With the first day of college looming at the tail-end of summer, I’m forced to recognize that I’m entering a new era in my life whether I like it or not. Incoming freshmen like myself exist in a sort of limbo: not children, but not quite adults. But hell, what does it mean to be a grown up, anyway?
When I was little, I thought everyone over the age of 21 had it made: you can drink, drive, get paid and no one makes you to clean your room. Mini-me figured that adults were brilliant and poised, could fix whatever I’d broken and knew the answer to my every inane question. To be an adult meant having your life in order and knowing it all.
So I’d like to offer my younger self an apology because at 18 years old, I don’t think I’m on the right track toward adulthood.
The awful truth? I’m unemployed, taxes are confusing and I still laugh at poop jokes. So yeah, I’ve got a ways to go before being a real “grown up.” But at the same time, I’m expected to vote in national elections, I can buy a gun and soon I have to move away from home.
Stuck here in this not-quite-grown-up rut, I have to figure out where I’m going in life and how I’m going to get there.
Honestly, it’s daunting. Legally, I’m not a child anymore, but I still don’t fully understand how the real world works. Why do I need to get a full-time job in the future when I don’t even like to put on real clothes most days? And how could I ever have kids of my own when I still think “Spongebob” trumps most other TV shows?
My whole life, teachers ranted about how I’d have to grow up when I got to college. They said I’d have to leave childish things behind an act like an adult. Like I’ve entered a magical time in my life where I get a Cinderella-esque transition from awkward teen to professional adult-type person.
Well, it’s zero hour and no fairy godmother has come to give me an air of maturity and a 401K so one might think that I’m screwed. But I’ve come to realize that this isn’t so. Truth is, those teachers were dirty liars.
Graduating high school doesn’t herald the death of my adolescence. Despite what teachers have told me, colleges are not institutions of dour scholars that abandon frivolity, act rationally and always write in cursive (Mrs. Espinoza, you LIED). No, college isn’t going to be the gallows that silence my youth.
Of course, things will change in college. I won’t have the chance to rely on my family for every obstacle that I encounter. For the first time, my fate will rest on my shoulders alone. But my age and inexperience won’t condemn me.
I realize now that at every age, people have the capacity for immaturity or childishness. Even the oldest of the old have the potential to be irrational or ignorant. They can be petty and selfish. At any age, people still get scared or sad and want someone to hold their hand.
No true “grown ups” exist, only unreasonably tall children. Every so-called adult is just a kid that wouldn’t stop playing pretend. They just like to make-believe that they’ve got their lives in order.
With that in mind, I’m not going to be afraid of this new independence being foisted upon me. My first day of college, I won’t worry that I’m not mature or smart enough to make it on my own. Because if I’m not, then dammit, I’ll pretend I am. Just like everyone else.
Lead Image Credit: Refe