Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Some time ago a friend from high school invited me to her daughter's debut. And I had to proxy for her daughter's ninong and maybe give a few words on what it means to become an adult. My first two reactions were (1) wow I'm so old one of my batchmates has an eighteen-year-old daughter; and (2) what the heck would I know about becoming an adult? (I guess (3) was "oh, it's a debut, so it's formal and I have to dress up? I hate dressing up.")

I mean, don't get me wrong. I certainly consider myself an adult. But I have no idea when that transitioned happened. It's not like when you turn eighteen you get some kind of brain implant that magically tells you how to live life and be independent and get a job and be responsible and do your taxes and all that stuff.

If anything, I would say "becoming an adult" is a continuing task that keeps going on even when you're nearing the big four-oh and beyond. I guess the zeitgeist is already aware of this though, given how we've coined the word "adulting", which basically means doing stuff that makes you feel like an adult. Like going to the bank. Or signing contracts. Or even dressing up to go to a formal event.

While we were having dinner at the event, I jokingly said I should just give a message like "fake it til you make it." I basically feel that's what most of adulthood is: bumbling along until you figure out what the heck you're doing. When you're a kid you look up to the grown-ups who can go out and do anything they want and confidently do all these jobs and they know everything. But when you grow up you realize that's not really how it works -- most of the time all the adults are struggling through life too, trying to figure out whatever thing they have to do that day, or even just trying to make it to the next paycheck. And you're definitely going to miss being a kid. Maybe that's the sign that you're already an adult, when you already miss being a kid?

I ended up reading a few words from the actual ninong, so I didn't get to give my own adulthood message. One of my other batchmates gave the debutante a copy of The Art of War as a gift, with the message that adulthood is basically warfare so she should be prepared. While I agree with that sentiment somewhat, I think for me the most important thing about becoming an adult would be learning to find your own voice and identity. That means figuring out what's important to you and what values you hold. Being an adult isn't easy, but knowing yourself in this way gives you a framework to guide you in your adulting decisions.

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Last modified at: Oct. 23, 2020, 4:35 a.m.. Source file