At 4 in the morning last Wednesday, I expected a sketchy walk through my neighborhood, but was pleasantly surprised at how tranquil downtown Oakland seemed as I walked with my luggage to the train station, on my way home for Thanksgiving. No one else seemed to be awake. No one was out. It wasn’t clear if night was ending or if morning had just begun. Purgatory time.
I hadn’t been home since August—the day after I turned 19, actually. I’m in my second year of college, and the impending expectations of growing up are becoming increasingly urgent. This is my purgatory: that crazy block between the ages of 18 and 22, the bridge between teenage time and adulthood. The time during which I’m basically supposed to become an adult.
I’ve been pretty comfortable doing things on my own for a long time. I was always one of those kids that adults called precocious, or surprisingly mature or pulled together for whatever age I was. Recently, though, I think I finally hit the age where people are no longer surprised that I have some of my shit together…now they expect me to have even more of it together. I live in this gulf between precocious kid and responsible adult. What does that make me? Irresponsible baby adult? That’s exactly what I feel like: a little baby adult.
The last day of Thanksgiving break, I realized I had spent my whole time at home cooking with my mom, or partying with my friends, or having staring contests with my dog. I’d neglected all of my real-life responsibilities. So I made a to-do list. Tasks on the list accumulated quickly, and I started to notice that next week consisted of: starting three final projects for school, moving, doing all the bill-payment arranging and mail-forwarding and utilities-ordering that come with moving, and a big project for my work-study job. My breaths got shorter and shallower. There was no way I’d have time to do everything. When my mom got home, I unloaded and had a bit of an anxiety attack, including throwing my phone and sobbing.
To add (self-)insult to (self-)injury, I started to hate myself for being such a baby. My problems are stupid, insignificant, and standard, and it’s juuuust the beginning. Too much homework? Gotta learn how to set up a utility bill? Work schedule preventing sleep? Obviously, just like everyone else in the world, I have to just DEAL with it. But the first time is really fucking difficult.
I decided to take the car and run some errands, just to get out of the house and calm down. I parked in front of the pharmacy, and took a minute inside the car. And I cried. Just like a baby.
I’m trying so hard to make a bridge between the lower expectations of teenagehood and the heightened responsibilities of a young adult. I just don’t know what people expect of a 19-year-old. I don’t know what anyone expects of me. I only know how to cry about it.