually grow and strengthen the structure of our brain.
However, the way we perceive age and what it denotes to each of us is constructed based on personality, significant life events, socio-cultural and environmental influences. Every age and stage has its own benefits, advantages and developmental challenges but in many cultures and societies today "old" age is a limiting concept, with people of both sexes experiencing discrimination.
What is the most common age people feel “old”?
Interestingly, up to mid-20s, we find that kids and young adults feel their subjective age to be older than their real age and then a switch takes place somewhere around 25 where people report that the age they feel they are (subjective age) is younger than their real age. For example, a 35 year old may feel that they are 28 inside.
The sense of feeling "old" however, has a negative connotation for most people, typically derived from concerns of some kind of loss and often based on socio-cultural beliefs about old age. Major challenges or life events like life-threatening disease or a divorce or death of a parent, can change our perception of being young or old. A recognition of unfulfilled desires and living a life misaligned with our values can also generate a sense of time passing by too quickly, of things left undone, of us being old. There is no set age at which people may feel old, but typically, around mid-age 40s and 50s people find themselves taking stock of life, accomplishments and future goals and forming concerns about "old" age.
So what did I learn? When you’re older, you know yourself better. You know your body better, you know your habits better and you aren’t ashamed to admit your desire for “me time” or sleeping early, eating healthy and just relaxing instead of partying.
I guess we do get wiser (and a lot more tired)