The Sharpened Quill

Caitlin Kelly

Caitlin Kelly
Tarrytown, NY, USA
December 31
non-fiction author/speaker/consultant
Bio Author "Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail" (Portfolio, April 2011), deemed "an excellent memoir" by Entertainment Weekly. Out in paperback July 31, 2012. I also edit other writers' work -- everything from thrillers to business books. Email me for hourly rates; references available.

Caitlin Kelly's Links

APRIL 21, 2012 8:09AM

Ten warning signs you're an adult

Rate: 9 Flag
My Mortgage Docs to be Reviewed by an Expert
My Mortgage Docs to be Reviewed by an Expert (Photo credit: Casey Serin)

We all know the standard metrics: graduate college, grad school, marry, have kids, acquire property and a vehicle.

I never had kids, so that typical dividing line into Maturity escaped me.

But for many of us, different moments mark a definite end to innocence.

Here are ten that resonate for me:


I grew up in a family of freelancers whose approach to paying income tax -- which is never deducted at source, for those of you who've never done it -- was, hmmm, variable. One day my Dad said, "I have two pieces of advice for you about taxes."

"Running and hiding?"

Suffice to say I now have a very good accountant and genuflect to him deeply.

A mortgage

In New York, getting a mortgage is like some bizarro obstacle course littered with lawyers with out-stretched hands. Check, check, check, check!

Knowing -- and caring about -- your FICO score

For those of you outside the U.S., this is your credit score whose quality determines whether life is pleasant (low interest rates on mortgages, car loans, credit cards) or a hell of slammed doors refusing you access to any sort of credit. Surprisingly few consumers realize what sort of leverage you have with a good score -- a lot!

Giving informed consent for my mother's brain surgery

That was very weird, given how deeply private she always was. I looked, literally, into her head, staring at the four-inch tumor on X-ray that soon, successfully, came out.

Putting my mother into a nursing home

Pretty much the hell you'd expect: having to sell 95 percent of her things and make consequential decisions quickly. Being an only child makes it both easier and harder.

Getting a colonoscopy

For those of you under 50, something to look forward to! (And those putting it off out of fear, it's no big deal. You have one wearying day beforehand to cleanse you colon, go to sleep during the procedure. Done.)

Knowing your neighbors

When you're young, single and often behaving badly, you may not want to know your neighbors. Who was that guy/girl skulking out of your apartment? What were those weird noises at 3 a.m.? Once you're a bit older, maybe traveling for work, maybe with a place you own and/or value more than a dive shared with six roomies, having kind and watchful neighbors is a wonderful thing.

Regular mammograms/Pap smears/prostate exams

I'm always a little stunned when I hear of someone, (who has health insurance, which in the U.S. means these are no-brainers), who skips these essential tests. No one wants to hear bad news. My mother has survived breast cancer, so mammo day is always a little shaky for me. But seriously? Just do it!

Joining a faith community

No disrespect to atheists and agnostics. But for many of us, finding a congenial place to nurture your spiritual growth is a major step. It's easy to focus solely on family/work/friends/fun -- until the shit hits the fan.

Making a will/living will/power of attorney/health care proxy

So cheery! But if you have been fortunate enough to have accumulated anything of value, it's worth deciding who to leave it to. And facing any sort of major surgery -- even childbirth, my mom-pals tell me -- means facing the scariest of fears about mortality or severe injury.

How about you?

What milestones have marked your path to adulthood?

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Caitlin,an excellent work here...So useful and needed in these times.My milestones would be the death of my loved ones,loneliness,taxes,debts,insults that I must face with kindness,comρromises,the forgetting of myself,my travellings,my dreams of a good health,good work,good house,good car,good family,good sense of humour,the guilts I always feel..Oh,there are so many...but still inside an adult trying to be a resρonsible child!!Excellent work..Rated with thank you for sharing...Best regards!!!
With a few modifications all of the above. Oh yeah! Here's one more: being laid of in your early fifties. I guess this means I can die now. Bye.
I've hit just over half of them. In fact, there's only 3 I haven't done! On my list would be finally learning how to live in one place and thinking it might be an okay thing.
For me, it was planning my mother's funeral. Like you I did not have children, but I worked in ICU for years and still felt a change in my status as I called that funeral home.
Except for the faith community, these are the stories of my life too. (Getting the first college tuition bill will do the trick.) Like you said, the health ones - colonscopy, mammogram - should be no-brainers. Putting my mother into a nursing home - that was (and is) a painful one.
I realized that I was more than an adult when my children don't need to ask me for help or advice.
I think we face a lot of these milestones alone, or with a spouse or maybe some siblings, but no place to share how they feel. I'm fortunate that my father is still very healthy at 83.

My mother is already out of touch with me (long story, not for here) so planning her funeral (if I even do) may one day be less painful for me than it would be for many others. My husband's parents died more than 30 years ago, so, selfishly, he is able to help me with these passages.
I'm not sure adulthood is about what you do but how. You could do the grown-up thing in a childish way or the childish thing, like wild dancing in the bar, with a grown-up attitude (taking a little healthy break from responsibility and work). You could decide to splurge on a new sportscar as a grown-up who needs a treat or count every penny and get nothing as a child who's afriad to lose something. Just another perspective...
Buying a long-term care insurance policy. Ugh.
jackie2, of course. It's all individual.

Jeanette, this is also on our to-do list. UGH indeed....but now that my mother is blowing $5k a month for her nursing home care (at the age of 76) there's a cautionary tale.
Divorce. A wedding these days is just prom-redux, but Divorce! That's a biggie.
This could have been title, "The General Biography of An Average Middle-Class American."

For me, it was leaving a faith community. I had less and less in common with prosperous, well-dressed parents of well-behaved, immaculate children. I felt reproached for my poverty and noncompliant kids--clearly God's favor didn't shine on me! It's good to have Sunday mornings back.

About the routine tests--I'm one of those no-brain people who avoid them. I can't take the time off from work (I take too much sick time for my husband's surgical and radiological procedures already) and my insurance doesn't cover them in full so I can't afford them either. The last time I got a Pap smear, two years ago, the lab used by my doctor did a bunch of unauthorized tests (I think for chlamydia and HPV) of which my insurance covered only a small fraction, and the lab had the effrontery to send me the remainder of the bill. I told them what they could do with it--I'd never asked for these tests! And the two times I had mammograms, I had to go back for extra compressions, which scared me a lot, only to find it was nothing at all, I just have cellulite of the tit or something...

One milestone coming up that I dread is my first loss of a pet to old age. Phoebe, my poodle mix, will be 16 soon, and she's a frail little skeleton with a little fluff to cover her. It's her picture that I use for Snippy.
Never been much interested in adultery. The trick is to stay poor enough to avoid taxes altogether. A house and a car are just drags to take time and effort away from important things like figuring what is enjoyable in remaining alive after 80 and relishing vanilla ice cream cones and an occasional cup of coffee. I don't have TV, hardly ever go to the movies, don't download music, have a cell phone that I talk and listen to for occasional calls once or twice a week and have no credit card. The internet is useful for free newspapers and general information and a bit of amusing argument. I can paint with ketchup and shoe polish on pieces of cardboard boxes Just being alive and whistling at birds and feeding pigeons and playing with poetry and graphics costs almost nothing and is quite rewarding. I don't know nor want to know my neighbors. The world is replete with idiotic brutality and violent stupidity and is best kept at a long distance.
The older I get, the more sense Jan makes.......

skypixie, your comment is inaccurate. I'm neither middle class, American or average. It also feels a little snide, which seems to me un-necessary. I asked for your own impressions, not judgment of mine.
My impression was exactly what you got. How you read all that into it is beyond me but rest assured that it won't happen again.