Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Deliberate Adulthood

Yesterday I sat in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for my flight with my hands shaking and my knees bouncing. I was there early with time to spare, I was totally caught up on my schoolwork, and I'm not afraid of flying (in fact one of my favorite pastimes is jumping out of planes)... so why on earth was I so anxious? I checked Instagram in an attempt to distract myself. I went over everything I packed, convinced I had forgotten something. Phone, camera, wallet, keys. The longer I tried to figure out why I was so nervous the more confused I became. I looked up from my worry to see a guy about my age walking up with his mom.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

I wasn't nervous because of where I was, I was nervous because nobody knew (or particularly cared) that I was there. I've flown by myself before but my mom had always dropped me off at security, made me call her when I got to the gate, when I was on the plane, when the plane landed, and when I was at my final destination. Even since moving out of my parent's house three months ago, nearly everything I do is with friends or on campus surrounded by other students. I've never experienced the panic of nobody knowing where I was. 

I think that's the reason that up until this point I've been able to remain in blissful denial. Denial that I've actually entered the big, scary stage of life known as adulthood. 

"I can't believe I'm already 30"
"Time flies, before you know it you'll be out of college and in the real world"
"I don't feel old enough to be my age"

If you haven't heard any of these things said in the last 2 seconds you most likely live under a rock because they are about as common as dirt. Until now I've always been perplexed by phrases like this. I always assumed that they were partially made up. Surely someone who has been alive for 30 whole years feels like an adult by now. Surely they're only saying that to reassure themselves that they are still young. Surely they realize that they are in fact old and are probably just trying to make me feel better about my current situation by saying I'll grow up quickly.

Now, I think I finally understand them fully. Probably because I've started to catch myself uttering the very words that used to confuse me so. I hear myself assuring high schoolers that "graduation will come before you know it" or lamenting with my friends "how crazy it is that we've been alive for almost two full decades." 

I say these things because I don't really feel like an adult. Like at all actually. I live without parental supervision, I do my own laundry (sometimes...), I take myself to the doctor. And yet, every time I start to feel slightly grown up, I mentally shut myself up and make myself feel like a kid again. It's not socially acceptable for an eighteen year old to feel like an adult, and definitely not an eighteen year old named Cami Goold.

There's this thing called imposter syndrome where you somehow convince yourself that you're not a legitimate human being and eventually the whole world will figure it out and call your bluff. 

That's how I feel about being an adult. Someday soon everyone is going to figure out that I'm still a child and they'll force me to move back in with my parents and admit that I can't do anything for myself. Obviously I realize this is an irrational thought process, but until now I've let myself avoid adulthood by telling myself that I'm just an imposter.

 I had convinced myself that in reality I'm just a kid who's playing adult while I'm at college.

After my experience in the airport, feeling the weird anxiety that comes with independence, I decided that I don't want to live my life in anxious ambiguity. I don't want to reach 25 and ask myself if I'm finally allowed to be an adult. I've decided that right now I'm embracing adulthood. I'm making the deliberate decision to enter this stage of my life with open arms. 

This decision doesn't change anything about the way I act or think, it only changes the way I view myself. It means that as I start down this long journey of ever so slowly figuring out my life and learning the many many things the world wants to teach me, I view myself as a legitimate adult who has a loooong way to go, rather than a teenaged imposter who's only pretending to be a grown up.

Don't get me wrong, I know this is the very beginning of an era. I'm definitely not saying that because I'm an adult I'm somehow magically more mature or expected to make smarter decisions or become fully independent overnight. I still need to call my mom at least once a week. I'm still financially dependent on my parents, I'm still going home for Christmas, I still have a lot of school ahead of me before I can get a "grown up job." I still have miles and miles to go. But instead of looking back in 10 years and asking "when did all this happen?" I'm choosing to deliberately enter my years as an adult right now. By making the intentional decision to enter this stage of life I'm allowing myself to be  actively present throughout my adult years, rather passively watching the years go by.

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