I have crossed the threshold from teenager to adult. Much to my dismay, I’ve found it’s a weird world over here. My first year of college is ending, and many may argue that I’m still a child— and in some ways I am. But I’ve always thought of adulthood as doing things on your own, and that’s just what I’m doing.
On a college campus, it’s easy to forget that small children are a thing that exists. I’m constantly surrounded by peers and the intellect that seeps from the pores of students who sleep on books instead of studying. When a professor or tour group crosses my path with a kid in tow, it throws me off my game. And when I started realizing this, it made me sad.
In my new adult world where I get to swear with professors and argue, stay out without a curfew, do what I want when I want to, there’s a reflection that is absent.
When the only other eyes to hold you accountable are those of people making the same 2:00 AM mistakes as you, a veil of make-believe divides you. None of us know what we’re doing, even when we say that we do. We look to each other for the thumbs up, but what good is the approval of another person pushing themselves as far as their body will take them without realizing how close they are to a cliff?
There is no mirror in these places, this collegiate Disney World where we ride the rollercoasters again even when they make us sick, and we date the big bad wolves because sometimes they forget to blow our house down, and that makes it okay.
I didn’t recognize how blinded I was until I was reminded of what it feels like to be an example, that I was being watched. And in this time, this year of unshackled freedom, I’ve lost a lot of what I used to love about myself and the girl I worked so hard to make myself into.
I still pick flowers and watch kid’s movies, this isn’t an absence of adolescence, it is the growing stages away from it. It hurts, to stretch like that. It is scary and feels like sometimes I’m growing in the wrong direction, toward the wrong lights, but it is a seamstress kind of thing; hemming myself in. All of my dreams didn’t materialize at my feet the day I moved into my dorm room, but I can feel them, and I think they’re getting closer.
The most vulnerable feeling is sitting in a room of people and knowing you’ll be asked questions that you don’t have the answers to. That is what it feels like to go home for Christmas break, step away from the vaporized air of a college campus, and be asked how you’re doing. And instead of saying we don’t know, we don’t have it figured out, that the hardest part of our day is getting to class on time and not spilling coffee on our shirts on the way, we lie and say: I’m fine, it’s all good.
The dragons we battle on this side of the age gap is not each other anymore; it’s the people on the other sides— the little ones looking up and the older ones looking down. We’re all in this together, and that’s what breaks our hearts, I think.
College is the most fun communal stab at success out there, but some people will miss, and others won’t even get close. Our friends will fail, and we won’t save them because we can’t save them because, get this, we don’t know how.
We’re trying to figure out how to not be young, together. If you thought growing up on your own was hard, try growing up with thousands of other people and all of you trying to get it right.
The pressure is high and for me, a lot of it I’ve put on my own shoulders, which is the most common thing I’ve seen change in my friends transitioning into college. We’re starting to want things for ourselves. We are also kind of stranded. Different kinds of jokes start being told. We go to formals and brunch and grocery shopping on our own.
It’s easy to figure out what you want to be, who you want to be like. But getting there is not the drunken haze of frat parties and blind sex Hollywood paints college to be. We want it, every single person in this young adult world wants what we’re working toward. We’re just trying to figure this out together, one semester at a time. And it is painful and fun and awkward and brand new in a different way every day. I promise even when it doesn’t seem like we are, we are looking at the adults on the other side of the finish line and thinking to ourselves; I wanna be like that.