Thinking back, there have been multiple points in my life when I knew I was growing up. I knew it when I first learned to tie my shoelaces the cool way rather than looping bunny ears. I knew it when I received my first car and could go anywhere my feet couldn’t take me. And, this past weekend, I knew it as I blew out the candles on my eighteenth birthday. When others ask me how it feels to be an adult, I always respond with the conventional; that it feels the same, that nothing has changed. Nonetheless, growing up is a slow and gradual process, one which doesn’t happen in a single day or moment, but over a period of time where we learn what it means to fit into our own lives.
Eighteen is a big milestone. It means that I am now an adult, someone who can legally make decisions in the driver’s seat of her own life. Although it may not seem like a big jump now, I understand the massive changes I will undergo this year: leaving home, meeting new people, parting with others I love, growing, learning, and changing. Nothing can prepare me for what’s to come, but, I still adhere to the fact that life at any point is uncertain. What is most important to me, is that I continue to reflect on each passing year because being an adult brings the responsibility of cultivating self-awareness, just as much as taking care of myself in any other way.
This year, I contemplated the habits I have developed. In many ways, I am still the child I have always been — unconsciously dancing in department stores, acquiring purple bruises from falling, and getting back up, carefully arranging the wall of stuffed animals across my bed each morning. Still, regardless of the time I spent denying it, I have matured over the past year. Being mature for me, however, has a very different meaning. Surrounded by adults my entire life, I have always been mature, able to hold deep conversations and control every aspect of my life no matter how hopeless. Now, after over five years, I am finally learning that being an adult can mean letting go and enjoying this period of my life for what it is supposed to be: freeing.
Eighteen is the year I relinquish all the control I have spent years and years holding on to. It is the year I stop worrying about how others perceive my every action, the year I finally live according to my own values with the goal of simply being happy. Today I am doing things I couldn’t even dream of doing six months ago. I eat peanut butter jelly sandwiches before school. I let myself be open and vulnerable and unsteady. I accept compliments that previously would have made my stomach drop. I take naps in my bed instead of my car. Yes, I am the same person, but, at eighteen, I am less of an adult than I have ever been… and that’s okay. I still know how to make smart decisions that consider both my own well-being and that of others, but I am a girl no longer tied down by the weight of what she should be. I am someone ready to grow up in a way that will carry new experiences. If you don’t try you don’t know.
Growing up is not easy. Gaining a political voice and managing a household of my own are all things I am terrified of. It is scary to gain so much authority while also working to give it up. I often think about falling off the rails, trapping myself in a spiral of overthinking. I wonder if I will drop my straight-A streak if I don’t wake up an hour early to study, I worry that my body will change if I keep going out for ice cream with friends, I worry about getting hurt or hurting others in the process. But, growing up is about making mistakes. I do not know what adulthood will bring with it. The only thing I can ever be certain of is that time will continue to pass, and the longer I spend confined by the rigidity of alleged maturity, the longer it will take me to discover the unafraid, unfiltered adult I can now claim to be.
“Growing up is losing some illusions, to acquire others” -Virginia Woolf
Happy Living 🙂