What Makes Me… a Grownup?

According to a pro skateboarder, an HR expert, a clown and four other experts in their fields


In this installment of our “What Makes Me a…” column, we asked seven people what makes them think of a person as a fully functioning adult.

David Reyes, Professional Skateboarder: A grownup is someone who has experienced enough to learn from their mistakes, someone who knows right from wrong and someone who can determine positive from negative. There’s no need to be a sh*t person, so just don’t be a lame human: Do good yourself, don’t be judgmental and give a helping hand when you see someone in need. Also, being an adult means making sure the youth understands what it takes to build a positive world for the next generation. So enjoy your life and pass on your knowledge to the youth, because one day, they may save you.

Neena Dutta, Immigration Lawyer: My knee-jerk response was, “Paying bills, filing taxes and being responsible for another being’s poop — either a pet’s or small child’s.” But I know lawyers and CEOs who honestly don’t appear to have caught onto this whole “adulting” thing the rest of us signed up for.

At the end of the day, putting on pants before you go outside helps. But more than that, making better choices is the defining factor: I have a friend who says to her toddler, “Make good choices!” and I’m guessing she could probably say that to a bunch of supposed grownups in her life, as well.

Rayne Parvis, Stylist: You know you’re a grownup if you’re wearing matching socks, hole-free boxers and your clothes are wrinkle-free, tailored and clean, in addition to being color-coordinated. You get bonus “adult points” if you’ve taken your items to be cleaned at the dry cleaners that need it, rather than throwing the special-care items in the washer and hoping for the best.

Joanne Hawking, Special Education Teacher: Being a grownup is realizing that you’re not the center of the universe, along with the realization that you’re part of a much bigger world, and that each person in it is equally valid and worthwhile, regardless of age, gender, ability, race, religion or any other human-made marker. What makes someone not a grownup is the incessant need to feel that they’re better than others, and the inability to experience childlike joy. Also, being a big poopy-head.

Dr. Vallerie Coleman, Equine Therapist: Three things immediately come to mind:

  • An ability to take action versus being caught in reactions. This entails taking time to pause, assess and check in with gut feelings and rationality before thoughtfully proceeding with action.
  • Taking responsibility for oneself and one’s actions. This means taking responsibility for your choices, not blaming others when things don’t go the way you’d like and being able to authentically apologize for the impact of your choices/actions.
  • The ability to be open and curious about how others experience you as well as the ability to learn from your mistakes.

Tommy the Clown, Professional Hip-Hop Clown: What I believe makes me, Tommy the Clown, a grownup is that I take care of myself and others. I’m the owner of a business and responsible for making sure it’s been successful for more than 25 years. That entails keeping the clown-car clean, getting to the party on time, creating the atmosphere for the children and facing the ridicule of doing a poor job.

Terry Petracca, HR Expert: Being a grownup isn’t about age, although the older you are, the more adult you should act. It’s about taking responsibility and not fobbing off actions or outcomes on others. You no longer believe you’re entitled to any- and everything. You earn your way (and sometimes get lucky). It’s about imparting wisdom that you’ve gleaned over years of being a good listener and learner. Your words have the weight of experience and authority because you’ve been there, done that and have the scars to prove it.