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I was a late bloomer, meaning it took me about twice as long as the average human to stop fucking around and grow up. There are all kinds of reasons for that, but one thing that always stood in the way was fear: fear that once I flipped the magical switch that lit up the adult bulb, it would turn out to be the garbage disposal instead, shredding through childhood like week-old chili. I don't think that's an uncommon fear -- we tend to build up these preconceived notions about things we've never experienced and then just sort of blindly deal with those false impressions when we get there. Right, sex?

I can't eliminate those fears -- that's something that comes from experience, not sermons. But I can give you a heads up on some beliefs that turned out to be wrong when I made my own transition. For instance ...

Adulthood Is Nothing but Work, Work, Work

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When You're a Kid ...

"I've seen my parents rushing around, trying to get things done, and they look miserable. Mom's carrying a full-time job on top of trying to keep the house in order and everyone fed. Dad is on the fifth year of his 'sleep until 4 p.m. and then drink until he passes out' scientific study. Watching them operate is exhausting. If I ever get that way, just put a gun in my mouth and end my misery in a merciful expulsion of crimson mist and matted hair. I am 9 years old."

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"Do not test my patience again, Father."

But When You're an Adult ...

Adulthood isn't about the job ... it's about contribution. We automatically know that the dad in that psychotic 9-year-old's example isn't a true adult, even though we know nothing else about his life. Why? It's not because he drinks. Plenty of well-adjusted, respectable people drink. It's not because he doesn't have a job. There are millions of at-home parents across the globe who sure as hell aren't considered social strap-ons. They contribute by making a better environment for their children and taking pressure off of their spouse's back.

But just from those few sentences, we know that this dad is a piece of shit, because he sits back and just exists while the mother does all of the major work, both in and out of the house. I can remember only a handful of years that my dad didn't live with his mother. Even when he had a job, he spent all of his money on booze and personal bullshit. He worked his ass off but contributed virtually nothing to his family or society. He went to his grave never having reached the status of "adult." But, man, could he draw a mean cartoon penis on an Etch A Sketch.

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He never figured out how to erase them, though, so he just bought new ones.

On a more literal note, does being an adult mean that you have to physically work more than when you're a teenager? It can mean that. It depends on the career you choose and how much of your life you want to devote to it. But looking back on my own high school years, I don't think I work any harder now than I did back then. Think about it: Your day doesn't end after eight hours at school. You still have homework to do. Tests to study for. Projects to complete. Do you play sports? Are you in the school band? Chorus? Drama? Fight Club? If so, you're probably putting in more hours a week than I am.

Contribution is the key. Does that mean you have to have a family or become some life-saving community volunteer? Hell no. Contribution comes in many forms. But being able-bodied and able-minded and choosing to just exist while others take care of you isn't it. That's more garden than human.

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Responsibility Means Being an Uptight Asshole

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When You're a Kid ...

"Why do I have to eat my dinner before dessert? It's all food, and it's all going into my body. What difference does it make what order I eat them? It's just dumb, arbitrary bullshit. And while I'm at it, please get off my nuts about being 20 minutes late to grandma's dinner. I wasn't that hungry to begin with, and it wasn't like I was late for school or work. It was just laid back family stuff. I understand about responsibility, but holy Christ, if being an adult turns me into a meticulous bean counter, I'll just become a Time Lord so I can flip off the world forever."

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I said "Time Lord," not "blurry clock baby."

But When You're an Adult ...

This is extremely hard for a lot of kids to grasp, because teaching responsibility is such a slow process. In the early years, we hammer home the idea to "just be a kid." Play, have fun. Your responsibility begins and ends with "don't set anything on fire." Then, as you grow up, we add little bits at a time. Make your bed. Then clean your room. Then we add dishes or yard work or replacing all of the sewer pipes.

Eventually, we hit a tipping point where the parent realizes, "Holy poop, she'll be on her own in just a couple of years, and we still have so much to teach her about taking care of a house and herself while maintaining a job and college classes!" At the same time, the teen thinks, "I'm going to release snakes into this house if they don't let up. I only have a couple of years left before I have to do all of this crap on my own -- why can't they just let me relax and enjoy what's left of my teenage years?"

It's panic on both sides, and each is justified. Human nature makes us repel each other, and the adults can easily start thinking of their kid as lazy, while the teen thinks of the parents as pointless drill sergeants who are getting out of chores by dumping them on the kids. Which is totally an awesome side effect of what we're doing, but it's not the goal.

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"Hahahaha! Look at those stupid assholes! Thanks for the free work, douchefucks!"

Adulthood hasn't made us slaves to responsibility; it's made us teachers, working under a very defined deadline. So whether you know it or not, you're already well on the road to responsibility. Being an uptight asshole is totally up to you, though.

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You Lose the Ability to Have Fun

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When You're a Kid ...

"Do you hit an age where you turn into a bitter, cynical asshole? I can't imagine being so anti-fun that I start hating music and movies. All you watch and listen to is that crap from when you were a kid. Entertainment has made a lot of progress since then -- you should try it. And what about parties? Did you not have those when you were a kid, or did you just give up on life and decide to hole up? Is this what I have to look forward to? Because I'm not sure I can handle the breakneck roller coaster of dull."

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But When You're an Adult ...

Most adults have as much fun as they want. They just do it in different ways that can oftentimes be generational and hard to understand. For instance, my grandmother watches a shitload of TV. Personally, I can't stand watching more than one or two shows a week, but she can sit there all day, totally enthralled, watching people make food that she can't eat. Why?

Humans are creatures of nostalgia. We have to be, because the most important lessons we learn about basic survival are taught to us when we're young. Now, I may be totally off base here, but I've always believed that our choices in entertainment act as direct links to those time periods when we were being raised. Grandma spends time on TV and crafts because that's what she enjoyed in her youth. I like '80s metal, grunge, and turn-based RPGs for the same reason, and also because I am a goddamn badass (PANTERA RULES, BITCHES!).

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Ye will be missed, Sir Dimebag.

If I gave my kids a turn-based RPG for a birthday present, they'd immediately wonder what they did wrong. That's boring, old-people bullshit. Meanwhile, the first thing I did when I set up my daughter's computer was buy her some headphones so I didn't have to listen to her horrible, horrible music. When she reaches my age, she'll do the same with her kids, and she'll be the one who looks like a boring piece of shit.

You Forget What It's Like to Be Young

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When You're a Kid ...

"I know it's past my curfew, but after the date we ran into some friends and got to talking, and we didn't want to be rude. Why can't you just trust that I can take care of myself and I'm not out doing drugs and having unprotected sex? The problem is that you've totally forgotten what it's like to be a teenager! You just want me to stay home and have no life like you! Well, let's see how you deal with this handful of snakes!"

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But When You're an Adult ...

Those of us who don't have our heads up our own asses remember quite well what it was like at your age. So will you when you get to be ours. In remembering those times, you're going to see a big ol' pile of awesome memories spackled together with enormous globs of human shit. Every bad decision you ever made, every physical and emotional injury, every dumb worldview ... it will all be there, stinking up your brain like a warning shot from the ass cannon of life.

What we do tend to forget is that very little of our verbal advice is going to protect you from making those same mistakes. Personal experience trumps everything, and until you witness the consequences of your actions firsthand, you're going to believe you're the exception to the rule. "I won't get a ticket. I only speed when cops aren't around." "I'm not going to get pregnant. I'm always careful." "It's fine for me to be a Cubs fan. They finally have a really good team this year."

Hehehehe. Sports.

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"Look, I'm not a fucking miracle worker. They've been asking me for a World Series for decades."

But here's the thing you need to remember about all of these points: Adulthood is a gradual process. You won't wake up one morning and say, "Holy shit, I'm an adult now!" You'll just sort of look back on your life on some unremarkable Tuesday night and say, "Holy shit ... I've been an adult for a few years. Huh." There won't be any crazy revelations, and you'll barely feel like you've changed at all. You'll just ... be. Then you'll look at the current generation and realize it's a never-ending cycle ... but you'll do your best to warn them, and they'll look at you like you're a lame piece of shit. Their music will suck. Their movies will be predictable and dumb. And they won't truly appreciate you until they're where you are right now.

It really is a beautiful process when you see it from a distance.

John is an editor and columnist right here at Cracked, with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Be sure to check out how pop culture has deceived and taught you some pretty terrible lessons .

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