The Truth About Growing Up

The Truth About Growing Up

It's all fun and games until you realize it's not all fun and games.
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As a new school year draws near, and as those new year jitters start to make you squirm; it's easy to be scared about growing up. In all honesty, it is scary. It's really, really scary. You aren't quite sure what to anticipate, but you're still as anxious as can be. The future is an interesting thing to think about--it's a blank slate, but you can't paint it all at once. It's a piece of art that you will continue to work on forever, just as you will continue to develop your future forever. Although you ultimately control your own destiny (with guidance from above, of course), you'll have to understand that growing up influences:

Responsibilities. With new freedoms come new responsibilities. Sure, you can choose where you want to live--but you have to pay for it. The same principle applies to car shopping, restaurant choices, trips, and basically everything else. You decide where and if you sleep at night, you decide what and if you eat, and you're in charge of yourself now. You can pick whatever you want. However, can you pay for whatever you want? Can you trust yourself to make commitments like that? Maybe you already can, or maybe you'll have to wait a little while. Responsibility is both learned and practiced, so take your time perfecting the skill.

Stress. With new responsibilities come new stresses. Adulthood puts emphasis on different things than childhood. Therefore, different things require your attention and your worry. With all of the new things to stress about, it's easy to become very anxious. You fail one too many tests during a tough semester, can you manage paying tuition if you lose your scholarship? You can handle buying a pack or two of bandaids and some Neosporin, but can you afford health insurance? Your tires slide all over the road when it rains, but would you be able to pay for the repairs if you rear end someone? Even past the monetary stresses, you actually have to worry about keeping people happy. In childhood, you don't always have to please everyone. However, in adulthood, you have bosses, family, (maybe) a significant other, their family, landlords, and professors to appease. Eventually, you'll have children to worry about...but that's way too much to think about right now.

Experiences. Filling out your own medical forms at doctors' offices instead of reading a magazine while your mom does it for you. Driving yourself to the beach instead of sleeping in the back seat. Cooking your own dinner instead of watching TV when you should be helping. Cleaning your apartment instead of waiting for your parents to get annoyed and do it for you. Getting vaccinated without your dad there to hold your hand. Walking home from the library at 2am instead of being in the safety of your own home, where your mom was there to help you study. Waking yourself up (with 12+ alarms) for classes and for work, rather than hearing your dad yell for you to wake up. These are things that either you're about to face or you have faced. Although a lot of the things you'll experience are pesky or tiring, some are great. Growing up means going to a party if you want to. It means road-tripping to your best friend's college for the weekend. It means going to that music festival that your parents never allowed you to attend. It means being responsible for your life, but it also means being able to live.

Self control. Growing up doesn't make you gain or lose emotions. No matter the age or maturity level, we are all still human. Humans feel both happiness and sadness, both peace and fear, both confidence and vulnerability, and both love and anger. No matter the emotion, though, growing up requires controlling your tongue and your actions. It is no longer socially acceptable to throw temper tantrums when Wendy's informs you that the Frosty machine is broken, nor is it okay for you to punch someone if they call you a meanie. Growing up means conditioning yourself to handle all sorts of situations, but still maintain both your sanity and your dignity.

Relationships. This is the absolute truest example of "you win some and you lose some." Some of your most prized childhood relationships dwindle away, normally because life causes you to fall out of touch. Those friendships that you thought you'd never lose? Don't freak out when they end. Most of the time, these relationships don't fall apart because of a major fight or anything of the sort. They fall apart merely because your lives change. You move to new cities, you make new friends, you join new organizations/groups, you pick up new hobbies, and your overall circumstances just simply change. It's nothing to feel guilty about, it's just that you subconsciously choose who to confide in. You'll eventually find yourself having loads of friends and acquaintances, but only a couple truly close friends. You choose who you want to burden with your dramatic stories and babbling thoughts. You choose who you want to meet for coffee every other morning. You choose who to call when things appear to be falling apart. Your personal life becomes more and more private as you grow older, and that's totally okay.

Bodily changes. This is just a slow fade from the day you graduate until the day you die. Your metabolism will no longer work at the same speed as it did when you were seven years old. You may have already realized that you can't eat Doritos and cookies everyday without your stomach/thighs getting jiggly. Aside from food, workouts become harder and irregular. That sport you played in high school that kept you in shape but didn't feel like a workout? Yeah, good luck finding a replacement for that. As you grow up, you learn that making it to the gym twice a week is enough of a challenge. Also, you stay sore longer than you did once upon a time. Not only does it take twice as long for your body to bounce back, but you also realize that one day, hopefully in the distant future, you'll get wrinkles and you'll have to wear reading glasses.

Nostalgia. No matter how much you love where you are in life, or how excited you are about what is yet to come, you will always get that desire to travel back in time and relive certain moments. There are regretted moments that you wish you could change, and there are cherished moments that you wish you could relive. You remember the butterflies in your stomach during your first kiss, the way it felt to perform a solo in front of a full crowd or kick the winning goal, the cute little giggle that your baby brother had when you'd tickle him. Flashes of your past constantly play in the back of your mind, and though you wish with all of your heart that you could time travel, you learn to live your life appreciating those sentimental moments.

But eventually, you learn to appreciate the life you once had. Then, you start to appreciate what lies ahead. Life gets real, and it happens fast. College is the beginning of a life full of both good and bad changes. You know why that's okay? Because it's natural, it's normal, and it's unavoidable. Don't freak out though. Although there's no way to prepare for it, life is always both manageable and conquerable. Every trouble has an answer, and every low has a high.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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The Things I Found At Rock Bottom

It was the darkest, but the dawn did come.

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About 3 months ago, my whole life was uprooted by a breakup.

My ex ended a relationship with me very suddenly that I had the full intention of being in for the rest of my life, and even thought I knew it was a necessary loss, coming down from that high and detoxing our toxic relationship from my system was the hardest thing I have ever been through. There was a day I finished up in class and zoned out and started driving, until I found myself three hours away from home. I didn't eat for days, and I woke up every day having panic attacks when I remembered everything that had happened. The first few weeks were a dark, horrible blur, with pain at levels I would never wish on anyone. On top of that, I was also forced to move an hour away from home and quit a job that I loved as a result of the breakup.

I wasn't just losing a person, I was losing everything that I built my identity up to be. Our relationship was my whole life, and that's why I knew that us breaking up was necessary, but that didn't take away the two and a half years of memories I was left with. He also chose to end it in such a violent and excruciating way — telling me he never loved me, cutting off all contact with me, and basically telling me to kill myself. Sitting in the rubble of all of this, I had never felt so empty and void of happiness before.

But when you're completely shattered and sitting in nothing but rubble, you're presented with a beautiful opportunity — a blank canvas. There are no morning and night routines laid out for you, you don't have the same people texting you as before, you don't have the good morning text that you were used to. You have nothing. Because of these things, your own interests and desires become the default setting you're programmed to operate on, and you get to know yourself in a way that you didn't before.

Here's how I found my way out of the void.

1. Small distractions are so helpful.

.There were a few things that I turned to that were absolutely crucial to me when I was struggling to keep it together: New Girl, playing the game Words With Friends, and journaling (free-writing, and writing in these that I found at Target). Honestly, these things rarely actually made me feel better. However, the value I found in them was creating new habits and filling my life back up with things that didn't involve my heartbreak.

2. You need a support system.

I have always had a hard time trusting people and talking about my feelings. So I thought, naturally, the way to cope with that is to find one person you can trust, and for them to be your ride or die. That's what my ex was for me. When he was gone, I had to learn how to open up to people again, which was extremely foreign and uncomfortable for me. It was an odd feeling to text a friend and say "I'm not okay right now and I need you", and even more uncomfortable when they were nice and supportive back. But all of the dozens of people I leaned on ended up being literally a support system for me- giving me advice, keeping me in check, and telling me all of the things I didn't want to hear, like how pathetic I was acting at some points.

3. You absolutely cannot avoid pain in life.

A quote I found by Jon Kabat-Zinn reads, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to swim" and that became a guiding philosophy for me in dealing with pain. As comforting as it would've been for me to tell myself I'll never let anyone hurt me again, or I was never going to be in another relationship again, I instead decided to tell myself that I was never going to let something break me so deeply again, because I would have a stronger foundation of me and a stronger sense of self. So that when the next person left my life, I would be sad, but I wouldn't feel shattered to the core ever again. Life involves constant rejection, constant disappointment, and constant anxiety. You will never escape that. You will hurt so much throughout life. But if you can build yourself to be strong enough, it won't matter.

4. You can empathize with somebody and forgive their actions and still want nothing to do with them- and that's okay.

When my ex and I were together, he messed up and did a lot of things wrong. He would scream at me and tell me he hated me and apologize with so much fear and hurt in his eyes and say, "I'm sorry, sometimes my anxiety causes me to demonize you" and in the moment I wasn't strong enough to say "it's okay, but you're abusive and I need to be away from you". I instead would say, "It's okay, let's not worry about it and just go to bed" and it would keep on happening. I empathized too much with his demons and gave him too much understanding at my own expense. Now I've learned that I can still feel that way about him, but when he reaches out asking for another chance, I can say no. And I don't feel guilty anymore.

5. Your relationship with yourself should be your top priority.

To explain my experience of learning to love myself, it would take pages. Simply put, I started being okay with things just being me, myself, and I. If I had a rough day, I would at first come home wishing I had my ex there to talk to and be there for me. Eventually I started going to Target, picking up a bottle of wine, and taking care of my damn self. I stopped thinking "oh I'd love to do this but I don't have anybody to go with me" and started eating at restaurants alone, going to bars alone, and going on hikes alone. I bought myself jewelry that I wished a guy would buy me. I said yes to every guy that asked me out on a date just to put myself out there. I spontaneously went and got a new tattoo completely by myself. And now that I steady to the core in my own being, anybody in my life is there because they're a complement, not a supplement. This will protect me from ever staying in a relationship again that manages to gut me in the way my previous one did.

A quote that I love from J.K. Rowling reads, "Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life", and that is absolutely true of what the past three months have been for me. Day by day, I've pieced together a new identity and healed my soul. I wouldn't have been here if I hadn't hit rock bottom.

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