By: Tyler Lehmann
College kids. It’s a term our parents’ generation uses to describe us. But have you ever noticed how rarely we identify ourselves in this way? Instead, we overwhelmingly prefer calling ourselves “college students,” which conveniently glosses over the question of childhood.
Yet this question still lurks in our minds. At college-age, are we adults yet or are we still kids? Truthfully, I don’t feel like I’m either.
We’re not just kids anymore, that’s for sure. After two years living away from my family, spending summer at home has shown me a lot has changed since the last time I was here for this long. My responsibilities are my own now, and it’s not my parents’ job anymore to make sure I get them done.
However, it’s become painfully clear to me that we aren’t yet fully adults, either. I’d be sunk without my parents’ financial help. As I’ve recently discovered, getting a student loan from a bank with only two years of credit history and no cosigner is about as likely as a blizzard in Saudi Arabia. I’d like to think of myself as a self-sufficient adult, but I’d only be fooling myself if I did.
So, we’re left floating in limbo between childhood and adulthood. And the question remains, What will make us adults?
In the eyes of the U.S. government, we magically became adults the day we turned 18. This means we can vote, join the military, and receive other adult privileges. But outside the political world, this milestone means little.
Around the world, many different rites of passage into adulthood exist. Jewish communities hold celebrations called Bar Mitzvahs for boys and Bat Mitzvahs for girls to recognize them as capable of acting responsibly and thus being treated like adults. In Australia, adolescent Aborigine boys go on a Walkabout, a solo six-month survival journey through the Outback, to earn the respect of their tribe and recognition as adults. For the Massai people in Kenya and Tanzania, the killing of a lion marks a boy’s initiation into adulthood.
With so many different ideas about how we become adults, the only thing that’s clear is that adulthood isn’t. Standing with your feet in two different worlds can make you anxious (I know it makes me feel that way sometimes), but this journey into adulthood is a sightseeing tour, not a race.
It took a friend hammering this into my brain for me to finally realize it. “Stop trying to make sense of everything and appreciate where your life is right now,” she told me, “because you only get to experience this once.”
Sooner or later, we will become adults, but I suspect this will happen at different times for each of us. And until your day comes, it’s alright being something in-between.