December 5, 2022

As an awkward tween, I waited for each birthday candle to change, each form I filled to indicate that I was getting older. Maybe it was the 300-page novels I’ve read or the stories I’ve been exposed to on the Internet, but one thing was clear to me: I wanted to become an adult as soon as possible.
Being older seemed like the coolest thing in the world back then. At the mere age of eleven and a half, I wanted a boyfriend who I would eventually marry and have kids with. I daydreamed about being a pretty career woman who got coffee before entering her office, heels clacking on the luxury vinyl tile floors. I wanted all of these by the time I reached 20 mostly because 18 seemed daunting enough to reach.
I would say life began to feel like a video game the more I got older; entering high school was like unlocking a boss level that YouTube gamers would deem easy, and graduating after six grueling years felt like finding a chest at the end. Eventually, I was 18 and brimming with a combination of excitement and fear. I had two years left to meet my eleven and a half-year-old self’s expectations.
In the first place, these expectations were unrealistic and unattainable. First, I was only in the eleventh grade the moment I hit the “young adult age.” I will be 23 years old when I graduate from college which instantly crosses off career woman on the checklist. Second, I began to dread men after some questionable experiences with a few I met; getting a boyfriend was now last on my list of priorities. Lastly, a pandemic halted my “the world is my oyster” mindset.
I turned 20 in the second year of the pandemic. I have never felt more lost and scared in my entire life than now, at the age of an actual young adult. Suddenly, the video game of life was switched to survival mode–no more time for fun and games, only existential dread and deadlines I had to meet. I began to miss my carefree high school days when my biggest worry was whether my crush would pass by my classroom or not. Now, I have to start managing my finances, thinking about what career I would be pursuing after graduation, and ensuring that my life would be smooth-sailing once I become independent.
I’m completely honest when I say adulthood makes me want to crawl back into my mother’s arms and wail. I feel like I’m behaving 25 (yes, shameless Mitski reference) when I wake up each morning as dreadful responsibilities flood my mind. I learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me; instead, I bite my nails when I watch the news report about catastrophic events affecting the economy. I learned that nobody would teach me how to pay my taxes or what experience would be great for my resume, and I learned that entering my twenties meant learning to navigate everything by myself like a sailor in the dark of night.
To make matters worse, I am constantly reminded that I was flung into the depths of adulthood during quarantine. I am about to finish my first year of college on a Google Chrome browser that changed from when I finished high school on Mozilla Firefox. I only have a handful of friends now because my social anxiety got worse with each message and hangout I ignored–a stark contrast to the huge crowd I would have lunch with in high school. All these changes and I still don’t have a driver’s license nor my own bank account.
Despite my constant uncertainties, a small hope continues to open my eyes to another day, open my laptop and begin writing another college paper. Most people would say this is my inner child but I prefer imagining this as the checklist I made as pre-teen. I could edit the list and adjust the age to something more realistic. I could complete my days in bite-sized pieces then conquer whatever challenges I encounter at the slowest pace possible. Recently, I found out that writing down all my thoughts and plans for the day in a journal helps. (Way to go, young adult self!) Whatever the case, the perfectionist in me wants to accomplish that list.
Most importantly, I still find the idea of being that pretty woman who works diligently at the office appealing. I could start by being the mysterious college girl. Ah, whatever my adult heart wants, my adult heart gets. I just hope pre-teen me still thinks I’m cool even with the constant breakdowns. (KATRINA GARCIA)