I distinctly remember taking a walk outside on Oct. 5, 2007.
Walking through bundles of leaves with the sun shining, the sky unusually clear for an Oregon day, and the birds chirping to the tune of the wind’s soft blowing, you could say it was that picture-perfect time of fall, that sweet spot where the air has a slight chill and sharp scent, but it isn’t quite classified as cold yet.
But instead of appreciating this beauty, I was too busy focusing on the glamour that was my crush’s gorgeous face (non-weathered by hard drugs at the time…oh the deterioration of middle school beaus).
Sometime between then and now, I started actually marveling at nature’s intensity when I ventured outside. But while I skipped outside last week, wearing a floral skirt and letting the sounds of Florence + the Machine color the 60 degree temperatured day, I let my mind wander.
And it stumbled upon the epiphany that said marveling comes laced with dread now.
I used to wonder when my life would ‘start’– 12 year old me wanted to be recognized, high-achieving, and respected by those around me. But then again, that probably wasn’t going to happen when adults wouldn’t take me seriously and my older friends were too busy having fun in high school or doing big eighth-grade things like going on dates and (gasp) holding hands with boys.
You could say I felt stuck and ready to be 13. After 13, I looked up to my upperclassmen peers and realized I wanted to be 14, and so on and so forth until I hit 16 and then decided that was the ideal age I felt.
Now, part of me thinks I want to be in my 20’s, getting awesome-ass internships and being recognized as an actual student in the j-school and actually settling down into a long-term relationship. But at the same time, part of me panics, cause I still feel 16, cause I still yearn to be 16 and taken care of and told what to do.
Now, I wish that while I was 16 I had savored being young. I wish that when I was 12, I would realize that after 12 would indeed come 13, then 14, then 15, then 16, and then unwelcome 17 and 18 and before you know it I’m 19 and dying my own hair in St. Louis on the eve of my golden birthday while talking about sex and drugs and shaved heads in my ex-crush’s best friend’s girlfriend’s bathroom with a girl I met that day.
Until this moment, it seems that I hadn’t thought about this concept: at some point, you stop wanting time to speed up so you can grow up faster. Instead, at some point, you start wanting it to slow down, so you can enjoy all the achievements you’ve amassed and all the things you learned. It’s like downing the smoothie of life too fast, cold reality hitting your brain-frozen senses while the flavor escapes you all too quickly.
This dichotomy of ‘grow up faster’ and ‘let me enjoy being young’, but actually little and not just youthful and spry but mature enough to realize things, seems to manifest in my constant self-comparison to older kids, which has become a legitimate, defining struggle, poignant enough for me to admit that it’s unhealthy and unnecessary. So what if I think I’m only at the beginning of the period defined as millenialism? It still counts: my days do typically run from 9am-2am, I do find Buzzfeed to be infuriating yet hilarious at the same time, and I do totally relate to some of the things peers with a few more years under their belt think about as well.
My obsession with age only points to my wanting time to hurry up and run its course faster, a quality about me that I’ve retained from childhood as a comforting and ironic constant.
But I know deep down that if given the choice, I would choose to slow life down instead of fast forwarding it to my future. So let’s see this applied to real life: I need to consciously stop anxiously waiting for my ‘real’, serious, college life to begin, stop anxiously seeking to throw parties at my own apartment and be able to do things of my own volition and make my own decisions, cause I am getting there.
To a certain extent, being in college means I can live my dream life in a perfect limbo between the scary world of adult life and the comforting warmth of childhood. In the midst of the best thing that’s happened to me, I also happen to still be a freshman, relatively sheltered yet still pretty free. Every day, I come back to my dorm at a different time of night. Every day, I go somewhere different to hang out with different people, whether it be for class, a Maneater story, or just for fun. Every day, I find myself learning something new in one capacity or another. Compared to the monotony of four uneventful years of high school, this should be glorious.
And it is. I am constantly writing, constantly responding to different forms of stimuli that inspire me and receiving feedback from an audience who can appreciate it. I have a huge number of peers who encompass all the forms friendship showcases its benefits in: the people I go out with, the people I talk deeply with, the people I can complain about journalism to, the people willing to go shopping at Walmart late nights, and the people who I can just casually talk to while in line at the dining halls. I feel my sense of identity growing, as I find myself, for the first time, not caving into peer pressure of any sort– I do things of my own accord and because I enjoy them, and I don’t do certain things because I don’t feel the need to.
At the same time I wish I had more time to myself, I’m actually perfectly fine with a lifestyle that suits my extroverted self. This dream life I’ve been living is ….actually… my actual life now.
And I need to start making sure things I normally did in high school to, err, live, get done: clean my room, watch more TV, keep track of news as it comes along, and stop reading my own articles to desperately track how I ‘am improving’. In high school, I knew I was doing it, little by little. High school wasn’t a race to the finish– it was a slow, well-paced saunter, even with the sense of urgency that came up with trying to get into a good college.
So this is the only way to deal with wanting life to speed up yet slow down: savor every moment while in the process of looking to the future.
So yes, it’s paradoxical because I feel like I’ve been living in this suspended reality for the past few months, getting a taste of what my life for the next 30+ years–far and away from my childhood– is going to feel like, when I make my own decisions and pay my own bills and eat my own meals and do my own laundry and yeah. But as I’m three months away from finishing freshman year and honestly not ready to let it go even as I’m ready to let it go, I know it’s going to be okay anyway. I know I’m freaking out while refusing to enjoy the ride properly and feeling exhilarated by it, all rolled into one.
Yes, I want to make it out by May 2017 with a few fellowships or internships lined up, and have talked to a few smiling or interested recruiters. But all that comes with time, and is an inevitable part of my high-speed life I’ve suddenly realized I am in.
My fast-paced, ever-changing daily routine is a paradox unto itself: the only thing constant is that I no longer have a daily routine. Do I miss that? Yes.
But is that a sign that, little by little, I am actually growing up, and savoring that should be my challenge now? Yes.
I guess realizing all of this means that, it is indeed, an indication that I am growing up.
Tell that to 2007 me, eh?