College grads can feel like kids — not adults — who still have some major growing to do, the author writes.
I do not feel like an adult. At 21 years old, people still mistake me for a sophomore in high school. I am financially dependent on my parents. When talking to grownups I often feel shy and small and tongue-twisted. I’ve lived on my own at Penn State for six semesters, but the house I grew up in is still “home.” College feels more like a timeout from real life, rather than a springboard into it.
The HBO show Girls was appropriately named — Women would sound too assured, too mature.
Baby Boomers like to call Millennials lazy, entitled, ignorant and spoiled.
Maybe we are.
But it’s not like we’re all running around giggly in oversized diapers, gleefully waiving our baby rattles in the air.
In fact, most of us are worried and sad. We’d like to feel like adults. We just don’t know how.
According to data collected through phone interviews by researchers at Clark University, more than half of us are also uncertain and anxious, hoping that “adulthood” (whenever and whatever that may be) will be better than this depressing, unknowing life stage that we are stuck in right now.
The study also notes that only 16% of emerging adults considered finishing education a sign of adulthood.
After four years in college trying to “figure stuff out,” many students I know graduated realizing they had not grown up much at all.
After reading this study, I asked my mother, Deborah, at what age she really felt like an adult. She said it was when she was living on her own and working full time. She did both of these things before ever going to college.
After graduating from high school in El Paso in the early ’70s, she had saved up enough money to travel with two friends around the western part of the United States for two months. Then she moved back home and said she didn’t feel ready to go to college yet. She didn’t have any idea what she wanted to do as a career and she said she didn’t even think of asking her parents if they could afford to put her through school. If she wanted to go, she knew she had to work for it.
My mother moved to San Francisco where she worked different jobs and volunteered at a women’s health center. It was that experience that inspired her to go into nursing. At 22, she returned to Texas and attended nursing school. When she left school, she felt confident she was going to have a good career. She moved to Philadelphia straight out of college and started her life as a nurse.
Not going to college at 18 never even felt like an option to me. If I had told my teachers or my friends that I planned to move to California right after high school, I think they may have said, “Cool,” but secretly thought, “She’s nuts.”
But like my mother, I really didn’t have any definite plans after high school about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Unlike her though, I was reassured that my parents would help pay the bill for my education.
Looking back, I wish I had followed in my mother’s footsteps. I wish I had traveled, and really lived on my own without the safety net and structure of a college campus to fall back on. I wish I had worked and saved enough money to pay for my own college education. I wish I had taken time to figure out my interests and strengths in order to figure out what I wanted to study.
I think true signs of adulthood are being financially independent, but more importantly, being able to make deliberate choices that you are happy with.
Many of us are being pushed to go to college right away, because that is what we are “supposed to do,” even though we don’t really know what we want to get out of it. It ends up feeling like another four years of high school.
Next year, I’ll graduate with two degrees in my hand. But I know, unfortunately, I’ll still have too much growing up and figuring out to do.
Powered by Facebook Comments