When You're A 'Grown-Up'
The past year of my life has sped away from me. I’m sure many people have months like that—the ones that bleed into one another, so when you go up to the calendar to check the date, you realize you have two rows of boxes to cross off, two rows of appointments and quickly-jotted reminders that you didn’t even need.
I was working, going to class, plodding through piles of homework, searching out time for fun. My days were the fullest they’d ever been. When the time came for college applications, I wasn’t caught off guard or shocked or even sentimental; I added the task to my To-Do list and got it done. I came into this significant part of my life without any ceremony—because when you think about something huge, it’s much different than actually being in the thick of it. When you’re sitting in your room, methodically filling out your name and birthdate on the form, you don’t consider the implications.
I used to fantasize about being older. I think everybody does, when they’re young. At eleven and twelve and even thirteen, I courted daydreams of jobs and driving and college. And every time I reached those milestones—the first, tentative steps—they seemed like too much. Too cavernous, and unexplored. Too many variables. It’s scary to clock in as a new employee. It’s scary to buckle your seatbelt and turn the key in the ignition. It’s scary to scan the rows of desks for an empty chair. But then it gets easier, and then it becomes routine, and then it’s time for something new.
I’ve finally surpassed those three things—even driving, which came slow, but I’m glad I waited. In its usual fashion, the past year of my life has taken me on unanticipated roads. I’ve found that I don’t have to put too much thought into decision making; usually, life makes it for me. I wrote about finding the college of my dreams last year, but what I didn’t share was that I got accepted—and, in a strange twist of fate, my best friend of six years decided it was the college for her, too. We’re going to be roommates. Roommates. Which means, yes, that it’s time for another new, adult venture: I’m moving out in less than a month.
I never planned to live on-campus for college. I was one of those people that was adamant that the traditional college experience was not for me. I even toyed with the idea of going to online school for awhile. But I never planned on finding a college that far surpassed my wildest dreams, a college that—upon visiting—felt like home. And there’s no place like home.
I know this better than anyone. As a student who was homeschooled, I spent more time than most here, with my family. I wrote stories on the porch, and read in my bedroom, made grocery lists at the table with Mom and played board games on the living room rug with my brothers. I’ve always liked to be out and about, but I always had home to come back to—to my pink and green walls and my densely populated bookshelves, to my much-adored cat, to my family.
The scariest part of it all—the part that brings an occasional sting to my eyes, that I have to remind myself not to get caught up in—is the finality of childhood. My memory is filled with the staples of my youth: watching SpongeBob on the couch in the mornings, skittering Playmobile figures across the floor, laying in bed with Mom and reading, nerf wars with my brothers, movies and music with Dad. And I have to ask myself: when did this happen? When did some of these things come to an end, and how am I going to cope with others becoming less frequent? How do people just leave behind the best parts of their lives and strike out for something new?
It felt like, even as recently as a couple years ago, that childhood was going to last forever. That I’d get to keep waking up in my bed each day and coming down to say good morning to my Mom, and to roll my eyes at jokes from my Dad, and to whisper-yell at my brothers to “Be quiet, you idiots!” (always the diplomat). I used to dream about what the future held without really thinking about the whole package. But now the future is here, not staring me down; I’m within it, and it’s great, and it’s more than I would have hoped for, but it’s bittersweet.
I know I’ll be okay. I have my parents to thank for that. They’ve equipped me with everything I need, from the emotional to the material. They are the true motivators of my story, the people who drove me where I needed to be—quite literally, as well as metaphorically—and encouraged me, and loved me. I know they’ll be here just as much for me when I’m not upstairs, but an hour away.
It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s still a leap. It’s still new, and exciting, and uncharted. I’m not even nervous, really, or afraid—what I’m feeling is ready. I’m sad, but I’m ready. I’m anxious, but I’m ready. It’s time—and I’m ready. I know, because I was going about my usual tasks one day, and I realized something: I’m a grown-up. I have grown up. I knew it was true. It happened without me realizing.