I grew up at 808 Lois Avenue, in Sunnyvale, Calif. My childhood is a string of carefree moments — endless games of cops and robbers with the neighborhood kids, summers spent running through sprinklers and reading books at night in the pink glow of my lava lamp. It was just another suburban neighborhood in California, but it was my own cozy, familiar world. Looking back on those days, I realized that I loved childhood so much that I never wanted it to end.
To me, it felt like in high school, everyone was racing to grow up as fast as they possibly could. Getting their permits as soon as they were old enough, getting summer jobs. And of course, college. Since sophomore year, everyone around me seemed to be obsessed with the idea of moving out and living on their own. Well, I have a confession to make — until a little while ago, the idea of becoming an adult and going to college was downright terrifying to me.
While everyone else raced to grow up, I hung back. I didn’t get a permit until I was three months away from turning 18. I never bothered getting a summer job. Independence was never my priority. And when conversations turned to college, I would just laugh and say, “Oh my god, I’m going to die in college, I can’t take care of myself.”
My parents will readily tell anybody that I’m nowhere near independent enough to live on my own — over the past several months, they’ve been “preparing me” by lecturing me nonstop about preparing my own meals, being more observant and punctual (granted, I was tardy almost every day this school year). It isn’t uncommon for my friends to joke about my future of “sleeping through all my classes and starving” in college. I usually laugh and agree — after all, I didn’t know how to boil pasta until the shelter-in-place started and I just recently learned how to change a toilet paper roll. The prospect of growing up and living independently wasn’t exhilarating to me like it was to everyone else — it was daunting and seemingly impossible.
Then, about a month ago, two days before turning 18, I was practicing driving when my dad suggested I drive to my old neighborhood. I agreed, keeping my eyes on the road, while thinking to myself: would it look the same? As I entered the web of streets around my old house, a wave of nostalgia washed over me.
I pulled up in front of 808 Lois Avenue and looked out at the house in the dark. Something was off. Physically, everything was almost the same — the same porch with the same screen door, our neighbor’s car still parked in the same place eight years later. I couldn’t put my finger on what was so different. There’s this saying that the places of your childhood feel smaller when you see them again after growing up. And sitting there behind the steering wheel in front of my childhood home, I realized that somewhere along the way, I had grown up.
Over the course of high school, I worked harder than I ever thought possible. I became a leader, someone people could trust. I let go of petty middle school drama and found real friends. I took my passion for writing and made something of it. I became more self-aware — I now understand that I can be stubborn and self-centered, but I also know that I’m hard working and have a strong moral compass. I understand myself — flaws and all. So driving back home silently, I realized that maybe I wasn’t as unprepared for adulthood as I had thought — I had secretly been growing up the entire time.
And yes, I do have a lot of small things to learn. I have to train myself to not sleep through my alarms. I have to learn how to handle a credit card, be on time without my mom and sister rushing me and all the other trivial yet daunting things about living on my own. And now that I can boil the pasta, I should probably learn how to cook it. But I can finally say that I’m genuinely excited for college. And yes, I will struggle, but I also know that I’ll figure it out.
I’m proud of myself for taking my time to grow up instead of rushing my way to adulthood. I’m also proud of myself for enjoying childhood while it lasted, rather than waking up one day to find it gone. Now, I know that I’m ready. I’m ready to close the chapter of my childhood and start this next terrifying, yet exciting phase of my life.