I shook the department head’s hand, grabbed my diploma, moved my tassel, sat down and smiled. Another of life’s rites of passage completed, and I wondered what the next would be.
Since as long as I can remember, I always looked forward to that next bit of freedom. A later bedtime, for instance, or losing my training wheels and the growing legs that pedaled harder, better, faster, stronger. Upon high school I dreamed in red convertibles, awaiting the day I could go anywhere, do anything, I believed. To Wisconsin! …if I wanted. I got my license and bought lottery tickets and alcohol on their appropriate birthdays. At each of these milestones, I had more responsibilities, but more control over my life. I relish growing up.
For Americans, after 21 our subsequent ages don’t really matter the same way anymore, but for me, I still had graduation to look forward to. Until then I was living on my parents’ bill. A dependent. Sure, my parents had always been very liberal with me. I took the driver’s seat and they sat in the back, ready to correct me if I got out of line, but they let me choose the path. I appreciated this, and this is all to say that while I may have remained a dependent, I had felt fully in control of my life for a long time.
I felt proud with my diploma in hand. I had worked my ass off to get it, and like losing two training wheels or gaining four wheels and a license, it represented to me a new freedom. I had passed a respectable finishing line: I could never go to school again and still be considered an academic success, one who had completed his scholastic tour, one deemed ready for the “adult world.” I could get a job. Lucky for me, I get a paycheck to study and research, and am financially secure. I am no longer a dependent.
I am an adult. Sure, this is easily disputed, but by most definitions of the word, I have reached Adulthood. I filed taxes as an independent this year. I did my own taxes! People from my high school class are married and have kids. When I make big decisions, like where to go, and when, I no longer present the idea for approval or denial, but just tell those I love what I’m doing. I rent cars, fly to foreign countries. I find my own apartments and negotiate the contracts. I have electricity and water and internet and phone bills. I even have business cards.
This is not to say I have finished growing or maturing or that I don’t make mistakes. No, I stumble and fall and fuck up, which as I kid I thought, by definition, adults never did. Adults had everything together and confidently walked their chosen paths. I remember as a freshman watching high school seniors at their lunch tables. I imagined them secure in their maturity, comfortable having it “all figured out.” Strangely I had the same thought about the college elders. Now, as an adult, as I have argued, I now realize nobody has it all figured out. Anyone who claims they do is full of shit, or naïve, or have become stagnant in complacency.
My aunt tells me, always with a smile on her face, that she still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she “grows up.” Neither do I, and probably never will. But as an adult now I have become comfortable with uncertainty, excited with the possibilities it represents. I want to keep growing but never “grow up”.
Yesterday I bought unsweetened bran cereal of my own volition. I am such an adult.