Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

One day as I was flipping through photo albums of old pictures of myself as a baby/toddler, and I was inspired to do a “Dear Photograph,” inspired by the website started by Taylor Jones, where the whole idea is to “take a picture of a picture of the past, in the present.”

In the middle of the eighth grade, I moved for the first time in my 13 years of existence. Naturally there were some strong feelings of sadness that came with saying goodbye my old apartment building. It was there that I learned how to walk, talk, ride a bike, roller blade, jump rope, play badminton, and most importantly, learn how much I loved tacos. Everything happened there. Looking back, from the crazy amazing Mexican birthday bashes my neighbors hosted to the frenzied games of tag and dodge ball, there were so many fond memories that took place there.  It is in these moments that I’m seriously grateful for all of the pictures my parents took when I was little.

After this little moment of epiphany, I was hit with a rush of fear and apprehension of the future and of growing up, to be specific. I mean,  yay independence, yay freedom! Freedom? I’m overwhelmed by the idea that some day, I’m going to have to (gasp) drive a car, pay bills, BUY MY OWN GROCERIES?! Most of all, as Chuck Palahniuk himself said, I’m “always haunted by the idea that [I’m] wasting my life.” As of lately, early college decision results have come out for most schools, and I’ve totally been feeling vicariously anxious/excited for all you seniors finding out your results, which resulted in this moderately panicky status:

TIME IS GOING BY SO SLOWFAST. Slow in that I can’t wait to get high school over with and go off to college, but fast in that I can’t believe I’m 3/8ths through high school and maybe I don’t want time to go by so quickly? Isn’t it just so easy to simply lose yourself in a warm, nostalgic photo of the past instead of facing the harsh reality of the present? Something I admit is how much I wrestle with the fact that time’s always ticking, that I’m never going to be any younger than I am at this very moment. Youth is supposedly wasted on the young, but I don’t want to be one of the people who look back on their childhood with regret, wishing they could turn back time.

This brings me to my next point. There’s this quote that I’ve been seeing a lot of on my Tumblr dashboard lately. The quotation, “Don’t grow up, it’s a trap,” which was said in the Disney rendition of Peter Pan, has been on my mind for a great deal of time. Is there anything to truly look forward to as I grow older, or are my high school years truly the greatest years of my life?

As one of my friends, Yuri Yim, a sophomore of West High School, was able to put into her own words, “I feel like growing up is only a trap if you let yourself fall into the whole ‘cycle of life’ thing: high school, college, grad school, job, money, blah blah, because that’s when you kind of lose sight of what you love.”

She continues: “And contrary to what people say about growing up meaning more freedom, I disagree because I feel like once you’re grown up you’re under more pressure and expected to just know what not to do so you’re more restricted and limited. Even though there’s no one TELLING you that you can’t do something, you become more conscious of it yourself. At the same time I agree because once you kind of just stop caring then you’re free, but I guess that goes for everything. It just depends whether or not you stay true to yourself because once you stop staying true that’s when it becomes a ‘trap’ because you let yourself fall into what society deems an ‘acceptable’ life. So basically growing up NOW as a high schooler, I feel more restricted because of the pressure to get good grades and get into a good college and get a good job regardless of what I WANT to do or be. But I know when I’m an actual ‘ADULT,’ I’ll like my freedom.”

I agree with Yuri in that there seems to be all these expectations placed on you by society to pursue a boring but well paying job that requires you to put aside your childhood dreams of becoming a painter, dancer, writer, photographer, musician, etc. in order to properly support yourself. If anything, I’m scared of the future as a stressed, sleep deprived, and jaded adult.

As Jacob Ellenberger, a junior at West High, so eloquently says, “When you grow up, society says you can’t like Pokemon anymore.”

Similarly, Christina Cheng, a junior at West High, states, “Growing up sucks because then you have more responsibilities and you don’t even get enough sleep and things are just super stressful.” However, she also concedes that, “Growing up is great because then you can get a job and get money and go get good food and you can drive around.”

Shamir Khan, a sophomore at West High, says that, “Growing up is great because you are constantly changing as an individual. You are never the same person as you once were. You become an overall better person through the experience of growing up. You won’t gain anything if you aren’t willing to lose.”

Brian Lam, a freshman at UC Merced, explains that, “Responsibilities don’t necessarily change. You replace middle school with high school, high school with college, and after that, college with working.  You are given a task, and expected to accomplish it, whether you succeed or fail, you continue to ‘grow up,’ and gain experience through that success or failure. There isn’t really a set reason why growing up sucks, or is great if you look at ‘growing up’ as gaining experience from the things you do.

As Carroll Bryant said, “Growing up is mandatory, growing old is optional.” Stay passionate and always have something that you do purely for your own enjoyment. So maybe “growing up” seems a bit intimidating, but doesn’t that apply to anything else you’ve never tried before?

Another thing to keep in mind is that while there are ages at which you’re legally recognized as an adult, it’s not a poof, “Congratulations, you’re an adult!” type thing. You don’t sprout horns, and you certainly aren’t given a “How 2 Adult” handbook (though I admit, Adulting comes pretty dang close). Ideally, you’re able to learn about responsibilities over your relatively less stressful years as a teenager so independence is not overwhelming and unexpected when the day comes for you to move out.

So back to whole “haunted by the idea I’m wasting my life” thing I mentioned earlier in this post. While I’m still undoubtedly fearful of wasting my youth and trying my best to spend these years wisely, I think it’s also important to keep in mind the possibility that there greater times in store beyond the teenage years.

In fact, I think it’s kind of a toxic attitude to think of the teenage years as the peak of your life when you have decades ahead of you! As the previously mentioned students said, being an adult will mean saying goodbye to certain luxuries exclusive to being a teenager, such as three-month summer vacations. However, that doesn’t mean being an adult and being joyfully content with your life are mutually exclusive. Perhaps a healthier mindset is one in which you’re able to fully accept and live in the present. That means not only cherishing the years as a teenager while you’re a teenager, but also embracing and cherishing your years as an adult with a new set of luxuries to enjoy.

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the author

Jessica Zhou (say hi @itsjesszhou!) is a loudish introvert of high school student (aka thrift shop inhabiter, low-expectations foodie, sporadic dancer, avid reader, almost-as avid writer, button-happy shutterbug) with multifarious interests, currently residing in California. She was an editorial intern from September 2013 - June 2014, and wants to give you major props for reading one of the coolest high school/ college life-and-everything-in-between websites around. YOU DA REALEST.

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