Advice, Lifestyle

Fearing the unknown

I remember 12-year-old Michelle so clearly. She’d dream of being able to drive around the city by herself. She’d imagine the kind of student she’d be the moment she went off to college. And she’d wonder what sort of adventures she’d get to go on when she was old enough to explore the world by herself. She saw the future through glasses of innocence and naivete, but it was okay. Because she was still a kid, and she still had time to learn.

Now I’m 21. I’m sitting in my dorm room, recalling what happened today. I woke up fairly late because I was out partying last night. I registered for my classes for my last semester of college. And I went grocery shopping and made myself a delicious meal. 

I know I’m growing up. My daily life is vastly different from what it was when I used to sit in my room and think about what it was like to be an adult. In a way, it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to where life will take me after graduation, but I’m also terrified of every twist and turn that could be thrown my way.

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | Graphic Artist

There are new experiences that are waiting along the horizon, and I’m excited to embrace them. But the old, longing comfort of the past will never quite leave me. Waking up on Christmas morning and bolting downstairs to open up my presents with my brother. Feeling giddy just at the sight of rain because it meant I could splash around in the puddles. Inviting friends over and having a cartwheel contest in the backyard. 

Sometimes, it can be almost painful to relive those memories because I know I won’t be able to continue on with that childhood story. It’s weird and slightly disorienting when my vision of happiness now consists of going to nightclubs, watching thrilling movies or going on long road trips with friends. 

There’s a balance between the two. But there’s also years and years of growth in between that have become a part of who I am. I miss being a kid — there’s no doubt about that. But I am glad to have grown up and discovered so many things that were impossible to see as a child. 

I’ve realized in these past couple of years that it’s the fear of the unknown that truly scares me. I guess that’s a normal thing, but I feel like that’s the reason so many of us are afraid to become an adult, whereas children are excited to get to their teens. As kids, we only heard the good stories about being in high school or college. Parties, falling in love, being free — that’s all we’ve ever known. We weren’t scared of the bad because we simply didn’t know there was any bad.

But now that I’ve grown up and seen that life is filled with ups and downs, the possibility of my life after college scares me. Because what if it’s just one big down? What if I’m unable to achieve my biggest desires? And worst of all — what if 12-year-old me would be disappointed in the way everything turned out? 

The unknown is terrifying because we already have the knowledge that things could turn out bad. And after high school and college, filled with moments of confusion and stress, we want those difficult years to be over.

So, yes, I’m scared to grow up. I’m sure you are, too. But these feelings are more than valid, and I think it’s important we find the balance between excitement and fear. There should be both because while things could turn out bad, they can also turn out great. Perfect, even, in your own imperfect way.

We’re living in a unique time. If you get nothing else from this article, at least get this: embrace each second. It’s a cliche, but it needs to be said. After all, these moments will fade away with time too, and you definitely don’t want to look back in the future and regret the memories you didn’t cherish enough.

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