Susan Cuchiara was 21, newly divorced, leaving her home in Colorado, headed for California.

Her mom cried as Susan drove away. Susan cried, too, unsure what life would bring.

That was 44 years ago. She built a good life, with a career she loves and a happy marriage of 40 years.

Growing up means taking a new path.

I asked my newsletter subscribers about when they knew they were really adults. Their answers were funny, thoughtful and sad. 

Willard “Hank” Henry enlisted in the Air Force in 1961 and was 29 when he went to Vietnam. He was a moderate and believed what his government told him.

“When I got there I saw grown men playing cowboys and Indians with real guns,” he wrote. He saw a soldier wearing a jacket with a B-52 superimposed over a peace symbol with the caption, “Peace Hell — Bomb Hanoi.” 

Hank stayed in the military for 22 years, growing increasingly liberal. “I don’t know anyone that has been in a war is pro-war,” he wrote.

Growing up means changing your mind.

After five years of trying to have a baby, Nancy Mast and her husband adopted a child.

“I truly knew I was an adult when I held my first baby in my arms,” she wrote.

Growing up means having something worth being responsible for.

Laurie Dawe was raising two sons in Phoenix on a secretary’s paycheck when she quit to go to real estate school.

“I’ll never forget my first real estate commission!” she wrote. She knew then she could support her sons. She was 35.

Growing up means standing on your own.

Mike Miller was 48 when his parents died.

“I still miss not talking to them even though it has been more than 20 years,” he wrote. “When you become an orphan, it really jolts your world.”

Growing up means becoming the person other people count on.

Reach Bland at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @KarinaBland.

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