Kids have a serious case of FOMO and it’s for this reason, and some other now seemingly minuscule factors, that I felt compelled to grow up faster. I would often be sent to bed while my older siblings and parents stayed downstairs doing what was equivalent to a Project X party in my little brain. I think the best word to describe how I felt would be “lonely” or better yet, “childish.” I always felt childish being the only one with an enforced bedtime. So, I wished to be double digits. Because double-digit kids NEVER had a bedtime!
When I became a teenager, life taught me lessons that even AP classes couldn’t have prepared me for. I lost friends and family members in ways that kept me up at night. Take that how you want it. I, like others around me, focused on my mental health, my “love” life, and the inescapable violence that began to take over Philadelphia, the city I’m from. With a pandemic keeping us locked away and forcing students to sit in front of a Chromebook for eight hours straight, my sense of childishness was amplified. Here I was, a junior in high school, still fighting for my place in the world. It was not until the end of quarantine that I began to taste something that felt like freedom. I wanted to be heard, I wanted to be respected, and I wanted to leave my house without asking for permission. There I was again, wishing to be older.
Now, here I am, a 20-year-old college student with problems and responsibilities that seem larger than life. I feel trapped in an endless cycle of worry – worrying about affording college, finding a job, mental health, breaking generational curses, building my resume, and teaching myself how to build credit (like seriously, how does that even work?!) Yet still, every time I visit family, the first thing they ask me is “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” I guess they forgot they taught me to put books over boys for a decade, and then sent me to college where there are far more books than boys. I once protested things like homework, vegetables, and short recess. I never expected I would have to protest things like social injustice, racial inequality, anti-reproductive rights efforts, and so on.
That’s why when I look in the mirror as this newly 20-something, I search for that little girl who just wanted a later bedtime. I can still see her in there at times, and I wonder if I did her an injustice by never living in the moment. Looking back at it, I realize that my parents and older siblings were never throwing a Project X party. What they were doing was something far less exciting, equally as glorious, and more terrifying than ever. It was adulting…the irony is, now I enforce my bedtime, I find comfort in cleaning, boyfriends aren’t all that great, and leaving your house is overrated.
I still feel childish at times because I’m stuck in this phase where I can be considered an adult or a child depending on who’s addressing me. One thing I didn’t anticipate was the problems I had back then being replaced by or transformed into the ones I have now. I am slowly realizing that life does not magically get better just because we grow older, it takes effort and grace. I still don’t have all the answers, but no one does. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to sell you something.
My advice? Don’t obsess over the future so much that you forget to live in the present.