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Bittersweet Memories: The Nostalgia That Comes with Adulthood

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northeastern chapter.

I’m officially a junior at Northeastern University, and that’s incredibly hard to accept. The fact that I’m an upperclassman just seems wrong. The fact that I’m 20-years-old does not sit right with me. I still feel as though I’m 16 and that I’m not actually in college, but rather attending an extended version of high school. When I was actually a teenager, I would feel nostalgic about my childhood, however, the feeling would be infrequent and somewhat superficial. I would come across something I used to enjoy doing as a kid and reflect to myself: Oh I remember that or Oh, I used to love doing that. The nostalgia would warm my heart as I would happily reminisce about those days. 

Now, I get hit with feelings of nostalgia extremely frequently. They’re profound and intense, and leave me mournful of those times. It prompts me to reflect on my life and where I am at the moment. The internet is filled with reminders about my childhood that I can’t seem to avoid. From TikToks about childhood toys to Spotify playlists entitled ‘2010s nostalgia songs,’ there seems to be constant input of nostalgia coming at me from all different directions. I can’t help but expose myself to it no matter how much it hurts and no matter how much I want to go back to being a kid. 

Why did I want to grow up so badly? I recall being a kid in elementary school going to the mall with my parents, seeing teenage girls on huge shopping sprees and thinking, ‘I can’t wait to grow up and be like them!’ I would watch shows like, “iCarly,” or, “Victorious,” and think, ‘I can’t wait to get a boyfriend and have my license and have freedom to do what I want!’ To be brutally honest, when I was a kid, I really didn’t want to be one. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted my own responsibilities. I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to grow up. 

Once I got to high school, I would sometimes wish to be a little kid again, however, it wasn’t a deep-rooted feeling. Because when I was a teenager, I still considered myself a kid. An older kid, but still a kid. Yes, I did have more responsibilities and more freedom than when I was in elementary school. However, I was still able to do ‘dumb teenager stuff.’  I was still able to fool around and get away with being immature because I was still a kid. When you’re a kid, you’re expected to be immature at times. Although I enjoyed high school, I was so incredibly excited to go to college and finally be grown up. I couldn’t wait to turn 18, which would equate to being an adult. I couldn’t wait to be on my own for college and finally have freedom away from home and from my parents.

Now, halfway done with college, I so desperately want to be a little kid again. Am I happy right now? Yes, very much so. I’m so proud of myself for getting this far in life and for being at the place I’m at. Do I just want to live one more day as a kid in the 2010s? More than anything. I want to wake up for school and wait for my bus at the bus stop on a chilly morning. I want to have recess with my friends and run to see who gets to the swings first. I want to be able to be small enough to be carried on my dad’s shoulders. I want to watch “Bill Nye The Science Guy” in class and sing along to the theme song. I want to experience Christmas with my cousins when we used to be so close I considered them my siblings. I want to have a sleepover with my friends and talk about our middle school crushes while we can’t stop giggling. I want to be a kid again. 

It hurts to know that I will only get older from this point on. I will never be a kid again. I will never have that stress-free life where my only responsibilities were to make sure I finished my multiplication tables and fed our cats dinner. Now I have to think about where I’m in the world. What do I want to be? Who do I want to be? I have to worry about school, relationships, friendships, income, housing, food, etc. All the while, I have to fit in my own sanity, happiness and health. If I had known the amount and weight of my responsibilities as well as the persistent longing of being younger, I would never have wished to grow up. 

I know that I’m 20-years-old, and I’m certainly not old by any means. Honestly, most older people would argue that when you’re 20, you are still just a kid. You’re slowly stepping into adulthood while still harboring some hints of immaturity and foolery along the way. You’re still trying to understand where you are in the world, and what your purpose is. I’m aware it sounds a little silly that I’m yearning to be young while simultaneously being 20-years-old. My point here is that there’s a difference in youthfulness when you’re 10 versus youthfulness when you’re 20. When you’re 10, you have no worries in the world. You’re carefree and zestful, yet you’re yearning for that freedom and excitement that comes with being older. It’s so interesting to me that now what I’m longing for is the exact opposite. 

Going about my day to day life, I can’t help but get hit with waves of nostalgia at certain moments. When this happens, I often ask myself, Why did I want to grow up so badly? Yes, the fact that my childhood is over is sad, and at times, heartbreaking. Despite this, I want to make sure that I live my life to the fullest every day. I think a strategy to stop desperately yearning for the past is to instead live my life exuberantly. So I end up anticipating what the future holds and not longing for the life I’ve already lived. 

Grace Ulferts

Northeastern '25

Hello! I'm Grace I am a third-year Behavioral Neuroscience and Philosophy major. I'm originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is my second year being a part of Her Campus, and I absolutely love it! I love to write, and Her Campus is such a warm and welcoming community! :)