Ever look back and realize just how far you’ve come? Ever marvel at how different you are from that person who existed just a few years ago? Ever cringe at that person’s mistakes? Ever laugh to yourself when you realize just how naïve that person was?
If I have – and I’m sure you have – then you are growing up. Terrifying words, I know. Who wants to face the adult world of bills and eight-hour work days and bills and scheduling your own appointments and bills and buying your own food? We fear this growing up partly because we are unsure what the future holds, but we also fear it because we are afraid we won’t know how to do it. What if I don’t do a good enough job saving my money and don’t have enough to pay rent one month? What if I mess up big time at my job? What if I burn down the entire apartment complex trying to cook macaroni and cheese (legitimate fear, people)? What if, What if, What if…
See, we tend of think of the adult word as a precipice – one minute we’re strolling up the mountain and the next minute we’ve fallen off and flat on the bottom, and we have to figure out how to survive in a completely new environment. Everything behind us is completely disconnected from where we are now.
If we think about this analogy, we realize it doesn’t hold up. Adulthood is just another stage; it’s a continuation of a road we’re on. Sure, it’s different – more responsibilities, greater consequences – but it isn’t some strange new world with no reference to where we’ve been before. Every time we have an experience that grows us, every time we learn something new, we are preparing for that adulthood. We’re getting closer to it, not in the sense of the inexorable march of time (although we won’t be growing backward anytime soon unless we're the characters in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sequel), but in the sense that we’re preparing. We’re learning how to do it.
The thought of going to college was intimidating. It was something new; something I had never experienced. I wasn’t sure if I would rise to the challenge. But all throughout high school I was growing and learning and preparing for the next stage. College is the same – adulthood isn’t an isolated, quarantined experience. Just as the lessons I learned in high school helped me to “do college,” the lessons I’ve been learning in college will help me to “adult.” My dad describes every new skill gained as a “tool in the toolbox,” and I’ve always loved that analogy. Flying by myself for the first time? Tool in my adult life tool box. Learning how budget? Tool in my toolbox. Pythagorean Theorem? Uh…Political Science major here…just kidding. Tool in the toolbox.
I’m not saying that adult life is going to be easy. After all, it’s a different stage. There will aspects of it that are entirely new and that we can only experience by being on our own and working and cooking our own food. Sometimes it will be hard; sometimes we’ll fall flat on our faces. But we can figure it out because look at how much we’ve already figured out. Look at all the obstacles we’ve overcome and all the tools we’ve put in our toolbox. Even now, we’re transitioning into adult life, and we don’t even realize it. Look back at how much you’ve grown and know that that growth will continue into the future.