To the casual observer, I would appear to be a high-functioning, well-adjusted person. I do well in school, pay rent on time, maintain various healthy relationships and only occasionally eat doughnuts at 2 in the morning. All signs point to “reasonably stable young adult.” And yet, I feel as though I’m harboring a deep dark secret, and frequently think to myself, “if only they knew the truth” the truth being that inside, beneath all the healthy relationships and responsible rent payments, I am somewhere between the ages 10 and 12 years old. Sometimes seven, depending on my mood.
I can’t wondering if I’ll ever stop feeling like a child.
For the past few years, I’ve felt myself victim to what I think of as age dysmorphia. Every time I dip a toe into the world of adulthood, my entire body silently screams, “But I’m only a child!” I couldn’t believe when I was deemed worthy and capable of manning a moving vehicle by myself, and was even more shocked when the bank trusted me to open my own checking account. Can’t they see I’m 12? I don’t know anything! Earlier this year I learned that applying to study abroad would require me to renew my passport, a process which instantly and unnecessarily terrified me. Is the government in charge of passports? How does one contact the US government? Do they have a phone number, a facebook page, a Twitter account? It seemed unreasonable that I was expected to manage something like that on my own, until I remembered that I am an adult and being an adult involves unpleasant tasks, like contacting the US government and waiting in line at the DMV. I constantly feel like a kid playing dress up, slipping into my mom’s pearls and too-big shoes just to see how they feel. I can’t wondering if I’ll ever stop feeling like a child.
Part of this stems from the fact that college is a strange, transitional period. At this point, most of us are somewhere in between independence from and total reliance on our parents, which can lead to some confusion. I live on my own, I cook for myself, I’m no longer bound to a curfew, and yet without the emotional and financial support of my Mom and Dad I would most likely cease to exist. College is the gentle padding between adolescence and the real world, in which we take our first tentative steps out into the sunlight and try to stand on our own. One part of me works a real job and does the grocery shopping, while the other still has an overpowering urge to call my Dad if I ever see a spider in my room. In my defense, spiders are the spawn of satan and no human should ever be forced to interact with such a disgusting creature, but it does seem that squishing a bug is on the list of “tasks you should be able to perform before you turn 20.” I guess I need some practice.
It’s possible the fact that I still sleep with a stuffed animal isn’t necessarily helping to ease me into adulthood (his name is Mr. Frog and I refuse to be judged for it), but I think there’s more to the story. Increasingly over the past few years, I’ve developed a nagging suspicion that almost no one actually feels like an adult. It’s just an illusion everyone, from your local Starbucks Barista to the CEO of any Fortune 500 company, is kind of faking it. That’s not to say they aren’t intelligent people, or that they aren’t good at their jobs. What I mean is that I don’t think anyone ever reaches a point where they think to themselves “oh, good, I’m an adult now.” No one has it entirely figured out, so we all just take it day to day, doing the best we can, making
it up as we go along. Even our parents, the people we grew up seeing as invincible and omnipotent, don’t have all the answers. We’re all just people, trying to find our place in the world. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, sometimes we just can’t do it anymore and the only possible solution is a pint of ice cream and an all night Gossip Girl marathon. It’s all okay.
There’s no denying that growing up is scary. We’re forced to let go of many of the comforts of childhood, and we have to embrace the fact that it may be a while before we have our lives put together. At this age, many of us still don’t know what we want to do, let alone where we’ll live, who we’ll live with, or if we will ever fulfill our lifelong dream of becoming a detective slash ballerina slash president of the United States (I was an ambitious four year old). I think the best way to face this insecurity is to take it day by day, and try to enjoy ourselves. There are many big questions we have yet to answer, and that’s a little intimidating, but we’re also in a time where we still have the freedom to explore, experiment, and do whatever it takes to figure out who we are. My childhood was beautiful, and I can only hope that my adult life will be the same, but right now I’m doing my best to make this middle part beautiful as well by embracing my identity as part child, part real life grown-up. And for me, that means holding on to Mr. Frog for at least a little longer. You can judge, but with that stuffed frog in my arms, I sleep like a damn baby.
Sophia Crisafulli doesn’t like to be babied, but she’s not ready to lose the magic of childhood quite yet