Growing up is strange. Most of us do it, yet we have no idea what is going on. Maybe that’s why there are so many Buzzfeed articles about how to “adult,” maybe that’s the reason I click on all of those articles and maybe that’s the reason “adult” has become a verb — we are all trying to figure out this whole adulting thing.
The first time I remember being aware of growing up (as opposed to just getting birthday cake all over my face every February) was when I turned 10. I remember walking home from the bus stop on an unseasonably warm day and pondering the fact that I had officially reached double digits — I was 10, and I was overwhelmed by the idea of not being nine. It wasn’t a bad feeling, just a new one. While I write this, it blows me away that my walk home was more than 10 years ago. I’ve lived double the life the 10-year-old me was so amazed by. And I’m sure in 10 more years I’ll be even more shocked to turn 30. But the strangest part of all this inevitable passage of time is I don’t really feel that different. I mean, sure, as a 20-year-old, my typical day is very different from what I was up to in fifth grade. But, fundamentally, I feel the same. I still love taking long walks back from the bus, I still think dumb jokes are funny, I still love trick-or-treating and Disney Original Channel movies. I even still have the same best friend — but I feel like I must have changed over all these years, because how couldn’t I?
And at the very least, if I haven’t changed, then I know I have to, at least a little bit, be a functioning human in the world. Working as a camp counselor this summer really got me thinking about all of this. I worked at the camp I attended for six weeks in 2011 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. When I was a camper, I thought my counselors were the most inspiring, strongest people I’d ever seen; they could portage miles without taking breaks, they wore cool thrift shop clothes and were totally confident about it, they knew exactly what to say to make us laugh, to make every day amazing. They inspired my love for nature and helped me learn to love myself. And this summer, I had their job. I had big shoes to fill, and it still seems surreal to me that I did it. I just can’t imagine that my campers feel about me the way I felt (and still feel) about my counselors, and part of it is because I just can’t believe I’m old enough, grown up enough, to have that role. As the summer passed by, I assumed there’d be a moment when it clicked for me and I’d think, yes, I am a Kennedy counselor. On a basic level I knew that I was one — I mean, clearly that’s where I spent eight weeks this summer. But it didn’t seem real that I was watching these campers, that I was keeping them safe and helping them have an experience like the one I had five years ago. So I started wondering, did my counselors feel that way when I was their camper? And if so, when do you feel like a real grown up? Is it only once you stop working at summer camp? Do you ever?
I still hadn’t found an answer to these questions when I moved into my house on South Division Street this fall. For the last two years I basically lived on campus: Markley freshman year and my sorority house last year. So this fall was the first time I really had to think about cooking, cleaning, broken washing machines and omnipresent landlords. At first I was extremely overwhelmed. I had no idea what cooking utensils I needed, how much water you use to make rice (I still just eyeball it), and the first week of school I forgot I needed milk and ate cereal plain every morning. But slowly over the course of this month I’ve gotten into a routine. I make my own meals, clean up my dishes, actually do my laundry, while still being a student. Being in charge of my own well-being has made me feel like more of a “grown-up,” but at the same time I still ask my mom to make my doctor’s appointments, and don’t clean up the kitchen as often as I should.
There’s the old folk saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, I think it takes village to transition into adulthood. There’s no way I’d be able to complete all of my adult responsibilities without having friends along my side going through the same thing, and my older friends and parents who have been through this before. It really helps living in a full house this year. We teach each other little things we’ve picked up from our parents. For example, I never realized the importance of ice cube trays until this year. But more than just sharing housekeeping tips, friends and family keep me sane as I struggle to figure out where I fit in life at this time of transition. They assure me that it’s OK I still sleep with a pillow pet, and pick me up when I feel overwhelmed. Hopefully I can do the same for them, and we’ll help each other ease into this whole “adulting” thing.
I’ve talked to my parents about this, and they say they still feel like kids on the inside, so maybe you never feel grown up, but as you deal with the responsibilities of “adult” life — working, plunging toilets, paying bills, making doctor’s appointments and your own dinner, and a million other things that I have no idea about yet — you become an adult. But if you’re lucky, you can hold onto that sense of wonderment I felt walking home on my tenth birthday, and live every day like a 10-year-old who knows how to plunge a toilet.