As a kid, I always had this silly little notion that adults are self-sufficient people who know how to do everything by themselves. As a teenager in high school, the concept of that notion began to stress me out as I got closer to graduation.
I’d always put college students into the adult category, because twenty-something seemed like such a mature age; a time when life would be organized and neat. It seems like the older I get, the higher that age gets bumped for this assumption. I’m starting to think it’s just an urban legend, but that’s okay. Hectic and unpredictable is a lot more interesting than organized and neat anyway.
Of course, there are definitely times when I feel like I have my life together, which is a world-conquering feeling.
That is, until some new plot twist comes around the bend. I have no idea what’s going to happen each day, or what my best move will be; it sometimes feels like I am winging my entire life. I definitely try to plan things out when I can, but sometimes spontaneity turns out to be the better option. There are so many things to consider at this age when trying to make decisions. You desperately want to please everyone, but you also feel like it’s the prime time in your life to be focusing on yourself, and f-ck what the others will think. This is quite the tough balance.
I constantly reflect on how my actions affect my life. It’s kind of scary to think about how certain successes could have easily been missed opportunities, had I made one different decision. What if I hadn’t landed my internship because I’d decided to watch another episode of The Office, rather than discussing my goals with the professor who ended up recommending me for the job? What if I’d dismissed the e-mail that advertised my school’s crew team, not gone to the first practice, and missed meeting some of the best friends I’ve ever made?
It’s almost equally as haunting to know that I’ve missed out on opportunities that I easily could have taken. What if I’d arrived at campus just five minutes earlier that one day that everyone saw John Stamos near the student union at Chapman? I realize that this is a superficial thought, and that there have been far worse failures in my life, but dude— it’s John Stamos. I regret this particular instance far more than I should.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who has the ability to learn from her mistakes, and judge subsequent situations with a keener eye. That’s not to say that I’m amazing at it or anything, but historically, I do know that I’m capable of recognizing my wrongs and making them right. There are other times when I seem to avoid the path of least resistance at all costs, because I think I’ll gain something better by taking the hard route. Sometimes in these cases, I end up being dead wrong, but it always just serves as more experience to log into the archives. Other times, it becomes clear that I made the best decision possible, and that is a feeling so fantastic that it’s worth taking risks for.
Besides the incredible sense of freedom and discovery at twenty years old, it is also a strangely transitional age. When I was little, I used to look at different aspects of life and simply think, “I’ll know how to do that when I’m older.” How to parent a child, or run a meeting, or always know the answers to the questions that children ask. But no matter your age, there will always be more to add to the list.
Sure, there are some concrete lessons that you can learn, such as how to drive a car, or register for classes, or cook meals that require more than three ingredients and a frying pan.
But for the most part, we’re all just figuring out the answers as we go.
Everyone feels nervous to start a new job, or embark on an adventure; you try to predict what will be expected of you, and you question if you’re capable of these things. Well, maybe you’re not— yet. But it’s your job to dedicate yourself, figure it out, and then do it to the best of your abilities. We don’t know what’s around the corner, and therefore we can’t properly prepare for everything there is to face. But as time passes, we’ll get better at pretending to know what we’re doing. We’ll figure out how to mask our total freakouts with pleasant smiles instead, as we live and learn like everyone else. Once we master this, we can really say that we’re adults.