You will Never be a Real Adult

| May 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

You will never graduate from college.

This is a lie. If every institution only requires students to complete courses in order to get a bachelor’s degree, there is a 61% likelihood that they will leave with a diploma and a turned tassel. Of course, that’s assuming one also has a clean track record and that there isn’t any unprecedented changes in curriculum. And given the ever-increasing access to technology, the swells of money and talent and motivation, the rate is probably higher for a instution like BU.

You will never graduate from college, in my mind, because it is impossible. Graduation, in itself, is a closure. And yet, the most impactful aspects of college – education and self-development – can’t really ever end. It’s not like the rest of us suddenly become righteous paragons once we get a dipolma; all we can do for the rest of our lives is to amuse people at dinner parties, raise vibrant children, and generally be happy and content. For myself, college has always felt like a community and a very inherent aspect of your identity. If graduation has anything to do with that, especially if it signifies an ending, then it just weakens the overall importance of attending in the first place.

I like to think of college as less a form of a benchmark and more a force of nature. In life, the stages are unidirectional; it is a pathway. You reach a step, stick with it for a while and move on. It’s structured and transactional. I prefer the idea that college is just something that exists alongside, like raw material, something we can make out of and play around, until we eventually get bored and move on with our own accord.

photo credit: I'm texting on the phone via photopin (license)

Life is what you make of it. photo credit: I’m texting on the phone via photopin (license)

I want to believe that I’ve grown up but I can’t say I’ve been successful. Sounds a bit pessimistic, doesn’t it? But I guess when your life has been built on the same routine for the past sixteen years, things are going to drastically change when you run of classes to take. Not that there aren’t any similarities between school and the real world. (I’m told that as an adult you’d still have get up in the morning, work for a set amount of time, and generally remain bored and nonchalant at your own life’s work). But part of me also feel disappointed, because at one point in my life it felt like adulthood promised something more than being grown up.

I suppose that has to do with the expectations and promises placed upon ourselves. After all, it’s the first lesson you learn from life, when the world is finite and drawn with rules and black lines. From my first day, we learned that school starts at 7:30, which meant that I had to be in my seat and not outside the door at 7:25. We learned that people stand in line while they wait for their turn for the water fountain. In the classroom, we are told to do what the teacher tells us to do first and ask questions later.

Then one day you come home and your mom tells you to clean your room, and suddenly you’re confused. What does “a clean room” exactly constitute? What state does the room have to be in in order to be cleaned? You find out, in the end, that all the room has to be is cleaner – a step up from what it was. You learn to set the definition of your room to a certain level, and then hover just above it to keep your folks happy. And as I understood more about the world, I learned how impossible perfection is. Grades only have to be a little better in order to show improvement. I only have to be a little bit more thoughtful than what my friends or SO’s expect. I learned that expectations can be manipulated: that people can try to stuff them downward to a life of ease, or throttle them upward to a life of salesmanship and success.

Either way, growing up tells you two important facts about the world: that people are terrible at measuring anything without comparing it to something else, and that the presentation of that something else, the sales pitch, is more important than the end result. I’m still working on trying to get that last part in focus.

But I also learned that sometimes you can’t control those expectations: the kid in front of you gives a really good speech, or your new girlfriend’s last boyfriend was a total dick, or people have been waiting four years for you to deliver on your education and they want answers on how you will do so. And even then one can twist, frame, and lean away from the punches. You can make a little more money each year, say, get a few more jobs and connections and saunter toward your promises. It makes you feel powerful, especially over your parents.

Eventually, you realize that everyone else can use it against you too.

photo credit: Man Assaults Wife With Waffle via photopin (license)

“I am an adult! I can make up my own rules!” photo credit: Man Assaults Wife With Waffle via photopin (license)

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine reminded me that there was only a short amount of time left until my senior graduation. A mature reaction would be a simple nod of acknowledgment. Instead, I had an internal freakout at this realization, and just how soon I’m forced to face this monster called the real world. Truthfully, I find that there are so many expectations for me, so many promises I have to make in becoming an adult that it’s impossible not to feel their weight. And the fact that I have to make this radical adjustment – jobs and self-care notwithstanding – in three months is pretty scary in itself.

At one point in my life, I was very excited about graduating. Now, I don’t want to leave college. I don’t want to leave this security of (mostly) mainted buildings and the ease of paying for food with imaginary money. I don’t want to give up my perks of community, of having a FitRec to work out in and and a heater in the winter. But I also know that if I never leave, I would never – and could never be anyone else.

So this is where I find myself – confronting the expectations placed for me and the things I’ve promised myself five to ten years back. There are times when I stare at my peers, those who have a job and a place to live, who feel so secured about their future that it makes me question my own authority as a grown up. Am I an adult? And more importantly, am I ready to be one? I don’t really know. I am not blind to the probabilities but I am defiantly hopeful of the possibility.

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Category: featured, Poetry, Prose and Comedy, Reflections

Mike Chan

About the Author ()

Mike graduated from BU in 2016 with a Elementary Education major and Mathematical Statistics minor. He is from Washington (the State) and a avid football fan, so don't be surprised to see him bunkered down by the television on Sundays. He's likes music, long naps, movies, Doctor Who, video games, and making people feel great (and sometimes altogether at once). If he is not writing here, he's probably busy rambling on Reddit or cooking something exotic. Follow his Twitter @karatemanchan37. You have been warned.

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