From Our Teen Readers
February 14, 2015 10:45 am

I remember when I couldn’t wait to be a “grown up.” We spend the first quarter or so of our lives training for adulthood, so it’s no wonder we can’t wait to get there. We learn to read and write and memorize multiplication tables and state capitals, but there are some things we can’t learn in a classroom. There are some things that we can’t be taught at all until life throws them at us.

When it comes to growing up, there are a few important lessons that no one ever bothered to teach me, but I’m going to pay it forward and share them with you.

1. You probably won’t have it all figured out.

If you’re transitioning from playing tag to paying taxes, you’ve probably experienced at least one existential crisis and realized you have no idea what you’re doing with your life. Adults always seem to look so composed and put together. How does that happen? At what point in life are we supposed to wake up and know how life works? I’m still waiting for that moment. Let me know if you get there first.

In reality, most people probably have less figured out than you think, but still, we expect to get to a point where we just know what to do. We all reach that moment when it’s time to start making our own decisions and we expect it to be easy when we get there. Let me save you a moment of shock: That that is not the case at all.

2. You’re not expected to grow out of crying.

We hear phrases like “big girls don’t cry,” and we get the impression that, as we age, we’re supposed to learn to keep it together and keep our chins up. Sure, maybe it would be odd to see an adult burst into tears at a minor stub of the toe, or throw a public tantrum when they don’t get what they want (we throw virtual tantrums as we get older), but there is nothing wrong with having a good cry when you feel the need to, no matter how old you are, or how insane it may seem.

3. You don’t grow up on your birthday — it just happens.

Remember not being able to wait until you were [insert desired age here]? Maybe you’ve been looking forward to 16, so you can drive or 18, so you’ll be an Official Adult. But I’m learning that becoming a certain age is not what changes you. You won’t wake up one day suddenly able to resist the urge to go around a second time in a revolving door or spend all your grocery money on Tootsie Rolls. Days, months, and even years can (and will) go by without anything significant happening, but when you look back, everything has changed. The change will be slow, but the realization will be sudden, and it will probably happen when you least expect it (not on your birthday). One day, you’ll look back and realize you’re not the same person anymore. It’ll be shocking, but it’s OKAY.

4. Mundane days become vivid memories.

Ah, those “boring” summer days at the park with friends and ordinary lunches at school. At the time, these moments don’t seem important or worth remembering, but looking back, you’ll realize you wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. It isn’t just the exciting days that make our lives what they are; it’s also the run-of-the-mill days spent doing nothing in particular with the people we love.

5. You will make so many more decisions than you ever thought you have to make.

Supermarket value cereal that you can afford, or something that tastes delicious, but leaves no money for Starbucks? Commit to that relationship or chase your dream job? Almost everything you do in life is encompassed with decisions. As a kid, lots of decisions are made for you (like when you’ll go to bed and if you’re allowed to go that big party on Friday). When you’re grown and on your own though, every single decision is yours, and what’s more, most consequences are the result of your own doing. *gulp*

6. Time speeds up.

It’s 2015 already guys! How did that happen?! Remember when summer lasted forever and waiting for Christmas seemed like an impossible task? When we’re kids, we’re constantly anticipating things — graduation, a license, prom, college. Waiting for something slows time and the days feel endless. When we look back however, we’re astounded by how quickly time has moved. As we get older, we anticipate less and look back on more, and time seems to move so much faster.

7. Love hurts. Love Exhilarates.

Disney has spent a lot of time and money telling us all about love, Prince Charming, and romantic, happy endings. I still love a good Disney movie, but they left me thinking I had this whole love thing figured out. Imagine my shock when I realized I most definitely did not. The movies we watch as we get older warn us that love can hurt and devastate you, but it’s hard to understand until you experience it for yourself. The good news is that even though it can hurt, love can also change you, in amazing ways.

8. You’re going to screw up… a lot.

I always figured at some point, I would stop smashing mugs while I do the dishes, saying things I would later regret, procrastinating important projects, and making those bad decisions that haunt you after.

No such luck.

To a certain extent, you do learn to think more before you act and speak — that’s really what it means to mature — but that doesn’t mean you’ll always get it right. In fact, while learning how to navigate weird, new relationships, jobs, finances, and everything else adulthood bombards you with, it’s likely that you’ll make quite a few mistakes. Don’t worry: It’s not the end of the world.

9. People drift apart (and that’s okay).

Whether it’s life getting in the way of time you’d like to spend with loved ones, or the slow decline of a friendship between two changing people, drifting apart just happens. Even though it can hurt, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong, just that you’re not the same person you once were. Not everyone will stay in your life. Sometimes you’ll wish they would, and sometimes you’ll be able to say “good riddance.”

10. Forgiveness can be really difficult.

When you’re a kid, apologies are easy. It’s easy to forgive the kid who snapped your favorite crayon, but as relationships get more complicated, forgiving people can be a really difficult thing to do. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean things will be the way they were, but it’s a necessary difficulty for closure. Sometimes, it’s even easy to say the words, but when it comes to fully forgiving someone in our hearts and in our minds, it can be one of the hardest challenges we ever face.

Kate Pettersen is a Kiwi-raised American Brit, who lives in Seoul at the moment. She loves big cities, baby pandas, and all things chocolate. She spends her time playing guitar, reading, writing, and baking – all while blasting the same songs over and over. Follow her on Twitter.

(Image via Walt Disney Productions.)

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