Turning 18 and Tackling the “Supposed” End of Childhood

Lately I’ve been reminiscing.

First year of university is over, and I’m sitting back in my childhood bedroom. Gone are my days of my tiny dorm bed with the white bed spread layered with pink flowers, windows that open just a crack, and flocking to a communal pizza on my floor at 3am. And gone with that is the independence I once had when I was living on my own.

My childhood bedroom I sit in has been mine since I was about 11 or 12 years old. It’s painted the lightest purple shade called ‘touch of violet’. I have butterfly wall stickers along the wall where my bed leans, fairy lights twisted around the winding metal headboard. My baby pictures are up on the wall, so are my school photos, my certificates, my plaques, my piano competition medals. I have over 20 stuffed animals sitting on my desk. This room has been a home to me for years, it’s grown up with me, seen me in my best moments, my worst moments. There are so many memories in this room.

When I first moved out, I remember timidly opening this big wooden door that had a metal plate bolted to it: “2W8” it said. Inside was a tiny little room, cream coloured walls, twin beds with no sheets, a desk, a shelf, and a closet with a curtain. None of my memories were in that room. But by the end of first year, it had felt like I’d lived there for ages.

Coming home was a weird feeling. It felt like I had reloaded an old save file and I was back trying to live the life I had lived before I moved out, except I was a totally different person now.

And I wondered, was this what adulthood is like?

What exactly is adulthood anyway?

Canadians legally define an “adult” as an 18-year-old individual. I remember how excited I was to become this glamourized ~adult~. I think I was disoriented by how different, but also how similar the world felt.

My 18th birthday passed without much fuss. It was very different. It was my first birthday away from home and I had 2 finals. I clamoured out of bed at 8am, got ready, spent 6 hours on exams, went home to my little dorm room, and went out for dinner with my friends. I remember lying in bed that night wondering to myself, “Am I different now? Am I a changed person?”

After all, I was legally an adult now. I could vote in the next election if I so chose to, did that somehow remove me from “childhood”?

From what I’ve experienced, becoming an adult doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t magically wake up on our 18th birthdays and something has shifted. I feel like the process of becoming an adult has been so gradual, you hardly notice until one day it’s just happened.

I notice this a lot when I look back on memories. We like to joke around and see something nostalgic and think “OMG THIS WAS MY CHILDHOOD!” but what exactly do we define as our “childhood”? Do we mean those silly naive years when we played make believe and dress up while Blue’s Clues played in the background? Do we mean playing outside until our skin was burned and the knees of our pants were stained grass green? It is hard to define adulthood if we cannot identify childhood. And I think the problem is we’re too focused on something arbitrary like age telling us that we’ve become an adult. Sure, there’s a lot more responsibility put on you when you become a legally recognized adult (think: filing taxes, getting police checks, etc.), but it’s not like you’re suddenly swamped with responsibilities, you’ve been building up more responsibilities your entire life, as you grow older.

I remember the very first time I walked myself home from the bus stop. I was about 6 years old, in the first grade. It just so happened that neither of my parents would be around when the bus dropped me off, and it would be safer for me to walk down the street (for literally like 1 minute) into our town house complex than to wait on the main road for someone to come get me. My dad gave me a key and I walked myself home, turned the lock, opened the door, and kicked off my shoes in the little front foyer. I hadn’t even gotten into the house yet when my dad arrived. That was one of the first moments (I hope. This could be a dream I once had, but it still serves my point) I had any shred of responsibility. I feel like from that moment forward I had somehow “graduated” from a part of my childhood. I had the ability and had proven that I could walk myself home. That was a moment where it felt like I had grown up, even just a little bit.

And I think life is a lot of moments like that. It’s hard to remember looking back, but there were moments where I cooked for the first time, biked for the first time, mailed something for the first time, etc. etc. and those were all moments where I gained new abilities and responsibilities that furthered me in life.

So I don’t know, there’s definitely this transitional phase in between “childhood” and “adulthood” (which I guess would be called your teen years lol), but it’s hard to say that there’s a clear point in life where you suddenly feel like an “adult” over being a “child”. I mean, I’ve technically been an adult for half a year now, and I only really noticed it a couple days ago. I suppose my childhood is over now, but it doesn’t mean I’m suddenly this all knowing adult being that can just venture into the world just like that. There’s still a lot of growing to do. Heck, even people who are 50+ years my senior have growing to do.

But turning 18 isn’t all the glamour it’s cut out to be. Rather, it honestly just feels like a marker in this grand story of life. It’s a point in my life where I can look back and think of all the amazing things I’ve done in my life so far. And as I keep growing, learning, and experiencing all the world has to offer, I can keep looking back to the nostalgic, cozy “childhood” of my memories, while also looking toward the new, exhilarating “adulthood” of my future.

– Carole

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