Going Deep on Adulting with Sophie

Going Deep on Adulting with Sophie

From the Editor of The Deep:

 This year, at age 38, I had a realization: by anyone’s standards, I guess I’m a full-fledged adult. I have a mortgage, two kids, retirement accounts, and even a living will. My husband and I attend parent-teacher conferences and discuss things like whether or not our city councilman is doing a good job. Other signs I’m a real adult: I spend a fortune trying to treat wrinkles, spider veins, dark circles etc. … and I regularly have to turn on subtitles (yes, to English-language TV shows) because I guess I can’t hear very well anymore.

Apparently I’m #adulting all the live-long day.

 So ... why don’t I feel like an adult?  And what qualifies someone as an adult anyway?  Is it age? Experience? Wisdom? Or is it something else entirely … something intangible and ambiguous, a quality or a mindset? In other words: at what point do we literally grow up?

To get you warmed up we’ve asked our friends - founders Ashley Merrill of Lunya, Hillary Peterson of True Botanicals, Sophie Kahn of Aurate, and Jessy Dover of Dagne Dover - to weigh in.

 

Ashley Merrill

Ashley Merrill, founder of Lunya

 

On the day you turn 18 in the United States, you gain a lot of rights and privileges. For example: you can vote, buy a house, get married, get sued, buy a lottery ticket, join the military, change your name, donate blood, book a hotel room, walk into an adults-only store, open a brokerage account and trade stocks, be called for jury duty … and even adopt a child. In your opinion, are most people mature enough to handle these rights and privileges at the age of 18?

Ashley: Yes. The reality is, I think most of us are never ready to handle most of these things, but at a certain point, when decision making capabilities are “good enough,” people have to be pushed out of the nest. I lived abroad in Italy when I was 20 and made some Italian friends. Often we would go to a parties together and I realized the Americans were trashed and the Italians weren’t. They grew up with alcohol as a non-momentous part of a family meal, and thus had a more casual, less forbidden-fruit relationship with the substance. Weirdly, it led me to a "give responsibility and exposure early" takeaway. I was reading The Boxcar Children to my kids the other night, and back in 1924, the 9-year-old had a job, so I think for the most part humans are capable of a lot; they just need repetitions with independence and decision-making vs being dramatically turned loose.

 

Given the significance of the rights and responsibilities you unlock as an adult, does it make more sense to use an arbitrary threshold (such as your 18th birthday) to determine adulthood? Or should the government administer tests to confirm that you are intellectually, emotionally and/or physically mature enough to handle these responsibilities?

Ashley: Arbitrary threshold — I tend to be more of a personal freedoms person and wonder if we start allowing the government to micro manage freedoms that it might turn into a creepy authoritarian situation.

 

We all know that teenagers sometimes make poor decisions. It turns out that there’s a physiological reason for this: their brains aren’t fully formed. Research shows that the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that controls logic/reason and that takes long-term consequences into account) does not fully develop until people reach their mid- to late-20s. Because their prefrontal cortex is not fully “online” yet, teenagers tend to make decisions using the amygdala, the part of the brain that governs emotions. In other words: teenagers’ (and even young adults’) brains may simply not be capable of making good decisions. Given this evidence, should we raise the age at which you are legally considered an adult?

Ashley: No. I can see the argument for 25, but on the other hand, I know plenty of 18 year olds with better decision making than my mid-thirties friends, so age is just a rough benchmark. As a parent, I also think 18 tends to be a natural time for kids to push away and seek independence, so holding their rights longer than we expect them to love being home with their parents feels problematic.

 

At what age did you feel like an adult?

Ashley: I think my thinking really matured mid-twenties, but I became an adult adult when I had my first child. I started to have to operate with a larger amount of responsibility and my life didn’t orient as much around me.

 

What does it mean to be an “adult” to you?

Ashley: Freedom and responsibility. These two things are not usually bedfellows and in a way, one kind of restricts the other but... I perceive adulthood as when you have the true freedom to act as you want. You can turn into a wandering beach bum who lives it up in #vanlife or a career-family person, but whatever path you have the freedom to choose, it’s a time when you alone must carry the responsibilities for your decisions. As I’m unpacking this I’m seeing it as less of an age and more of an independence thing.

 

  

Hillary Peterson

Hillary Peterson, founder of True Botanicals

 

On the day you turn 18 in the United States, you gain a lot of rights and privileges. For example: you can vote, buy a house, get married, get sued, buy a lottery ticket, join the military, change your name, donate blood, book a hotel room, walk into an adults-only store, open a brokerage account and trade stocks, be called for jury duty … and even adopt a child. In your opinion, are most people mature enough to handle these rights and privileges at the age of 18?

Hillary: I am going to say yes because I believe that, as a parent, the goal should be to prepare kids to handle this transition to adulthood when it comes. I have observed that a lot of teenage rebellion comes from kids wanting more responsibility than they are given. As we loaded more responsibilities onto our kids’ plates, they were busy rising to the occasion rather than finding ways to rebel.

 

Given the significance of the rights and responsibilities you unlock as an adult, does it make more sense to use an arbitrary threshold (such as your 18th birthday) to determine adulthood? Or should the government administer tests to confirm that you are intellectually, emotionally and/or physically mature enough to handle these responsibilities?

Hillary: Given the implications of potentially discriminating against people who do not have equal access to education, the idea of adding barriers to participating in civil society concerns me. It’s a basic right.

 

We all know that teenagers sometimes make poor decisions. It turns out that there’s a physiological reason for this: their brains aren’t fully formed. Research shows that the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that controls logic/reason and that takes long-term consequences into account) does not fully develop until people reach their mid- to late-20s. Because their prefrontal cortex is not fully “online” yet, teenagers tend to make decisions using the amygdala, the part of the brain that governs emotions. In other words: teenagers’ (and even young adults’) brains may simply not be capable of making good decisions. Given this evidence, should we raise the age at which you are legally considered an adult?

Hillary: No, in my experience, giving people — even teenagers — more responsibility makes them more responsible.

 

At what age did you feel like an adult?

Hillary: For me, becoming an adult happened in stages. It started with living on my own in college at 18 and solidified when I became financially responsible for myself, upon graduation at 22.

 

What does it mean to be an “adult” to you?

Hillary: See above.

 

 

Jessy Dover

Jessy Dover, co-founder of Dagne Dover

 

On the day you turn 18 in the United States, you gain a lot of rights and privileges. For example: you can vote, buy a house, get married, get sued, buy a lottery ticket, join the military, change your name, donate blood, book a hotel room, walk into an adults-only store, open a brokerage account and trade stocks, be called for jury duty … and even adopt a child. In your opinion, are most people mature enough to handle these rights and privileges at the age of 18?

Jessy: Yes! It’s hard to ever feel ready for any of these things in my opinion, but you have to get on the horse and start learning at some point. Although all people are different, it was around 16 when I felt the powerful itch to break free of my parents and make my own decisions! These things are valuable life choices and moments to be learned from. I think it’s incredibly important to prepare children to make the right decisions for themselves, and let them make mistakes so they have the opportunity to learn. When I was 16, I REALLY wanted to get my tongue pierced, and I was dying because I needed a parent to sign the consent forms and I KNEW mine would say no for obvious reasons. Once I gathered up the courage to ask, she responded with a calm, “sure”. I ended up getting it pierced, and taking it out a year later because I decided that it was not my vibe anymore. No fight, no judgement, just a life experience. My mom knew that I needed to experience the feeling of having the power to make my own decisions before releasing me into the world (2 years later). Although it seems young from an adult perspective, I think that people can handle these rights and privileges.

 

Given the significance of the rights and responsibilities you unlock as an adult, does it make more sense to use an arbitrary threshold (such as your 18th birthday) to determine adulthood? Or should the government administer tests to confirm that you are intellectually, emotionally and/or physically mature enough to handle these responsibilities?

Jessy: I do not believe the government should administer tests to determine if someone is an adult or not. In my experience, people learn in different ways, mature at different rates, want different things, and that is what makes the world such a fascinating place! I’m not sure that “tests” could really determine the answer. I believe there is an opportunity to make the entry into adulthood a tradition that carries more social weight, and something that’s a privilege and an honor, and perhaps that would make the rights and responsibilities that one “unlocks” at age 18 deserving of more careful consideration. For example, when I was in middle school, I remember talking to a girl (while we rode on the tire swing) about getting our periods. I remember thinking “why would I want to get my period??” but her perspective was much different. She was so excited to become a woman, and had spent a lot of time considering what products she would use, how she would manage school during her cycle, etc. Looking back, it seems it was presented to her as a coming-of-age privilege, and something to be proud of, whereas for me, it had always been expressed to me as a burden or annoying extra thing that women had to deal with which made me disinterested. All I’m saying is that there may be opportunities to improve the ways in which we prepare our children for adulthood as a society, but I do not think government tests are the answer.

 

We all know that teenagers sometimes make poor decisions. It turns out that there’s a physiological reason for this: their brains aren’t fully formed. Research shows that the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that controls logic/reason and that takes long-term consequences into account) does not fully develop until people reach their mid- to late-20s. Because their prefrontal cortex is not fully “online” yet, teenagers tend to make decisions using the amygdala, the part of the brain that governs emotions. In other words: teenagers’ (and even young adults’) brains may simply not be capable of making good decisions. Given this evidence, should we raise the age at which you are legally considered an adult?

Jessy: No. Although the above statement is true, I do not think we’re ever truly “ready” for anything. Becoming an “adult” at a certain age only trains a person for what is to come! Practice makes perfect! Also, I’m a bit concerned that changing this age would result in quieting the voice of an important generation of people. For example, I started my company at a young age, and I was very much a child in many ways, but the experience of starting it led to my ability to understand what “being an adult” really means, and the responsibility that comes with that. On the flip side, I think deferring adulthood should be something that is available to all, but that’s another question!

 

At what age did you feel like an adult?

Jessy: 23 because I energetically disconnected from my parents. I am very close with them now, but before that, they would give me money when I needed it, take me on vacation with the family, etc. Once I finally disconnected from them, I became my own person, and it allowed me to make my own decisions independent of what they thought or said. I was finally free.

 

What does it mean to be an “adult” to you?

Jessy: I think adulthood is an elusive concept, and doesn’t really mean anything, if I’m 100% honest. For the sake of answering the question though, I imagine it could have something to do with being responsible for yourself and any humans you bring into this world, and to have enough life experience to have an awareness that considers the collective over the individual when necessary. But honestly, I’m still trying to figure this one out. :)

 

 


Sophie Kahn, co-founder of Aurate New York

 

On the day you turn 18 in the United States, you gain a lot of rights and privileges. For example: you can vote, buy a house, get married, get sued, buy a lottery ticket, join the military, change your name, donate blood, book a hotel room, walk into an adults-only store, open a brokerage account and trade stocks, be called for jury duty … and even adopt a child. In your opinion, are most people mature enough to handle these rights and privileges at the age of 18?

Sophie: I think it really depends on the person. I’ve known people who acted like adults when they were 12, and people who still don’t act like adults at 45. The cutoff at 18 makes sense to me in the sense that this is the age people usually leave their parents’ house and therefore need to have rights to ensure their independence.

 

Given the significance of the rights and responsibilities you unlock as an adult, does it make more sense to use an arbitrary threshold (such as your 18th birthday) to determine adulthood? Or should the government administer tests to confirm that you are intellectually, emotionally and/or physically mature enough to handle these responsibilities?

Sophie: While an arbitrary threshold is far from perfect, I would 100% opt for that. Administering tests can be a slippery slope and lead society down a dangerous path. The administration of tests can just exacerbate things such as economic and educational inequality that already pervade society. The rights to adulthood are kind of like democracy, there are a lot of flaws in it, but there’s no better alternative.

 

We all know that teenagers sometimes make poor decisions. It turns out that there’s a physiological reason for this: their brains aren’t fully formed. Research shows that the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that controls logic/reason and that takes long-term consequences into account) does not fully develop until people reach their mid- to late-20s. Because their prefrontal cortex is not fully “online” yet, teenagers tend to make decisions using the amygdala, the part of the brain that governs emotions. In other words: teenagers’ (and even young adults’) brains may simply not be capable of making good decisions. Given this evidence, should we raise the age at which you are legally considered an adult?

Sophie: Not necessarily, but there are a few things to consider. For instance, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of accidental deaths amongst teenagers (roughly 1/3 of all deaths). Why then allow kids to drive at 16? I would raise this age, similar to what Europe has. At the end of the day, kids take higher risks due to their underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, so ideally society should protect them by removing the triggers where this can lead to fatalities (drugs, alcohol, guns, cars) until they are older.

 

At what age did you feel like an adult?

Sophie: Somewhere around 18. This is when I left home, moved to a new country, and basically set up my life on my terms. Growing up in Europe, you actually have a lot of freedom when you’re much younger vs. the US, e.g. kids bike to school alone starting at 8 years old, you can drink at 16, I travelled to Spain alone with friends at 17. So by the time I was 18, I feel like I was mostly an adult — of course I’ve matured since then (or at least I hope so) but the foundation was set.

 

What does it mean to be an “adult” to you?

Sophie: To be able to control your impulses and emotions and instead to be able to think rationally, with empathy, and assume responsibility for your actions and for others (basically the opposite of my 3-year old toddler).