Reporter's Notebook

When Did You Become an Adult?
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Spurred by Julie Beck’s essay, readers describe the circumstances that led them to realize the moment they crossed into adulthood.

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Becoming an Adult in New York City

Our reader note about New Yorkers becoming adults made me think of a New York magazine essay by the late humorist David Rakoff, one of my favorite writers, about coming of age in New York City. He arrived there from Toronto as a college freshman in 1982:

It was what I took away from most every encounter: an almost obliterating desire to “pass” as a New Yorker, to authentically resemble one of the denizens of the movie Manhattan. More than the Deco penthouse aeries of characters in old musicals, more than the moral elasticity and heartless grit of backstage Broadway in All That Jazz, perhaps on par with the gin-swilling savagery of All About Eve, it was the city as embodied in Manhattan I ached for. The high-strung friends with terrible problems, the casual infidelities, the rarefied bohemianism—ERA fund-raisers in the garden at MoMA, gallery-hopping followed by filling one’s simple grocery list at Dean & DeLuca.

There was no one specific moment when the rigorous self-consciousness gave way to authenticity. It was more of a dim realization that the very act of playing the “Are we a New Yorker yet?” game means you aren’t one yet.

We’ve heard a variety of takes from New Yorkers on their markers for adulthood, which spurred Jillian to reflect on her own experience in the Big Apple. Our latest NYC story comes from reader Tricia, who contends that it’s “actually the easiest place in the world to be an adult”:

When I first gave thought to this question, I thought the answer was financial independence—that it must have been in October when I got my first paycheck as a lawyer and paid my first month of rent on my own without my parents’ help. But then I thought no, it was actually a few months before that. I was up late at night studying for the New York Bar Exam when a mouse appeared from behind my trash can.

I screamed, as one does. As if in a cartoon, the mouse screamed back, jumped, and ran back behind the trash can. I wasn’t sure what to do.