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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

On growing up

<e is this thing that seems to happen to humans, roughly between the ages of thirteen and twenty-nine, and it’s called “growing up”. Of course, along with most things in life, there are the exceptions, i.e., the peculiar two-year-olds who like the taste of coffee (me) and the forty-year olds who play Call of Duty (my father). But for the most part, everyone goes through an awkward phase where the line gets blurred between realizing you can no longer get away with being a kid, and you are not yet fully an adult.

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up. I was impatient to have responsibilities and real problems and meaningful life-long friendships. I would carry around briefcases and talk on my imaginary cell phone to all of my most-important clients. At family gatherings I would tell everyone how I wanted to be a lawyer, or an investment banker, or a CEO, or whatever job sounded big and important enough to impress the crowd.

I was in search for some kind of approval, some way to show myself off without having anything concrete to show. Such claims regarding my future were accompanied by small nods and secretive smiles from all the real adults, sometimes followed by an over-exaggerated “wow” or a concealed but condescending pat on the back. I was convinced that I was on top of it. Saying what I wanted to do with my life was easy. The world felt small and simple and easy to play with.  

Then I got to college. Suddenly I was free. Suddenly the world became darkly perplexing and large. Suddenly I was at a loss for words when asked what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to major in everything and never feel stuck with anything. Everyone around me seemed to be living a crazy, scattered life; mine felt a callow skeleton in comparison. Suddenly, in a confusing whirl of questions and lack of answers, I grew up a little.  

I didn’t realize I was growing up. It was subtle. Adults started to listen a little closer when I talked and middle-schoolers started to look a little younger. I began to realize that the talents that had once received so much praise and approval from adults no longer were recognized, or at least, not recognized audibly. People were outdoing me. I found that the pool of competition had widened itself to a new sort of competition, one where I had to be articulate, thoughtful, insightful, and different. Perhaps the most defining part of it all comes with accepting a certain lack of clarity that at one point used to feel so assured.

Essentially, growing up entails becoming more humble. It’s the process of somehow finding a significant place in this bewildering swarm of strangers, and realizing that until we grow up a little more, we are merely incapable, confused adolescents.

(Idea provided by Alissa Severson).

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