I recently had an out-of-body experience.

Let me set the scene for you. I’ve been student teaching at Brighton High School for a little more than two months now. At this stage in the game, I’m doing most of the teaching every day. I’m planning lessons, setting rules and trying to ensure that learning is actually happening. For the most part, it’s going really well. Like with any job, there are good days and bad days. There are students who I really appreciate and students who I just can’t figure out. But overall, I’m beginning to figure out what kind of teacher I am.

But back to my out-of-body experience. It happened when I made a pit stop in the restroom — which probably isn’t the most idyllic setting for a revelation. I was wearing what Kathryn Young, the coordinator for the Undergraduate Secondary Teacher Education Program in the School of Education, calls “teacher clothes” — which consist of sensible slacks and a blouse — and a little bit of makeup. After I finished washing my hands, I looked up into the mirror above the sink to check my hair. I stopped and had to stare at myself for a few seconds.

The young woman in the mirror who was looking back at me was a professional.

I didn’t have a lot of time to contemplate the feeling at the time. There were 28 high school seniors waiting for me to talk about “All Quiet on the Western Front.” But when I got home after school, I took a few moments to consider what had happened.

I remembered that scene in “Finding Neverland” when Johnny Depp, portraying the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, tells the character George Llewelyn Davies, “Somewhere during the last 30 seconds, you’ve become a grown-up.”

The moment I experienced felt something like that. It was kind of like getting a kick in the face. Bam! You’re an adult. Or, perhaps more accurately, other people think you’re an adult. That’s a pretty terrifying thought when those other people are high school seniors.

The students who I teach are generally a rambunctious bunch. They are energetic, witty and never give me a break. At 17 and 18 years old, they think they’re wise in the ways of the world and that there’s nothing anyone can teach them about anything.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was these students. When I was 17, I thought I knew everything too. But, of course, I was wrong. Now, at 21 years old, I’m about to graduate. I spent a year as the editorial page editor of a fantastic college newspaper discussing tense, controversial issues with some very bright people. I think I know a fair amount about the way the world works. But when I get that feeling, I wonder what I’ll think of 21-year-old Rachel when I’m 25 and 29 and 34.

Graduation gets a little nearer and more real every day. I’m looking toward the future with a mixture of excitement and blind terror. After May, I’m going to need to have a job lined up, I’m going to need a loan to buy a car and I’m going to need insurance.

But at the same time, though I had that feeling in the restroom, sometimes I still feel like I’m just playing dress-up when I walk into the classroom each day in business casual. I look back at my senior year of high school and wonder if I’ll ever actually grow up or if I’ll be clinging to the second star from the right for the rest of my life.

The purpose of college is for us to start to become grown-ups. We learn about chemistry, economics and ourselves. But for the most part, we still think of ourselves as kids. Many of us are still dependent upon our parents. As much as we want to show how smart, sophisticated and well-prepared for the world we are, we’re still just a bunch of college kids.

At some point, we’re all going to have an epiphany that we’re grown up. Maybe this already happened for you. If it hasn’t, prepare yourself now, because it’s coming. It might not happen until you get engaged or you get your first promotion, but it’s going to happen. And you’ll realize that you are not Peter Pan, and you are going to have to grow up.

Rachel Van Gilder was the Daily’s editorial page editor in 2010. She can be reached at rachelvg@umich.edu.

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