My 18th birthday occurred last week, marking the crossing of that once-so-distant threshold from childhood to adulthood. I am now legally able to vote, buy a lottery ticket and – as I was reminded by one of my peers – go to actual prison instead of juvie if I get arrested. Yeah ... not feeling quite as excited about that last one. Still, it was a symbolic birthday, and although I might not feel all that different right now, I know that being 18 carries a lot of weight in the world, as well as numerous implications for my life.
When I was younger, being an adult seemed like the most amazing thing in the world. In my somewhat naïve mind, I assumed that adults could do anything they wanted, go wherever they desired and spend unlimited amounts of money that magically appeared out of ATMs. Adulthood as I perceived it meant freedom and maturity; it meant you got to make the rules and live life as you pleased. Now, I know that’s not exactly the case.
When I think about adulthood now, I honestly get a little freaked out. I look at the adults in my life and see people bound by schedules, limited by finances and constrained by stressors I can’t even imagine. I’ve learned that ATMs aren’t nearly as magical as my younger self thought they were and that adults have to follow just as many rules as everyone else. Instead of leading these picture-perfect, uninhibited lives I had always envisioned, it seems like adults are dealing with additional issues and restrictions I was previously unaware of.
I’m in a unique position right now because I’m old enough to be considered an adult, yet I’m still a high school student and therefore a child in the eyes of many. My life at the moment is a bizarre blend of childhood and adulthood; I’m in the process of applying to college and thinking about a future career, yet at the same time, I can’t get enough of Disney movies and would much rather take a nap than run a lap in gym class. I’m expected to achieve an adult level of responsibility and behave with maturity, yet I laugh at the most ridiculous jokes and get intimidated by the thought of being self-sufficient at college. Don’t even get me started on taxes because I honestly have no idea how to feel about (or file) them.
Being a legal adult is admittedly frightening, and I’m well aware that growing up isn’t as idyllic as I once thought it was. Luckily, as a high school senior, I get to hold onto childhood security for a little while longer, and hopefully doing so will prepare me for everything true adulthood has in store. It might be stressful at times, but I know that it also will bring me new opportunities that will transform me beyond my wildest dreams. I hope my adult years will hold many incredible experiences, and maybe even prove to younger Emma that adulthood is pretty great after all.
Emma Chrusciel is a senior at Geneva High School. In addition to writing, she loves Broadway musicals, playing piano, and spending time with her family and friends. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.