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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, September 28, 2023

Navigating the art of individuality

The concept of being a grown-up terrifies me. I’m not too concerned about moving out of my parents’ house or having to work 40 (okay, probably more than 40) hours per week. It’s a fear of heightened expectations—knowing my actions can’t be cushioned forever.

I’ve never been responsible, at least not how the term is commonly understood. Sure, I can keep appointments, brush my teeth, drive, vote, go to jail and make my own meals, but these are linear traits that don’t have to be earned. They just become a necessary reality after a certain age.

Maybe that’s why I find the thought of growing up so scary. I’m already seeing myself change, so the bits of sans-serious living I can still hold onto right now might disappear without warning. My let’s-see-how-this-unfolds attitude, or uncanny ability to balance work and prolonged periods of laziness, could just be gone one day. Isn’t there something inherently wrong with letting my life be dictated formulaically?

At 16 you are expected to get a driver’s license; at 18, you are supposed to be voting and going off to college; 21 marks the year when you can finally (legally) have that first drink. Granted, a four-year-old shouldn’t be driving a car, but neither should a good portion of high school students. When a precedent has been established, however, people sort of disregard their actual capabilities or desires and force themselves into situations.

I bet there are quite a few people here at UW only going to school because they don’t know what else to do. Possibly their parents gave them no other options, or maybe they felt overwhelming pressure to do the same thing as their friends. Either way, nobody wins.

This system makes no sense to me. Human beings aren’t machines that need to be upgraded every so often. We are organic, and our way of life should be too.

The transition from childhood to “adult” life, in tier form, is equivalent to disregarding one’s identity. There is absolutely no reason to plan your life out with step-by-step goals unless you are incapable of dreaming altogether. The human genome doesn’t specify when to get married, move to the suburbs, start having kids and pull out all your hair from the constant stress of faking self-satisfaction.

Consider the reasoning behind your actions. Do you make decisions based on what you actually want, or just what’s expected of you? Maybe you can’t even tell the difference. I speculate that most of the things people think are important in life—falling in love, making a lot of money, getting a promotion and so on—only matter to them because they’ve been told to care.

I’m not trying to say that everyone should just drop what they’re doing and go back to giving one another cootie shots. Childhood could not exist at all if nobody had maturity.

But maybe maturity is more than being cordial, working nine to five and saying “excuse me.” I don’t think accepting things as they are makes someone a grown-up. To me, it’s about always keeping dreams alive, even when life seems impossibly menial.

Sometimes I let myself get caught up in the nonsensical state of mind that I should be more serious because, well, it’s what people my age are supposed to do.

If you can only find happiness by accumulating titles and climbing the corporate latter, fine, do it. I do have one request, however: don’t just accept this path because people tell you to. Be your own person, make decisions at your pace, not society’s and keep your dreams alive.

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