At 18, Looking Back and Looking Forward

Imagine opening your closet and finding you have only two pairs of shoes: one is a pair of Velcro sneakers — the kind that light up when you walk, and the other is a stiff pair of patent leathers that bear a vague resemblance to ones frequently donned by Pam Beesly in early seasons of…

Published June 19, 2013 6:54 PM
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Imagine opening your closet and finding you have only two pairs of shoes: one is a pair of Velcro sneakers — the kind that light up when you walk, and the other is a stiff pair of patent leathers that bear a vague resemblance to ones frequently donned by Pam Beesly in early seasons of “The Office.”

 

By Erin McAward

 

Imagine opening your closet and finding you have only two pairs of shoes: one is a pair of Velcro sneakers — the kind that light up when you walk, and the other is a stiff pair of patent leathers that bear a vague resemblance to ones frequently donned by Pam Beesly in early seasons of “The Office.” Both pairs are your size, but you cannot imagine wearing either of them to anything you would willingly attend. That pretty much sums up how it feels to be 18, caught in this limbo of being both too young and too old. It’s a sad, sad day when you realize you can no longer get away with things by being “cute,” but it’s totally nothing to stress over, because at least you don’t have to pay a mortgage yet.

 

That being said, being 18 is arguably one of the greatest times in life. Nothing beats the seniority that comes with being the oldest “kids” around town. But I think it’s that very same feeling that makes us so anxious to escape. How can this small town still be big enough to contain all the greatness slowly taking shape in us the past two decades?

 

Now that the college admission process is over and I have more time on my hands, I find myself spending a decent amount of it being nostalgic. In retrospect, there aren’t a lot of major things I would change. I believe there’s a huge difference between regretting and learning, and if you spent too much time on the former, you’ll probably never achieve the latter. Nevertheless, there are a few things I wish someone had informed me of when I was entering high school:

 

1) Take some good risks. I spent the better half of my time growing up afraid to ever do anything that took me out of my comfort zone, because I was afraid of looking back someday and cringing. As a result, I spent the majority of that time in agonizing boredom. Now this isn’t to suggest that you spend your weekends street racing or cliff diving, but it’s definitely worthwhile to challenge yourself with something new.

 

2) College admissions people usually don’t care about your laundry list of activities. I feel as though there’s this huge misconception among teens today that unless you’re squeezing in serving as class president and playing three varsity sports between oboe recitals at Carnegie Hall, you might as well forget about college. This may come as a shock, but there is no Wall of Shame in any college admissions office where they hang the inferior applications of students who don’t know how to play the zither or have yet to find the cure for diabetes. This is often precisely the student they’re looking for: the one who is driven to find that one thing they’re passionate about, even if they don’t necessarily know what it is yet.

 

3) Find something that you like to do and stick with it. If you’ve found something you enjoy, whether it’s a sport or a hobby, don’t quit. Even if you don’t think you’ll miss it, you will. Even if you intend to pick it up again later on in life, you probably won’t. I speak from experience when I say that no matter how busy you think you are, you will always be able to make time for something you love to do.

 

4) Now, as I stare into that closet, perplexed about which pair of shoes to put on, it occurs to me that I don’t have to decide just yet. Maybe the best part of being both young and old is being able to understand the value of a day, while still being able to enjoy it. So for now, I choose to accept the present for what it is: a gift. I’ll take the courage I gained and lessons I learned in my light-up sneakers and carry them with me until the day comes when I feel naïve and unready in my patent-leather work shoes. Until then, what better way to revel in freedom than going barefoot?

 

The author, who graduated from School of the Holy Child earlier this month, will be attending Providence College in the fall.

 

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