Growing up. From the moment we are bright-eyed kindergarteners, to the day of high school graduation, we are arbitrarily asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?."
And we provide an answer. “Fireman! Doctor! Veterinarian! The next President of the United States,” with the mindless absence of reality, we gush and dream about the seemingly endless opportunities ahead of us. We are taught from an early age that not only must we make such a major decision, but we are marginalized, painted a picture of what “growing up” looks like.
And so, we spend our years waiting for the moment we can say “I did it. I've grown up!” It's up to every individual to define “grown up,” versus when you can still bask in the bliss of youthful ignorance. Maybe for some, you've felt grown up since you were still too short to ride a roller coaster. Or maybe, your grey hairs are coming in and you're still chasing your shadow in Neverland, stuck in retrograde. The act of “growing up” is an anomaly. What does growing up entail? Why do we worry about it so much? Well, who says we have to?
I am currently staring “growing up,” right in the face. I’m in my senior year of high school, and I have only now realized, that I've spent so much time waiting for time itself to pass, that now that it's finally here, I ache for the days I worried about making it inside for dinner by the time the front porch light was flipped on. Right now, there is so much pressure to figure out the rest of my life, at least that's how it feels. College, degrees, careers, it's all “now or never,” and the notion that this next chapter of my life is going to be one that defines who I go on to be, provides nocomfort, only the feeling of being thrown in the deep end of the pool, merely hoping you don't drown. And, the irony of it all, is that while I am considering things like how long into my adult life I will have student debt, I'm still just 17, worrying about getting home by curfew, and the B minus on my calculus test.
Here I am, on the edge of being a kid and growing up, and it feels like taking a leap into something dramatic, like a vat of lava, or a pit of snakes. Yet, I find comfort in thinking of it not as a leap of failure... but as a leap of faith. Sure, I'm going in pretty blind. But if there is one thing I trust, it's resilience. We are resilient. Humans face the decision between fight, or flight, and I like to think we more often than not, willing choose to fight like hell for our own future.Growing up isn't about losing your spark, but fueling a fire you started long ago. Never grow up. Just keep moving forward.
A few weeks ago in one of my classes, I received a “life span plan” assignment. Handed a table with increments of 5, 10, 20 years and so on, with categories such as education, career, and family, we had to list what we would be doing at that point in our life. And, as I sat there trying to figure out my retirement plan sitting in a high school classroom, it hit me. Planning is OK, but time laughs as you do so; time waits for no one. As I wrote “get engaged” in the box under 25, I laughed to myself as I wrote a big question mark next to it. None of us know what the future holds. We can't plan growing up, we can only move one day at a time, hoping that at the end of our life we look back not in vain, but content with the way we lived.
Don't fall victim to the mentality we have been so warped to believe, that growing up means; getting a degree, finding a 9 to 5, getting married, having a couple of kids, paying taxes, dying and repeat. Let passion and happiness be members of your life just as prevalent as stress and doubt are. Why do we have to grow up anyway? We age, sure, but let's rewrite the narrative that we’re not allowed to enjoy simplicities we haven’t felt since grade school. It's about balance, but spending your whole life worrying about what comes next will only result in a life worried away,until one day you look around and wish you hadn't spent so much time on growing up, and more on growing the love, and pride you feel in your own life. Live for the present. Never grow up.
Sarah Brown is a Williamsfield High School student with a passion for writing. She contributes to the weekly Many Paths column.
This article originally appeared on Galesburg Register-Mail: Sarah Brown: Staring “growing up,” right in the face