In spite of growing up

When I was in high school, I imagined what it would be like to live my life independently. 

For 12 years, I attended a strict Catholic school. I wore a uniform, was not allowed to paint my nails and I was not permitted to wear piercings or excessive jewelry.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

One thing I did have control over was which socks I could wear during the winter months. This, as you can probably guess, resulted in a massive collection of patterned socks and an extreme lack of white, plain ones. 

With college came my first opportunity for total self-actualization. But, as higher education gave me a supervised test run of adulthood, I realize now how much of my past excitement of growing up was blind to how much I’d miss my youth and the simplicity that came with it. 

When it came to attendance in elementary and middle school, my parents had a pretty relaxed philosophy: As long as I did my homework and studied for my tests, they had no problem with me staying home once in a while. Whether it was skipping school for a mental rest, or opting for some other fun activity, I definitely did not achieve perfect attendance. 

In the sixth grade, my mother allowed me to stay home on one sunny Friday afternoon in the beginning of June. She dropped me off to hang out and swim with my younger cousins. 

On this particular Friday, I decided to pack my laptop. After all, a day with your younger cousins plus a laptop was a perfect opportunity for movie-making back in the day. We worked especially hard on developing the plot and settled on a derivative treasure hunt including a dead patriarch and clues scattered across the globe. 

The synergy of the day soon became intense for us, all of whom were under the age of thirteen. How could it not be super excited when it feels like you are in the midst of creating the next big Oscar contender. The spontaneity of skipping school, the smell of chalk and my grainy laptop webcam brought us to life.

Even reflecting on the slightly older times in high school when an evening football game became a quintessential midnight trip to the diner, I realize that sort of situation is only incredible with that sense of innocence. The pure freedom we felt as fifteen-year-olds parading around after dark after our parents not only allowed us to go out at night, but said they were willing to come pick us up later. 

In sophomore year of college, I am just now realizing how much I miss those moments and that these experiences are unable to be replicated. I now realize the facade of adulthood is so much more appealing than adulthood itself. 

With this adulthood, it feels as though my younger siblings are growing too quickly. Long gone are the days where spontaneous moments with family were possible. My younger cousins, now ranging from the ages of two to fourteen also seem to get older at a rate that is seemingly impossible in the amount of time I have been gone for. 

I always wear the bracelet that my younger cousins made me, I show my friends their photos constantly and I try to keep in contact with them as they navigate big life moments and tribulations of adolescence. 

I feel guilty for trying to maintain an open correspondence with them from time to time, yet I almost feel like I am undeserving of their secrets and feelings considering I am not physically there with them. As my sister approaches sixteen, I find myself feeling nostalgic about that time of my own life, desperately wanting to tell her things I wish I knew at sixteen. But, those things are much too complicated to be conveyed over a text.

The teenage idea of forever lures us into the false belief that we don’t not need anyone else. When I first came to college, I was infuriated with the fact that I was not in a single dorm. I thought I would need no one but myself. 

Flash forward and I now realize that without my roommate, I would not eat dinner half the time or have anyone to be an actual person with. 

If there’s anything that growing up has taught me, it’s how time away from family and high school friends forces you to become more mature and self-sufficient. But it would be incredibly naive to think total solitude is somehow an admirable trait to contend with. 

I still count how many birthdays I have missed, how many halloween costumes I have only gotten to see through photographs and how many times a phone call will have to substitute for a family dinner.

The people who remain metaphorically “behind” only become a memory without your correspondence and desire to remain present. It takes maturity to know that maintaining your close relationships is the key part of what it means to be an adult and the component that allows us to continually live with joy.

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