About a month ago, I turned the big two-one. I had a wonderful party with all my family (we weren’t in Auckland, don’t worry; no COVID violations here) and a lovely weekend away with my parents and brothers. I even made my own birthday cake. No one ever wants me to make extravagant cakes for their birthday, but I love to bake, so I thought “to hell with it, I’ll do it for myself.” Sad, or ingenious? You decide.
All in all, it was a really wonderful birthday. Better than anything I could have asked for. But, for me, turning 21 wasn’t just a fun party and presents. For the first time in my entire life, I actually felt scared of getting older.
Aging hasn’t really bothered me before; turning 18 was a little jarring, but at least I was still a teenager. Something about 21 just SOUNDS really old. It’s making me think about all the things I want to accomplish, and how quickly time is slipping away. I know every person over 25 reading this is rolling their eyes into the back of their head (and every person over 50 is laughing out loud), but I think you guys, my beloved school-leavers, will know what I mean. You might have the same feeling as you’re becoming adults; that for the first time, the real world is looming, and you have limited time in it.
We’re in a time of really rapid change in our lives. It feels like I’m growing like that scene from Alice in Wonderland where she shoots up to the height of a tree in two seconds. I sometimes wish that I could go back to being sixteen and do things differently, accomplish more, and cherish each moment. I guess sometimes I just miss the feeling of being really young, of having people tell me what to do and then help me do it. Adult life can be lonely.
But, as I say over and over, coming to Uni means learning to dig yourself out of these holes. So, rather than feeling down about being older, I want to focus on the positives of growing up, and why it’s actually a really wonderful thing.
When I catch myself wishing someone would come and tell me what to do, I always remind myself that in actuality, I HATED being told what to do. I have rose-coloured glasses on about this aspect of my past because when things feel overwhelming, I think that’s what I want. In reality, I love my independence. I love making my own choices and facing their consequences. I love the fact that I’m accountable to myself, and myself alone. There are always people around to help you, but being the ultimate arbiter of all your life’s decisions is a blessing that I try my hardest not to take for granted.
When I was younger, I had a lot of really big goals. Like, goals that would make my parents belly laugh. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that a lot of these goals are actually dreams, and they’ll never actually happen. While that sounds depressing, it’s actually brilliant, because it’s allowed me to focus in on what I actually want. With age comes maturity and perspective, and with those two things comes success. Unlike when you’re young, you don’t spend all your time dreaming about what you want – you work hard and make connections and actually make things happen. While it’s harder, it’s infinitely more satisfying when you start to see that work pay off. Your life starts to become what you make it. Yes, that was a Hannah Montana reference. Does your cohort still watch Hannah Montana? Like I say, I’m old.
This might sound like a small thing, but it’s actually been a big deal for my sense of self. Having my own home to decorate is so satisfying. It makes me feel like a Real Adult (TM). I mean, I say “home” – my “home” is the size of a Hobbit hole, but it’s my very own Hobbit hole! I can put whatever I want in there, and decorate it however I please, to my exact style and tastes. I have a bright yellow duvet. Why? Because I want one! It’s mine, mine all mine, my precious…I need to give up these Lord of the Rings references. Anyway, I love having my own place, and I can only have one because I’m getting older. One day, when I’m in a rest home, I’ll look back on these years of living alone and be thrilled I had this opportunity (and thrilled that I no longer have to do all my dishes by hand).
I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons in my three years of adult life. While I often cringe to myself when I remember them (oh god, nobody bring up the time I got on the wrong bus and had to walk back an hour in utter shame), now I can tell the next lot of young people coming to Uni about what I’ve learned. This blog has given me a really wonderful platform for that. Now that I know these things, I can help others not make the same mistakes. So please, dear reader, don’t accidentally call your teacher Mum when you’re in Year 13. You will remember it for the rest of your life.