Just Be Yourself
The day before I turned eighteen, I cried. I felt that my childhood was over. When I was younger, I wanted to be older, but once I turned twelve, I wanted to stay a kid forever. Problem is, in six years, I was literally scared. I was sad. I was troubled. I don't exactly know what was wrong with me. It felt like it was the end of my world as I knew it. I prayed, I immersed myself in much childhood nostalgia, and then I went to bed.
Next day, I woke up, and I felt normal. I was still myself. I could still play around. I could still enjoy all my favorite childhood things. I felt so silly acting the way I did. Fortunately, I had a family that didn't say something like "You're eighteen now, GET OUT." Of course, I had a few more responsibilities, and graduated highschool, different things, but overall, you don't have to change much. You can still be yourself.
I still don't go to wild parties, drink, smoke, curse or anything just to BE GROWN. There's not a specific persona of an "official adult" you have to channel once you cross the threshold. Just pray about it, take on your new responsibilities, be yourself, and have fun!
(PS, I had my senior pics taken at a playground to show the connection to my childhood was not lost :))
Eighteen Ain’t What it Used to Be
Sorry kid, but you are a little late to the party.
We’d tell you what an adult does, but look around (or at least on YouTube)... most of us don’t know how they act either.
There was a time, not so long ago, when turning eighteen was a big deal. That was when your free and formal education ended, and it was time to get to work.
Eighteen used to be when you registered to vote, and for the draft, and when you moved out of the house to start a life of your own, but no one bothers much with such trivial things anymore.
Back when I turned eighteen it meant you were now able to buy yourself a cold beer, but we don’t trust you with that anymore either, kiddo. Heck, just look at how your college friends behave with a little booze and try to imagine what it would look like if we were to cut you all loose at once! Holy Kappa Alpha!
So just settle down, Peter Pan. There is nothing to get worked up over. Grab yourself a Pop-tart and the video game controller. You can take the next five to seven years to figure out just what you want to study (don’t worry, you can always default on those student loans), then you’ll have two or three more years at home in the basement, so you have at least ten, maybe even twelve more years until you need to grow up? Sweet!
Mom... have you seen my socks?
The Todays of Adulthood
There are plenty of adults who are children
Plenty of children being adults.
But there’s no rule.
There’s no sudden law.
Or abrupt change of pace.
Expectations the wise choose to ignore.
Take you’re time,
Set your style.
Have your Fundays of Childhood,
Your Friday nights of Adolescence,
Your Monday mornings of Maturity
And fill the rest with whatever it means to be you.
The only real difference,
is that now you can take advantage
of the many little things
you should be allowed to do.
The Fine Print that No One Ever Reads
At eighteen, you can be shipped to fight someone’s else war. You can legally fuck and marry any consenting adult you want (some restrictions may apply). You can smoke cigarettes and choose a new figurine for the country to gaze upon. In everywhere but America, you can get wasted and wander the dark streets singing some weird mash of MC Hammer and One Direction. If one of your parents is only financially in your life, that motherfucker is happily signing the last check on you. If you’re an American male, you can get fill out a card that makes you Uncle Sam’s bitch for life. And if you’re like any other person who has surpassed eighteen, you are wondering why any of this matters.
The short answer is that it doesn’t. You will not wake up with a mustache (or a lady mustache?) and your life will not magically be in order. Eighteen is just Uncle Sam (or Aunt whatever country you reside in) telling you when your childhood is over. If you’re like the rest of us, the deadline means nothing. Sure, you can’t trick or treat anymore and it’s kinda creepy if you buy non-sexual toys for yourself, but you also aren’t suddenly obligated to pay bills and become Bill Gates.
The long answer is that it does. Eighteen matters because legally, you are no longer a kid. The reason the government cut off at eighteen is because kids in the “good old days” were working as soon as they could walk (sooner if they were slaves or migrant workers), which wasn’t right. But they didn’t want all these lazy humans just taking advantage of the government. So, eighteen seemed like a good cut off. But honestly, I would highly suggest for you to forget that “being an adult” shit. Believe it or not, adulthood is just something that hits you really hard really fast (like a ninja).
I became an adult in an Italian airport six months ago at nineteen-years-old (that sounds like a transition into a Mile High Club story, but I promise it’s not). Up until then, I was a sheltered baby bird clinging to a twig on the nest so that I didn’t have to fly by myself while my mother was trying to shake me off and my father was trying to stop her. I had decided to travel from the school where I was studying abroad in England to Italy alone to meet a friend I had made online in like 2015. (Checks for parents). It was a DISASTER. I was scared shitless because Italians can’t drive (sorry if you’re Italian), I was basically meeting a stranger, and I was alone. But, I also realized that this was basically adulthood because you can’t always go with other people, so my actions were essentially justified.
On the day of my sudden level up into adulthood, it was the end of my three day weekend in Pompeii, and I had gotten zero sleep because of a mix of anxiety, a terrifying storm, and a fucking rooster that I wanted to chop into chicken nuggets. I had crammed all of my stuff into my backpack and was charging my phone for the last half an hour or so of me being in Italy before the cab that my friend had called me arrived. I saw that the cab was there and followed the AirBnB instructions and left the room with my stuff. I had gotten to the cab and guess what I forgot? My damn phone. And, lucky me, I didn’t speak Italian, my flight was leaving “soon” (I had missed a flight before so I was anxious to not miss one again) and I was sleep-deprived and panicking.
There was a woman entering the building (which I had locked myself out of) and I tapped her and started basically begging in Spanish to help me get into my room on the second floor because I left my phone in there. She seemed to understand and let me in, and I got my phone and basically sobbed (without tears because I did not want il cab driver to judge me) to my friend that I nearly fucked up and I hated being an adult. Forty minutes later, I was like an hour early to my flight, had fed myself, and had not died in Italy despite making a series of horribly stupid decisions. Do I regret them? Yes and no. But, my troubles aside, all of that was to explain a point that the world and this conservative ass country often dances around.
You have already become an adult. Like animals, people are taught and grow more and more over the years. Can you pay a bill yet? No clue, but if you know how to pay for something with cash, you can figure out how to pay a bill. Can you successfully hold a job? I have no idea, but if you can survive school or dutifully do chores five minutes before your parental unit(s) walk into the door, you can figure it out. Can you be an adult successfully? I hope so because everything you’ve learned and every mistake you’ve made and stumble you had is kicking you through the archway of adulthood. And luckily for you, there are no tests when you’re an adult! (Unless you do college which is a WHOLE other story).
So, if you’ve learned nothing else, just enjoy eighteen. Don’t fret about trying to be an adult because everyone around you already sees that you’re an adult, and one day, it’ll randomly hit you and you’ll look around like, “I’ve got this adulting shit down”. Enjoy being in that awkward phase of being a baby bird that is kinda sorta keeping itself afloat. Expect everything to get weird (especially dating because you’re in that awkward 18-23 range where you’re too old or too young for everyone that’s not 18-23). Try to not get arrested, because if they can try you as an adult, they will. Some racial bullshit clouds those lines but just avoid the legal system altogether. Listen to people’s advice (except mine, ironically, because I’m kind of drowning over here). But most importantly, eat some cake. Now that you’re an adult, you can finally eat cake for breakfast (results may vary).
I'm of legal age in many states.
I can be held accountable for all of my mistakes.
No more smack on the wrist because I'm a minor.
People will get rude when you are older instead of kinder.
A temper tantrum is now called assault.
Living for free has now come to a halt.
Parenthood is around the corner if you don't protect yourself.
You might be lucky enough to hit the lottery, but now you will build your wealth.
Your parents breathe and worry all the same.
Because now you are old enough to put the family to shame.
Being at the wrong place at the wrong time could land you in jail.
Your parent is not responsible to come to pay your bail.
My advice to you is to have manners and follow your dreams to grow.
Grow to be the person that makes your character glow.
Do other people like you want them to do you?
Be a leader NOT a follower, and let GOD guide you through.
Develop, Don’t Change
You've crossed another year off the calendar and started your life as an adult. By no means am I an expert on what it means to grow up (just ask any of my friends, they'll tell you I haven't!) but I do know a think or two about becoming who you are, which is exactly what you're doing every day you're alive. Without sounding pretentios, let me help you navigate this transition.
First of all, know that you don't magically become an adult once you're 18 years old. You're still learning, still growing, and still deciding who you want to be. in reality, we never stop doing any of those things - we are always becoming who we are. Pay attention to the world around you. Do what comes naturally and don't worry about fitting in or who will or will not approve of you - if they don't like you, find those who do. The world is full of diverse and interesting people, and you can find a place in it without sacrificing yourself.
Always be learning. Always be learning. Whether you're in a college course or a trade school or first-day training for your new job, be that dilligent student at the front of the class. Pay attention, take good notes, and most importantly, never be embarassed to ask questions. The same goes for social situations and personal pursuits - pay attention to the people around you, how and why they do what they do. Learn from their actions and the responses to their actions. Be mindful of cause and effect. And again, never be afraid to ask questions. The person you ask will feel complimented that you turned to them for guidance, and you'll learn something new.
Go with the flow. It may sound cliche, but many times it's all we can really do. Learn what you can change and what you cannot - influence what you can and accept what you cannot. There is much strength and much wisdom in recognizing when you are powerless in a given situation and taking your hands off the wheel to let life play out as it may. You don't have to push for those sorts of things to happen - they will happen with or without you. You just have to respond to them in a constructive way.
Finally, as the title states, you don't change, you develop. Being an adult doesn't mean discarding the person that you are. You are not a catterpillar expected to cocoon up and transform into a butterfly. You are a human, and being human means transitioning gradually, one piece at a time, into a more evolved version of your current self. You're not tearing down an old house and remodelling, you're starting with a foundation and building upon it until it's comfortable enough to live in. Don't become someone new, become a stronger, smarter, and more well-rounded version of who you are now.
And remembers: nobody has the answers, even if they claim to. We are all figuring out our lives day by day, learning and developing right alongside you. Whether you're 18 or 80, we never stop developing, never stop growing, never stop becoming more of who we are. This isn't a new journey for you - it's an awakening to a journey you've been on all your life. You've got this.
Throughout your life, you’ve developed as a person, who you were 10 years ago helped form who you are now. So by now, you’re who you’re supposed to be at this time. Of course, change will happen, by the time you’re 40 you’ll be a much different person. But, you do not just change on the dot because you’ve turned 18. No, over these 18 years, you’ve already changed for now.
Also, your question of “why 18?” is an interesting one, but also largely pointless. (No offense). If it was 19, we’d ask the same, if it was 20, we’d ask the same. While we may rid one question, along comes another. But to specifically answer, 18 is the voting age. And given that the United States is heavily driven on politics, this would make sense. Furthermore, in different areas of the world, I’m certain that this age varies and rightfully so, the rest of the world wasn’t built the same as the U.S. Politics, largely, haven’t been a driving point in the originations of other countries. (Generally)
Best of luck to you! Adulting is a hassle, but like anything, it has its moments.
Don’t box in too soon
I agree with you. I don't know why 18 either. You're not being weird either. Hopefully, if you're a student of life, you'll question things until the day you die. Don't lose the curiosity. It keeps you young and forever growing.
Next, I applaud you for your self-awareness. I don't think I was cognizant of such things until my mid-twenties. With that segue in place, be organic with your age and growth. Don't feel like you need to morph into a 'someone' that you aren't even sure you'll like being. You are correct to actively treat your age as a benchmark. Because in ten your current self will be a derelict memory.
Despite the state of affairs in our world today, make the next 10 years whatever your dreams ask for. Don't hold back. And DO NOT ask for permission. Do it. Jump off the cliff. Take whatever metaphor or analogy you like and make your own choices. And you'll either love the decision or learn something from it. Either way, it'll tell a story to share and experience to build on.
Happy belated birthday. And good luck.
Oh! and have some fun too.
So by now you've read the other entires saying 18 is largely an arbitrary number. This is correct. So socially, nothing 'has' to change. Just like you didn't magically transform on any of your other birthdays into an entirely different person, don't feel the pressure to now. Change comes from experiences - for the most part it happens on its own, all you have to do is decide how to react to those experiences, and this will affect how you change.
Legally, it's a different matter. Colleges/universities aren't required to share information with your parents unless you grant them the right. If you have a good relationship with your parents, I highly recommend granting them access to both your grades and your financial aid info - it's extremely helpful to be able to ask someone more experienced in the world questions about pay stubs from an on-campus job, for example. Additionally, again provided you have a good relationship with them, healthcare power of attorney. I hope nothing bad ever happens to you, or anyone else for that matter. But. If it does, now that you're 18 you're in a grey area of adulthood where technically the hospitals might not fully recognize your parents' authority. If, Heaven forbid, something happened to you, healthcare power of attorney grants your parents access to your medical information specifically in the case that you are deemed currently unable to make decisions for yourself. There are common-language versions available online; you can make statements on the paperwork regarding wishes (organ donation, do not resuscitate, no brain surgery, et cetera). Lastly, once you've got it all filled out, don't sign it yet. Sign it in front of a public notary & get it notarized. That way, if your parents ever need to pull it out, legally speaking the hospital won't even be standing on skim ice.
You'll also be at the age where you sign your own documents. Read them first. It's a good habit to get into. Keep a copy for your files. Keep pay stubs.
If you don't know how to cook, start helping your parents make dinner. College is a wonderful time to learn how to be an adult. Don't be afraid to ask people if you have questions, whether it's in class or about life. If it's in class, chances are at least three other people have the same question, nobody else has the courage to ask though.
Lastly but not least, "Good judgement comes from experience; experience comes from poor judgement". You will make mistakes. Learn from them. It's okay to be embarrassed, but don't beat yourself up over them. Do things you enjoy. Meet new people. Have fun. Life is a learning process. Nobody has it all figured out, not when they're twenty, not when they're ninety. Find your priorities. Decide which you're willing to compromise on, and which are set in stone. Listen when your friends give you advice, it's because they care about your success and you as a person. Always listen even if you don't intend to do something the same way someone else would. You're your own person, and that's a glorious thing to be. Don't be too concerned with how 'everyone else' sees you. The people who matter are the ones who've taken te time to get to know you. Don't stress over what you can't change. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't. Check the local weather before trips and plan accordingly. Take risks, as long as you're willing to live with the consequences. Take time to enjoy the small moments, it makes a difference.
One day isn't going to be the difference between a child and an adult. As with many things, it's more fluid than that. Some people are perfectly functioning adults and ninety-year-old children at heart. Some people are toddlers disguised as thirty-year-olds. Being mature is never the wrong answer. Remember to keep having fun, and stay curious. The world is full of things to be amazed by, if we only take the time.
Things just settled on that number over time.
The whole concept of childhood’s changed a lot over the past two hundred years.
In the 19th and early twentieth century, children were expected to work.
In 1918 in the UK, the school leaving age was raised from 12 to 14.
My dad started working at the age of 14.
In 1944, it was raised to 15 and in 1972, it was raised again, to 16.
Now, they've raised it to 18.
The age 18 didn’t hold much sway back in the day. Coming of age was usually 21, or was in the UK.
Until 1923, there was no age limit to the purchase of alcohol, that was put at 18 in that year,
18′s a grey area. Some things, you can do when you’re 16, like join the army. (although, I think you need parental consent until 18). In the USA, you still can’t drink until you’re 21 in many states.
In the UK, yes, buying alcohol it’s 18, but having it bought for you? 16.
And that’s only in pubs with the stipulation it has to be part of a meal. You’re allowed to drink in the privacy of your own home at the age of five if parents permit it.
18 is also the voting age in most (but I bet not all) countries, but that wasn’t always the case. Before WWI, it was 23. It didn’t get down to 18 until 1970 in both the USA and UK. It was 21 before then.
Even that can vary a little. 16-year-olds got the chance to vote in the Scottish referendum for example. They just couldn’t vote in general elections.