Operation Brightside: Navigating the Highs and Lows of Growing Up

My late teenage years were full of excitement for the future, a desire to escape my hometown and flourish at a college hundreds of miles away. I couldn’t wait for the newfound freedom of young adult life: new friendships, a fresh dating scene, and the simple luxuries of deciding my own schedule and lifestyle. From the college party scene to the feeling of adulthood one gets from being in a city like Boston, my freshman year was a whirlwind of change. 

As time went on, different adulthood “luxuries” emerged. I traded the party scene for a more tame friend group, exchanging the position of hosting dinner parties in tiny studio apartments between couples. I grew up faster than most — thanks to the pandemic, I moved in with my boyfriend, planned to get a puppy (still in the works!), and suddenly found myself a few months away from my 21st birthday and the finality of my senior year of college. 

I wouldn’t trade any of the above for the world — while the average 21-year-old may not be in my position, I can truly say that I’m happy… but, I’m also scared.

Girl with closed eyes and praying hands Photo by Ben White from Unsplash

The realization that you’re growing up can be terrifying. I don’t really know what I want to do with my life, and while I have a few ideas, how can I be expected to make that choice in only a year and settle into a job? Moving in with a partner is wonderful, but it also marks the boundary between adolescence and adulthood in a very final way — your life, while still your own, is tied to another person. Getting a pet is one of the best moments ever, but when it’s your own pet and not the family’s, you can’t make plans on a whim and expect your parents to take care of it. 

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to growing up; it’s inevitable, it’s going to happen, and it’s okay to be nervous about it. I miss the days when I could run to my best friend’s house next door and be care-free. I miss the mornings where my dad would wake me up for school by singing loudly in the hallway. I miss sleepovers, family dinners, and not having to keep track of things like doctor’s appointments and rent. 

Woman smiling in front of laptop Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

But for all of the things that I do miss, there are a million more possibilities in the future of adulthood. I’ve found that the best way to navigate the highs and lows of growing up is to focus on the positive. When I’m feeling nervous about the unknown quality of the future, I sit down and write about the things I’m most excited about. It could be a big event or something as small as the coffee I’m going to drink tomorrow. The key to being excited for the future instead of afraid of it is to remind yourself that the future is bright (something we all need to do after the last crazy year!).

Most importantly, it’s essential to allow yourself to be sad about no longer being a kid. I spent so long chasing the glamour of adulthood that I didn’t pay attention to all of the great things I had at the time. It’s okay to put on Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” and feel your emotions. Just because you’ve reached your goal of growing up (I know it was a goal for me), it doesn’t mean that you have to be all happy about it. 

I love my life, but I also appreciate my past. Growing up isn’t easy because it’s a bundle of conflicting emotions, and a lot of time feels like it’s been robbed from us during this pandemic. That time can be taken back, though, if we just try to remember that the future is just as bright (or even brighter) than the past.

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