18 Years Old


Kaitlin Lee, Staff Writer

I blew out the candles, and my parents clapped enthusiastically. I was suddenly 18. 

The day before my birthday, I didn’t even realize that I was now walking into a new part of my life. As an 18-year-old, I can now vote, drive without limitations, serve on a jury, pawn things off, and even drink alcohol in Europe. Heck, I can get married now. 

In other words, I’m an adult. I guess. It’s terrifying, to say the least. 

Ever since I was in middle school, people would tell me that since I was an “adult,” I had to get over things and do it myself. Return a library book? Do it yourself; you’re an adult. Ask the worker for directions? Do it yourself; you’re an adult. Filling out college apps? Do it yourself; you’re an adult. 

But I wasn’t an adult. I was just a kid. A really shy, awkward kid who hated talking to strangers up until her junior year. But people expected me to grow up way faster than I felt comfortable with and somehow to “get over” my anxieties. Looking back, I’m not sure if I ever did. 

I don’t feel like an adult. Even though I’m referred to as the “Mom” friend and even though I voted this month, I don’t feel very much like a grown-up. For one, I have the worst executive functioning skills (much to the chagrin of my peers). My sense of humor has been so horribly wrecked by the Internet that I certainly would not be called high-brow. And, I never lost my qualms about speaking with strangers.

But, at the same time, I don’t feel like a kid either. I enjoy being in charge and leading others. I’m super excited to vote, just as excited as I get when I go to IKEA. Worst of all, I don’t relate to my friends as much anymore, even when they are 18 as well. There are no actual words to describe the sense of disconnection I have with them, but the best way I can put it is that while they still have the naivete and stubbornness of kids, I’ve slowly warped into a mixture of naive and realistic, immature and mature. 

18-year-olds are stuck in a strange middle ground of adulthood and childhood. We still depend on our parents, but we have to become our own people as well. It’s our turn to step into the cold, unforgiving world and try to make a future out of what last generation’s 18-year-olds left us. That’s so scary to me, as I edge closer and closer to the point of no return. Even if the world was not in such a horrible state like it is today, I think I would still be terrified and lost. I’m Little Red Riding Hood, and the world is a giant forest with wolves all around. 

But, at the same time, Little Red Riding Hood had a woodsman and her grandmother to help guide her, and I have my family and friends. I’m not really alone, even at times when it feels like it. Adulthood is about being independent, but not isolated. Adulthood is about being mature, but not being perfect. And when I reframed my view of life after 18 years like that, suddenly being an adult wasn’t so terrifying.


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