When I was little, I always wondered what it would feel like to be an adult. Would all the fun be sucked out of life, replaced by hours of mindless work? Would I still get to watch TV and play Super Smash Bros in my pajamas? Eventually, I learned that there is never a definitive moment when you morph from innocent adolescent to boring adult.
I’ve always viewed my life through a lens as if it were a movie I had to analyze. As if I were just a character and each year brought a new season full of character development. So maybe because I’ve always been a super self-aware person (for good or ill), I was surprised to actually feel myself changing over the course of this past year.
Sometime around March, I noticed that I’d turned into an extremely busy person. I’m talking a “catch me if you can because I always have somewhere to be” level of busy. I went to classes, worked and participated in lots of clubs like the campus newspaper. I knew I would’ve gone insane if all I did was study, so I made time for watching movies, TV and reading books. I was going to parties and hanging out with friends on the weekends. With this packed schedule, of course I was stressed. But in college, what other emotion is there?
This past summer, I went to Los Angeles for six weeks for an internship. After relying on Mom’s cooking for the first 17 years of my life and college meal plans for the last two, suddenly being in charge of making my own meals was terrifying and stomach-turning. I had so many concerns: Would I make friends? Would I be able to navigate myself through the insanity that is LA traffic? Hell, even the idea of getting up and driving to some crowded beach without having a definite plan for parking frightened me.
Somehow, I made it through. I took out the trash, did the dishes and went grocery shopping. Sure, my meals usually consisted of easy stuff like mac and cheese and ramen noodles, but what mattered was that I made them. Most intimidatingly, I drove the entire way home from LA to Michigan alone—36 hours of driving, with only a couple CDs full of summer pop-punk jams and writing-related podcasts to keep me entertained.
The scariest moment was during my first night of driving. After ten hours, I stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona for a quick 10 p.m. dinner at a small Italian diner. As I sat in my car eating a calzone in the dark, my heart sank, and I realized that I wasn’t going to arrive at my Albuquerque motel until 3 a.m. It was too late to cancel my reservation and find a closer motel, so I drove another 5 endless hours, slowly approaching delirium. When I fell into bed that night, I started laughing. I was in the middle of New Mexico, but it felt like home.
You don’t need to cross the country and live independently to prove that you’re an adult. I live in a house at school and work to pay rent and buy groceries, but I know that doesn’t prove anything either. Being an adult isn’t just the added responsibilities, or the things you didn’t have to do as a kid. Being an adult isn’t just paying rent or cleaning the bathroom.
Being an adult is juggling a thousand things at once and being stressed but living in it—even thriving off it. Being an adult is staying up late to go to a party, then waking up early the next morning to write an essay. Being an adult is creating memories, enjoying your life and becoming a more enriched person. Being an adult is recognizing home as more than just the place you spend most of your time.
Being an adult is driving through a foreign state like Arizona at 2 a.m. with the windows down, no music playing and knowing you are going to make it through.