I put on a blazer, the final touch of my College Democrats and College Republicans debate outfit, looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Damn, you look good. You should dress like this more often.” Given my academic record and my dreams of pursuing a career in law, I know there will come a time when the blazer, pencil skirt, and the crisp shirt will become my uniform. In that moment, I couldn’t wait for that day. The blazer symbolized my career pursuits and the adulthood that would inevitably become a context for those pursuits. I looked good, and I felt good. I wanted to feel that way forever.
After the debate and the realization that I had no homework due the next day, I was presented with two options. The first, to go home and sleep. The second, to get drunk with my friends. (Cautiously, of course, given our ages and our college’s strict alcohol policy.) The blazer came off as I sat in the back of my friend’s Honda Civic and we drove to the liquor store. My decision was clear. I have so much freedom as a college student: Why waste it?
The dilemma between choosing to go home and sleep at 10:30 PM and staying up to get drunk with my friends on a Wednesday night is just one example of my near-constant inner conflict. It’s a tug of war with the younger me on one side, the version of Upasna who acknowledges the transience of youthdom and the intimidating inevitability of adulthood, and chooses youthdom, because it’s better to make use of the little time and freedom and free passes for recklessness that she has left. On the opposite end of this rope is the older me, the Upasna who wears blazers and lives the romanticized dream of working 70 hours a week. She maintains an image of success and has never-ending ambition. I hate neither and I want both, but I feel a pressing duty to choose between them.
I recently made the decision to break up with my boyfriend of a year. During that year, I thought I was being a grown-up by maintaining what seemed like a healthy relationship and balancing work, school, and romance. But when I ended the relationship, I was secretly disappointed in what I considered my inability to commit. I thought it was childish to want to see other people and go out dancing and kiss whomever I wanted to kiss.
A month of being single taught me that not only had I made a very mature (and difficult) decision to break up, but that I also could redefine what being single meant to me. It was more than being able to date and flirt impetuously. I learned to spend more time by myself, I practiced ways to reflect, I had more time to study and pursue my interests. I brought myself back to the path of loving and knowing myself; I was, and am, rediscovering the kind of person I am and the kind of person I want to avoid becoming if life ever throws something especially shitty at me. One thing had become clear: I wanted to work toward bettering myself every living moment of every day. Adult Upasna is smiling at this epiphany and everything seems to be going in her favor.
Being so honest and authentic with myself has made me question adulthood more. The future seems hazier the more I get to know myself as a multifaceted human, instead of as somebody who has a role—as a professional or as someone’s girlfriend. I can be unpredictable and impulsive and unstable; how will these characteristics play into my adult dreams? Adult Upasna is losing grip, and Young Upasna is slowly winning the tug of war. Maybe, if I can convince myself to ride out what’s left of my youth, the internal struggle will eventually resolve itself. Then again, maybe not. ♦