I am always one of the youngest in my grade. My friends frequently refer to me as the “baby” of the group because of my late September birthday. I started my freshman year of college around a month ago, and until now, I had only been seventeen-years-old. It seemed like everyone was already 18, meaning they could make all of the adult-like decisions that I was not yet able to make.
During my senior year of high school, turning 18 always seemed like a right of passage. Eighteen-years-old meant registering to vote, purchasing cigarettes, and signing documents without a parent’s signature. I usually stood back and watched with envy as my friends got their ears pierced without their mom tagging along, or smoked cigars after prom simply because they could. I promised myself that the day I turned 18 that I would party all night, pierce my ears for a third time, and maybe, just maybe, get a tiny tattoo without telling my mom. These were things that I always thought adults did. Adults do crazy things without getting caught. Adults don’t listen to their parents’ advice. Adults do whatever they want, right?
Since turning 18 this past weekend, I have grabbed ice cream with my new college pals. I made smoothies late at night with my roommates. I studied and got ahead in my schoolwork. I have essentially done the exact same things that I did last week when I was “only 17.” Does that mean I’m not actually an adult?
There’s two ways of looking at this. My initial thought is, no, I’m not an adult yet. There’s no way that 11:59 p.m. on the eve of my birthday makes me a child, but one minute later I’m magically a grownup. I refuse to lie to myself. There are so many things in life I have yet to discover or learn. Sometimes I struggle to do laundry on my own, and many times I never know exactly what to say. However, I’m okay with that. 18 years is so minuscule in the grand scheme of life, and I have recently discovered that there is no need to rush every precious minute to claim to be someone I am not.
At the same time, eighteen-years-old bears a lot of responsibility. 18 means living on my own and making decisions without the guidance of my mom. 18 means having to decide between right and wrong. 18 signifies that I have to live up to my own mistakes while taking pride in my achievements. Legally, I am an adult. In the eyes of the law, I am an adult. Being an adult means making choices that do not necessarily coincide with the stereotypical actions that adults make.
Maybe, that’s what being an adult is all about.
I’m holding off on getting my cartilage pierced. I’m going to take a little more time to consider if a tattoo is the right look for me. The beauty of turning 18 in college is that I was already making adult-like decisions before my birthday, so I do not feel the pressure to act a certain way now that my age has changed. Being an adult is more than a number. Being an adult has its privileges and disadvantages. I have the incredible right to choose every single action I make without the approval of others; yet every action I make has its consequences. It’s really a beautiful, yet terrifying thing.
Turning 18 does not change who I am. Instead, it affects how I change the world. Being a legal adult means I have a stronger voice in the community and in my country. So why would I use this gift of adulthood and use it for fruitless things?
My 18th birthday signifies a gift that beats no other: another year of life. And my gift to myself is that I will not change or mold into a person that fits the criteria of an adult. I will take one day at a time, learn all that I can, and allow this transition from childhood to adulthood to flow gradually, but consistently. My only job is to be Macy from age zero to age 180, and I hope that the inner child in my heart sticks around for a very long time.
My heart is filled with youth, and my brain is wired like an adult. Maybe that’s what adulthood is all about.