Like most teenagers, I was always really hyper-concerned about what others thought about me: what I was wearing, the terrible highlights my best friend gave me in the community pool bathroom because my parents wouldn’t let me dye my hair, my inability to see myself doing anything important in ten years… That crippling self consciousness followed me to college: I went to a small, private school in Orange County on a scholarship and was surrounded by a lot of very entitled, self-important people who had really nice hair and looked like models out of a Lacoste catalog. There’s something about that kind of power that makes you feel really small. Like, really out of place and insubstantial. Everyone had parents with connections, and everyone had an internship in LA with a marketing or PR firm. It was overwhelming. I graduated early, applying to grad school right away, vowing to start over.
Which I did, in terms of how I viewed myself and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I started not giving a sh*t about what people thought of me. I started writing to any and every website I thought might like what I had to say, I spent hours writing every single day and Googling how to write a query letter, I applied to teach at my university, and I deleted every single person on Facebook or phone I was only keeping in my life for superficial reasons.
Even though I’ve got ways to go, I don’t think growing up is a terrible thing. I think it’s good for everyone. The days of sleeping in till 2 pm and inhaling Velveeta for dinner without gaining weight are over, but I’m not sad. There are so many other amazing grown-up things to be happy about, such as:
1. You’re in charge of your wallet
You probably don’t have to depend on your parents or university to keep your refrigerator full. You have a job and you get a paycheck every other week. Sure, 80% of that paycheck is going toward rent and bills, but what’s left over is all yours and nobody else’s. You may not be in total control of your life yet, but at least you know where your money is coming from and how to spend it.
2. You get to raise a pet all by yourself
My parents never let me have a pet because they were haters. And my mom is allergic to cute things with fur, so there was that. As a grown-up you have the freedom to raise a baby animal you can name “Baby J-Law” or “Entourage.”
3. You can eat whatever you want
Although I wouldn’t recommend feeding your body garbage, you still have the option to eat Skittles for breakfast whenever you please. Red Bull and Snickers for lunch? Why not. You do what you want.
4. You discover vegetables actually aren’t so bad
On the flip side, if you hated veggies as a kid, you might find that these leafy dark greens and bright oranges are delicious with a little bit of bacon or Sriracha.
5. You don’t have to hang out with people you hate
I’m sorry, but f*ck people who don’t appreciate you. If you have friends who are terrible to you, then leave them. A significant other who makes you feel like crap is not someone worth your time. As you get older, you realize how precious time is and how little patience you have for people who are just not worth it.
6. You don’t have to lie to your parents nearly as much
No longer must you cover your tracks with a fictional “sleepover” (when really you’re making out with your boyfriend in his room).
7. You can drink without sneaking liquor in a water bottle
You don’t have to pay other people to buy you alcohol because you can buy it yourself! And drink it! Legally! Also, you will find yourself ordering drinks like “Absolut Screwdriver” or “Jameson and Ginger” instead of whatever the special is (well drink + pineapple juice).
8. You’re finally able to grow into your body
This is cheesy, but I think the older we get, the more we become capable of loving ourselves and appreciating what we have. We start to own our small boobs, our big butts, our size 10 feet because they’re ours.
9. Early rising is actually kind of nice
You find yourself automatically waking up before 8 am, even on the weekend. But you know what? You get so much stuff done! Laundry, work, or just being able to sit at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in the quiet, doing nothing at all.
10. Speaking of which, coffee becomes very important
Or any form of caffeine, really. While this may be a detriment to some, I love that I love coffee, because I’ve pretty much romanticized it my entire life. Also, I don’t know about you, but I’ve become less dependent on syrups and sweeteners and more inclined toward good coffee in general. I even bought a coffee bean grinder so that when I brew coffee, it’s super fresh.
11. You can make business cards
I ordered my first set of business cards two weeks ago, and I made a lot of American Psycho jokes.
12. You’re getting smarter.
I think you learn more after you graduate college, because you’re not depending on an institution to teach you things. You learn how to properly do your taxes (which are probably more complicated than the 1040EZ you were filling out in high-school and college), and travel to different countries. You become more politically savvy, actually understanding which side of the political spectrum you fall on and realize this isn’t just because your parents told you to do that. You learn how to deal with health insurance. You consider investing in something so that you can actually retire at 65. Furthermore, you’re not just smarter about life, but you’re smarter about people. If someone loses your trust once, you keep them at a distance. You learn how to graciously forgive but knowingly not forget. You also learn how to be diplomatic with people you don’t necessarily like but need to deal with (i.e. in-laws, co-workers, neighbors).
13. You develop a real relationship with your parents
Your parents stop existing solely to yell at you to make your bed anymore, which is weird.
14. You can afford nice things
You can buy fancy nail polish from Sephora, nice tequila that doesn’t make you feel suicidal in the morning, and at least one pair of quality heels that cost more than twenty dollars and are not from Charlotte Russe.
15. You never have to take another algebra II class again
We never did have to use quadratic equations or logarithms in our daily lives post high-school, but whatever.
16. You can handle stress like a pro
I know in high-school I would burst into tears when I had to study for more than two finals. Life is hard, okay? And it only gets harder, because you have real person responsibilities. Most days just do not contain enough hours to get everything done. But as we get older, we learn how to manage stress, even if it means uncorking a bottle of wine.
17. Sex isn’t as awkward anymore
I mean, sex is always going to be kind of awkward, right? I mean, that’s the nature of sex. But as we get more comfortable with our bodies and our partners, sex is less of “oh my god we’re naked how is this happening should I ask if this position is okay why does that feel weird” and more fun.
18. It doesn’t mean you have to change who you are
Growing up doesn’t mean you have to throw away all your Lip Smackers and Hello Kitty notebooks. You get to grow wiser and keep your whimsy, too. Growing up doesn’t mean growing old.