Walking the tightrope of adulthood
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 15:09
Being a college student feels a lot like teeter-tottering back and forth between adulthood and adolescence. It’s a back and forth battle between the energy and excitement of adolescence and the new responsibilities and freedoms of adulthood.
We experience different kinds of growing pains. We experience the kind of growing pains that thankfully do not include stretch marks and pants that become floods after growth spurts.
A majority of college students leave their parents’ homes for the first time when they turn 18. They taste their first morsels of freedom. Newfound independence and no rules can be exhilarating! No curfews, no rules, no parents waiting up on the couch anymore. Yet once this initial exhilaration fades, newfound independence can be confusing and scary.
Not only are we dealing with difficult developmental transitions, but also the worst recession since the Great Depression. It might sound dramatic to interject Founding Father Thomas Paine quote here, but it seems fitting amidst the recession, government continually impinging on our freedoms and upcoming 2012 election.
Paine famously stated, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” I identify with that quote from both the political context in which it was written and a personal context.
Politically (specifically economically), it is a trying time for my friends and I, where we are struggling to find decent paying jobs with benefits. Several of my friends have returned to their parents’ basements. They find themselves dusting off relics of the past, bogged down by student loans, while trying to pave a new future in an uncertain economy.
These are also trying times from a personal perspective. Although I made the transition from my parents’ cozy nest to college seven years ago, I can still acutely remember the difficulty of grappling with “adulthood” my freshman and sophomore years of college.
Plagued by homesickness and depression, I still remember crying every night my first year of college. My heart strings kept tugging me back to my home and back to the familiar. The three-hour stretch of Interstate between Bismarck and Fargo seemed colossal back then.
I plan to write about depression in more detail in the coming weeks, but I mention it here because it definitely hindered my ability to make a healthy adjustment to adulthood. Yes, there were good times too.
Like lots of teenagers and young adults, I took the freedom to party and take engage in plenty of revelries. This is sort of a rite of passage. It is common from a scientific perspective because the risk taking part of our brains (specifically the frontal cortex) is not fully developed until 25.
It is a time of experimentation and time to explore. Have fun for goodness sake. Stay up until 3 a.m. on a school night. Mix reds and whites together in the laundry and find out what happens. Make ramen on a hot plate. Go to classes, read, write, think about your values and set goals too.
Do not let expectations about “what to do in life” and “the future” weigh you down. Deciding what to do in the future can be utterly terrifying, like an ominous black cloud hovering above you, but it does not have to be.
Now a wise old owl at almost 26 years old, I can tell you I freaked out about the future and shakily stumbled towards adulthood (to say nothing about my clumsiness). The future is uncertain and being a young adult we are all stumbling to find what works and what does not. Lean on family, friends and resources to make the adjustment easier.
Mistakes are bound to happen, but they are like the stretch marks of adulthood. Walking the tightrope of adulthood is a delicate balance indeed.
Tessa is a senior majoring in English.