When I turned 18, I thought I was ready to face adulthood. My life felt stable. I had money saved up, a plan for college and a summer job. The abstract thought of more independence was exciting. I imagined myself as a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, anticipating a sudden self-transformation. One day, I was 17 and lugging a calculus textbook around. The next, I was 18 and staking a Billiken sign in my front yard. This seemed like sufficient cause to warrant my lofty expectations.
I lasted exactly a week into adulthood without receiving a speeding ticket. I’m afraid this was the universe’s way of foreshadowing the year to come—I was about to be thrown for a loop.
College greeted me with a difficult transition. While I had finally grasped my long-awaited freedom, I was also learning to deal with being completely responsible for myself. I had to adjust to living without my family, having less free time, seeing my hometown friends more infrequently and being overloaded with homework. It took a while, but I adapted to this new lifestyle, although I still struggle at times. It’s been neither a quick nor painless metamorphosis.
Despite this, I’ve had many cheerful moments throughout this year. I’ve made new friends and dyed my hair and taken hard yet rewarding classes. I’ve changed my major twice and contemplated my career goals. I’ve pierced my ears and read worldview changing books. I’ve tried incredible foods and visited beautiful cities. The good has largely outweighed the bad.
When I think about how my life has changed, I sometimes feel incredibly distant from my past self, like I could only guess what she was thinking. I reflect on some of my past actions and could never imagine doing them again. It is a melancholic feeling to be so separated from yourself.
Part of my unease is that 19 feels like a much larger step than 18. I know it doesn’t make me anywhere near old, but it means I am leaving behind adolescence. It’s a gray area between being a kid and being an adult. I have no supervision at college, but my curfew is set strictly at 1 a.m. at home. I wear business casual to work, but my mom still pays for my groceries. It’s practically a trial period for adulthood, and it can feel like every moment determines my future.
It’s a feeling I’ve realized I must become comfortable with. Life doesn’t stop changing after going off to college or even after graduating. For most people, adulthood is never truly static. I know I will still feel this way when I’m turning 21, 30 and even 50. The ability to adapt has never come easy to me; even small adjustments to my day can set me back. But overcoming these changes has unfailingly left me feeling rewarded. Little by little, I have become more confident, less uptight, more forgiving. While this is what separates me from my past self, it is also what will form me into my future self.
As far as this year, 19 is the age of renting first apartments and buying first cars and who knows what else. I can only hope that the unknown will be as joyful and enriching as 18 has been.