Opinion: Growing Up Is a Process

Ann Vettikkal | Staff Writer

Growing up is a fever dream. 

To be more precise, growing up feels like I’ve entered the storyline of “Wacky Wednesday” by Dr. Seuss. Looking back on the children’s classic, I realize how painfully relatable its main character is, living in a sort of phantasm where I just want to turn to the stranger next to me and ask, “are you seeing what I’m seeing?” 

Contrary to shoes on the wall and tigers in strollers, the changes I’ve noticed throughout high school are subtle, but just as unsettling. 

I’ll drive down that long stretch on Western Row Rd. on my way to school and suddenly register that I have agency over the car. The world looks different behind the steering wheel. Mason is no longer a cluster of disconnected locations. Now I know how to get from one side of town to the other, noting where the main roads collide. 

My lens of the city has scaled up like a zoomed-out Google Earth, clicking farther and farther away from street view; the innocent days of leaving home, falling asleep, and magically arriving at the destination are over. I have to know where I’m going — and how to get back. 

The thing about growing up is that there’s no sign that says “Adulthood Ahead! Watch out for Taxes and Elevator Small Talk!” As I creep closer to seventeen and we enter a new decade, there’s this omnipresent requisite to feel older. But those sorts of indicators were made to look back on. 

Prospectively, our life won’t change every 365 days; America didn’t force everyone to culturally shift on New Year’s Day, 1980. And yet, we think of the 70s and 80s as two distinct eras, home to the life and then respective death of disco. It’s okay just to be older, and not always feel like it. The transformation we expect exists as white noise, like the television in the background that went from playing PBS Kids to online streaming monopolies. 

If asked, however, I could rattle off clear differences between now and my entrance into adolescence, or even into high school. Thanks to Honors Anatomy & Physiology, I have learned that the frontal lobe is the last thing to develop in the brain. This holds your ability to make decisions and handle emotions. Neurologically speaking, change is literally at the forefront of our teenage years.

 So I was scientifically naive two years ago. Not to say that this is no longer true — but I now have the authority to critique my 14-year-old self. 

For the time being, all I can say is that it’s happening. There’s that shoe on the wall every day when I wake up, and tigers in strollers when I go outside, and it doesn’t make sense. I’m meeting more people than I know by name, building a sizable, nostalgia-inducing past, and learning to have courage in my conviction (or to have convictions at all). And I’ve come to accept that, as we all should, idling (or nosediving) together at this verge of departure into the roaring 20s (part two).  

 Then again, ask me in a year and a half, as I pack for college, and I’m sure I’ll have an entirely different argument in store, and something else waiting for me when I wake up.