We all enter high school the same way: naive, optimistic, young, and above all, nauseatingly excited to embark on the infamous four-year journey of our high school careers. By the time senior year rolls around, though, we are undoubtedly very different people from when we first embarked on the journey as clueless 14 year olds. A lot can change in four years. Did you think childhood was scary? Try adulthood.
As a teen, turning 18 feels like nothing more than a distant concern, simply a far-away concept for your future self to worry about, but never an imminent threat. In the years leading up to the Big 18, it is easier to forget about the constant ticking clock counting down the days until your childhood will be turned to dust. Up until then, all you have ever known is the sweet bliss of childhood. It’s easier to think: Why worry about growing up? That’s for old people. But, surprise! You are the old people.
The reason why turning 18 feels so scary is because it can be chalked up to one simple truth: the death of a childhood. I first came to terms with this fact at the age of 17 when I realized that that year’s Christmas would be my last as a child. The sentiment is sad, even sorrowful, but necessary. As blissful as it seems, we can’t all fly away to Neverland and stay a kid forever.
Of all of the ages before and after, none can compare to the limbo and confusion that characterize the eighteenth year of life. On one hand, you’re too old to be considered a “real” teen anymore. But, on the other hand, you’re far too young to run with the big dogs: the 20-somethings and middle-aged adults who still consider you a child, despite your legal adult status. This gray area is hard to navigate, and often leaves you wishing you could somehow will yourself to be younger, or even older, just to be anything but 18.
It’s easier to dwell in the loss and tragedy of turning 18 and get lost in the growing pains that accompany it but, in reality, it can be one of the most rewarding, monumental, and honestly, iconic, years of your life. You’re an adult now. You’ve been waiting 18 long years for this — so why not make the most of it? Buy a lottery ticket! Vote! Get a tattoo! Change your name! After all, you’re a responsible adult who can make your own choices. And You’ve got 18 good reasons to do so, so — why not? — go wild.