Some of our biggest milestones as we tentatively venture into adulthood go unrecognized by most people. I have set out to change that. The time you cooked chicken and didn’t get salmonella. That time you ignored a problematic booty call. The time you defined morals based on your own accord. All of these seemingly small moments matter and influence you. Frankly, some of my biggest milestones probably seem incredibly small and irrelevant: the first time I laid down a boundary about my expenditure of emotional energy, the first time I opened a bottle of wine and the first time I ever made myself a real meal (not just toasting a waffle). These small moments all represent turning points in my journey in adulthood.
I am here today to make sure that our undiscussed college milestones get the recognition they rightfully deserve.
1. The first time you cook an actual meal
Frozen food does not count. My German Shepherd could reheat food if he really wanted to, we’re talking about something a little more complicated here. The first time you cook raw meat or tofu, saute vegetables or make some kind of casserole concoction makes this list. That means you actually grocery shopped, planned a meal and successfully used an oven without starting a fire. This is where your adult life of cooking for yourself begins. Pat yourself on your back.
2. Making a big financial decision all by yourself
When college begins, you’ll have to start thinking about scholarships and loans to pay for school. This means understanding how loans and interest accumulate. Then post-graduation, you’ll potentially need to pay off loans and decide on your next move, whether it be grad school or a job. This requires some critical thinking about your financial situation and future. At some point over the next four years all of us will make some major decisions that will influence our fiscal future. We all eventually reach this point. Making sound reasonable decisions feels wonderful and helps you reach a big adult milestone.
3. Making a responsible dating decision and sticking by it
This can play out in so, so, so many different ways. You could choose yourself over a significant other, choose to let go of a person who is no longer a positive part of your life, choose to address a fear of intimacy or commitment, decide to take a big risk and then stand by your decision regardless of what follows. “Being able to talk to people and make the first move. It took me awhile,” University of South Florida first-year Kelli Elliott said. You, your love life and what makes you feel good determines when and how this milestone happens for you. It can be big or small, but all matter equally and are powerful and even transcending milestone moments as we embrace what we truly want and need.
4. Traveling without your parents
The first terrifying and exhilarating time you find yourself buying a train, bus or plane ticket to schedule a vacation or trip without your parents screams independence. It comes with a sense of maturity because all the decisions are yours and you get to tailor the schedule to you. You finally get to plan things to fit your own sleep schedule. This double-edged swords also means if things go wrong it’s up to you to find a solution. “Traveling abroad without my parents for the first time was a milestone for me,” William & Mary senior Lawrence Bourland said. You’ll always remember your first parentless trip whether it’s to a nearby city, state or another continent.
5. Becoming passionate about a political or social issue
Personally, after I came to college, I became aggressively concerned with protecting women’s rights and insuring that the United States makes all people feel safe and included. Whether you become invested in environmental protection, veganism, animal rights, public policy issues, diplomacy or some other issue that affects your life and the lives of people around you, a transcending milestone moment happens when you realize you care deeply about a larger issue. Getting involved with nonprofits or organizations to fight for what you believe in acts as a catalyst for personal growth and positive change.
6. Making the morally right choice even when you think it will make you unpopular
We are in college, it’s not a matter of if but when we will encounter an unsafe or toxic situation. At this moment, we will have to decide what the right choice is. Do we intervene when we see a person slumped over alone at a party? Do we have the conversations about rape on college campuses and demand better? Do we say something when someone makes a racist or homophobic comment? I hope that everyone reaches the point where they can recognize what is right and wrong and stand by their moral compass even when it gets uncomfortable and difficult. This is how we progress.
7. Choosing yourself
Right now, we are still on the cusp of true adulthood. After living on our own for a few years at the most, our biggest concern is how to take care of ourselves. Support your friends and family and show up for the people you care about. But recognize that your mental well-being is your priority and you cannot take care of other people if you do not take care of yourself. Learn to put yourself first and put your mental health before other obligations.
8. Admit when you are wrong
I mess up all the time. All the time. But I am not in this alone. We all make small mistakes and big ones. Admitting when we are wrong and making amends when we need to is a crucial step into adulthood and the working world. Knowing how to fix our faults will come with time so we can learn from them and move forward.