This past year, I turned twenty.
Biologically speaking, I would not dispute that my body had matured into an “adult”. However, if you had asked me last year, I would have told you that I felt as if I had yet to leave the “teen” state of mind. The concept of going into adulthood, of gaining more responsibility, of acting more mature — if anyone even knows what that entails — repulsed me more than water does a hydrophobic molecule. I didn’t want to grow up, and while I could do nothing to slow the biological process, I could mentally dig my heels into the ground and refuse my newfound title of “young adult”.
After having discussed my overbearing hesitancy, it might not come as a surprise that I still did not feel as if I was a college student last year. Instead, my experiences seemed to be caught in some strange limbo between high school and college. Whenever I would hear that someone was in college — college! — I imagined a completely different lifestyle: going out to party on the weekends, going to the grocery store sans parents, taking care of finances, cell phone bills, and doctor appointments without the helping and sometimes nagging voice of a mom. And even though I discovered I could manage the bare minimum needed to survive, doing any more that what was needed would push me beyond the fine line between a teen and an adult — a point of no return where one heads towards a career, a family, and a huge block of responsibility. There was no way I was having that.
But my whole outlook changed when I went home for the break this year.
It was the morning of New Year’s Day, and the sun had just begun to peak its head above the horizon. Unable to sleep, I ventured out of my house and found our gigantic, white, reliable dog Maggie snoozing on the front porch. Feeling a bit reflective and acting on impulse, I sat down by Maggie and just watched as the sun lazily crept its way up the sky. A new year had begun, the year of 2012. But what did this mean? Even if it sounds like crazy superstition, what if the doomsayers were right and the world would end in December? Would I be satisfied with my life so far? What had I learned? What had I accomplished? Where did I stand? Where did I want to be if I only had one year left? On the other hand, how does anyone know how much time they have? However obvious it may be, nobody can escape from mortality.
So then, what had I been doing with my life for the past year? Instead of moving on and experiencing what life has to offer, I chose to slam down the brakes, jealously guarding my youth with false reassurances of putting off reality. I had continued to act as I had acted in high school: wake up, go to class, study, p-set, and fill up any left over time with extracurricular activities. The routine gave me an excuse to avoid any thoughts of the future, and the familiarity of being eternally busy let me pretend that I was just at a much more challenging high school. In reality, while I had been content to stay stagnant, life continued on. If one refuses to yield to change, that person disrupts the flow of life until something shoves them into the stream again. I didn’t want to continue on this path, and wake up one day when I’m in my 50s and realize that I’ve completely shut out an entire aspect of life from fear.
While I understand such a change, such an acceptance, does not manifest itself within a matter of days, I think for a while now I have realized I do want to grow up, I do want to be an adult one day, and I do want to have the adventure of continuing on into the bigger world instead of wrapping myself up in the safe haven of denial. When I look back on my life, I want to know that I’ve experienced all that I can, and I want to be able to smile while reminiscing.
If I allow fear to hold me permanently in stasis, then how would this be possible?
As I sat in that spot of sunlight with my dog Maggie, allowing the rays to warm my skin, I felt a sense of utter peace and content. I let go of my worries, allowing the heat from the sun to evaporate them away to the atmosphere, and I went back inside to welcome the oncoming year.