As my 22nd birthday fast approaches, I have taken some time to reflect on my life at present and the journey that I have taken to get here.
I do not think there would be many adolescents who would deny their desire to grow up. I remember being in high school and feeling like there were better things out there for me, like I had some kind of destiny to fulfil. There is something beautiful about those years where you are still somewhat shielded from the (good and bad) realities of the real world. You have this idealistic perception of how adulthood will be, and your immaturity restricts you from critically analysing the lives of the adults you do know. Everything about adulthood seemed so appealing to me. I thought going to university would be an opportunity for me to meet like-minded people and study things that I really cared about. The prospect of having my license and the freedom to go wherever I wish, whenever I wish, was a truly exciting thought. Honestly, as a teenager I had a serious superiority complex. I grew up in an environment that made me think anything was possible. While this is not a bad thing, it did make me feel like I had some form of potential that I had to live up to, and that the expectations others had of me were far greater than expectations that others had of those around me. I felt like I had to do better and be better and in my mind, that meant being efficient and ‘growing up’ as quickly as possible.
Recently, I have come to the realisation that I will never be younger than what I am right now, but also that I am now a fully functioning adult in society. Everything that I pushed myself towards as a teenager and a university student has resulted in me being exactly where I am at this moment in time.
The reality can be harsh.
Some days, I wish I had someone to drive me everywhere I wanted to go. Filling my car up with petrol is the bane of my existence. God forbid I attend a petrol station that has outdated, slow pumps. I think I completed university with a grand total of maybe 3(?) friends, none of which I would necessarily say are on the exact same path in life as myself. I also hated my degree up until my final semester, by which time it was far too late to try and turn things around to finish with a 4.0 GPA.
There are other more idiosyncratic things that I longed for as a teenager but could not care less for nowadays.
I remember my older sister being an avid BlackBerry user before finally converting to iOS in 2013. Earlier this year, I discovered a new edition BlackBerry (produced under license by the Chinese firm TCL) that runs Android. I decided to purchase it. The keyboard is a real novelty, but the processing power sucks and it is genuinely one of the worst phones I have ever used.
Another weird thing: my hair. As a teenager, I was surrounded by girls who had long hair. My hair was never as long as theirs, probably because I had digestive issues and a pretty poor diet in high school. As I became more health-conscious in university, my hair started to grow like crazy. Last week, I decided to cut it short again, despite the fact that it had not been at such a long length in at least 10 years. Usually I would mourn my hair post-haircut, but this time around I have felt no emotions - probably because I am too busy to care.
For all the bad things I could say, there are many good things that have come from this transition into adulthood. I proved myself wrong in many ways: I never considered myself to be particularly athletic, yet I now find myself exercising 3-5 times per week and genuinely enjoying it. I rarely looked at listings for my “dream job” as I did not think I was smart enough or capable enough. I told myself it would take me five years to build up the knowledge to tackle jobs like that. Thankfully, the stars aligned and I mustered up some courage to give myself a chance. And that is how I got to where I am professionally at the tender age of 21.
All these things aside, I think the most valuable thing I have learned is to be more critical of, yet empathetic and compassionate towards, the adults around me and those in influential positions of society. I think this is something that we miss a lot in society nowadays. People are quick to be critical and judgmental of others, but unwilling to show compassion or attempt to understand opposing views.
Mission accomplished: I have grown up tremendously quickly. This past year has been especially transformative in both a professional and personal sense. In many ways, I feel like my destiny has been fulfilled and all my dreams have come true. However, there is actually a great deal of sadness that comes with that realisation. I sit here in the early hours of a Saturday morning and ponder what is next.