Well I Guess This Is Growing Up

Well I Guess This Is Growing Up

A coming of age story...
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When I was younger, I used to be so focused on becoming older. I used to ask my parents all the time at what age my voice would deepen or when I would get big muscles. I would dream about what college I would go to, and which team was going to select me in the NFL Draft. I always have been and always will be a dreamer.

Despite this, even in the moment, I knew I was blessed for the childhood and upbringing I had. I grew up on a street with a large group of neighborhood boys, all my age. These guys would later grow up to become my brothers. Guys that have seen me at my best and at my worst, and friends I have had the greatest memories in the world with. I started a band with them, we played in the woods together, we made movies, played video games, had sleepovers and shared everything with each other. To this day, I smile when I think of those days, to have had a friendship so pure and so real as the kind I had with the gang on 16 Street.

Once we hit middle school, we started to grow up fast. I remember when the topics changed from which Star Wars character we liked the most to which girl at school we thought was the hottest! I remember feeling so grown up when we would ride our bikes 2 or 3 miles to the mall together, and that feeling being amplified when we could drive across the state together. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. What we looked like and what we were interested in certainly changed over the years, but the bond was constant.

After I graduated high school (I was the second oldest in our group), I went off to college out of state. I was to embark upon a life changing journey that would shape me into the man that I am today. My friends all knew that this was something I had dreamed about since I was young, and supported me 100 percent. And so I left the neighborhood, returning 5 months later to find it exactly the same as I had left it. Or was it?

When I came home, my room was still a mess, my family still loved me the same and my dog was still stinky. Driving to my friends’ houses felt familiar and so did embracing them, but something was… off. They seemed like the same guys I remembered, but for some reason I just wasn’t having as much fun as I used to around them. Each time I would return home for Christmas or Summer Break, this empty feeling in my stomach would grow. And each time I would reunite with my friends that I had been friends with since we were about 9, I would come home with a sour taste in my mouth.

It’s taken me almost two years since I left home for the first time to realize why this is; I’ve outgrown my childhood completely. I’ve had so many new life experiences outside of my city, and going back to it just isn’t the same. There is nothing wrong with my friends, and I still love them, but I just know that it’ll never be the way that it used to be. Sure, I remain pretty close with a few of them, but the gang that I grew up with is gone. I thank God for them and for the experiences I’ve had with them and wouldn’t trade them for the world. But it's time for me to move on.

My experience is by no means unique. I would say that the great majority of students who go off to college and come back would have a similar story. At the end of spring semester, we’re happy to come home, but by August, we can’t wait to go back to the place where we feel we truly belong. Growing up is not something that happens all of a sudden. It’s not like you’ll go to bed and wake up with facial hair and a deep voice (I legitimately thought this), but instead it surprises you. One day you’ll realize that the last few years have flown by pretty quick. So best to enjoy the ride, laugh, cry, eat, drink and find pleasure in the people you do all of these things with. Pretty soon, we’ll be getting married, starting families, getting real world jobs and having to adult, so live up these wonderful adventures you find yourself on. After all, you’re only young once...
Cover Image Credit: Eli Forbes

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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Finding Your Niche In College Starts With Finding You

Attempting to be someone you are not for the sake of having company only hurts you in the long run.

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Transitioning to college is hard enough, but trying to find a place where you feel "at home" can make this time even more stressful. Here are some tips on how to find that place/group of people that make you feel like sunshine.

I have always felt a little out of place wherever I went, but it wasn't until college that I realized that this feeling was so special and more people should capitalize on their differences rather than conforming to a certain mold. Transitioning to college and finding your place among so many people can be very overwhelming. The added stress of attempting to be someone you aren't for the sake of having company adds a whole other layer to this problem. The easiest thing for me to do in any situation like this is trying to make the setting a little smaller. One of the most obvious ways to do this on a college campus is by getting involved!

It is inevitable that within the first few weeks of the semester at any college, there will be an organization fair. This is a chance to scope out all that your school has to offer! Chances are there will be some type of group or club that lines up with your interests. Most college campuses have extracurricular opportunities ranging from social sororities and fraternities, professional ones, intermural sports, vocal groups, and so many more. You are more than likely going to find some type of organization that you can call home if you seek them out. Joining an organization is such an easy way to interact with people with similar interests. An interest can bring two completely different people together and create some beautiful friendships. It is situations like this where it is important to be your authentic self and mingle with those you share something with.

That being said, finding your place in college isn't always about being involved. Getting involved on campus is just one of the simplest ways to start. There are so many other opportunities on campus to meet people whether it be among others in your residence hall, people in your classes, or just people you find yourself stumbling upon! Finding people to spend your time with is easy; however, you should make it a point to surround yourself with people who bring you up.

Once you have a set group of people that you find yourself spending time with, it is important to pay attention to the way you feel when you're around them. If you find yourself feeling bad about yourself or get the impression that you need to change something in order to "fit in," chances are the people you're around are not the best for you or your self-esteem. It is important to surround yourself with people who allow you to feel comfortable in your own skin. That being said, you also want people who encourage you to make good decisions and help you reach your goals. People who encourage toxic behavior in your life might be fun in the short term, but in the grand scheme of things, you need to be surrounded by people with your best interest in mind. Essentially, surrounding yourself with people who influence you to be your best self is one of the best decisions you can make short and long term.

The key to all of this is being conscious of your own feelings and needs. Pay attention to who reaches out to you to hang out. Notice the ones who pay attention to you as you speak when it feels like no one is listening. More than anything, be conscious of who you're with and where you're at when you experience moments of pure happiness. Life is too short to waste your precious time on people who don't build you up. Wouldn't you rather spend your time with more moments of pure joy than self-hate? Start living for you!

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