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Adulthood: More Responsibility (But More Freedom)

If there was ever a secret to adulthood, this might be it.

Most of us have those moments in adulthood when we wish for the simplicity of childhood again.

That simple life when our parents took care of us. We had no concerns for bills and taxes, no major life decisions, and the greatest drama in our social circles died within days. Our greatest fears were imaginary monsters under our bed, and we dreamed of endless possibilities when we grew up.

We couldn’t wait to grow up.

Then we did grow up.

Adulthood responsibilities are endless. We’re counting our money with every purchase. Social drama includes deep betrayal and intimate relationships. There are no monsters under our bed, but we’ve found other monsters that are real. Our dreams of the future become immeasurable stress about what we’re going to do with our lives.

Suddenly, all we want is to be children again.

But there has to be something wonderful about adulthood. There was a reason why we wanted to grow up.

The realities of adulthood are harsh. You have to pay rent and buy your own food. You’ve experienced more disappointment as an adult, and the future doesn’t seem as bright and limitless as it once was to innocent, childish minds.

You’ve seen more terrible things in life. You’ve been hurt deeply and in ways you never imagined. You’ve suffered terrible losses and fallen down more times than you can count.

And then there are the eternal question of the adults older than us: What are you going to do with your life?

Because apparently, everyone should know exactly how their lives will work out at eighteen, twenty-two, twenty-five, and thirty years old.

When we were children, it was easy: elementary school, middle school, high school. In my town, college was expected after high school. And then you were expected to know what job you would get afterwards.

That’s when many of us begin to long for childhood again: when we didn’t have the answers to our future anymore.

The grown-up pressures to go to a prestigious university, get a well-paying job, and live close to home sink in. You’re an adult now, and there are so many decisions to be made that will change your life. Your parents will pressure you one way, but maybe your heart disagrees. Maybe you have to take a relationship into account when choosing a university or deciding on a job. Most times, the reality isn’t what you expected.

But you’re running your own life.

That’s what we wanted as children: the freedom to decide our own lives.

While you are still financially dependent on your parents, you lack a huge amount of freedom. Some of my peers were concerned that their parents would stop paying for their cell phones or college tuition if they didn’t live in accordance to what their parents wanted. These ranged from an extra piercing to tattoos and college tuition.

One mother told me how her son wanted her to pay for his entire college education, and her response was that she would do so if she got to choose his wife. From what I heard, he rejected that agreement.

Maybe being adult isn’t completely appealing, but that alternative was much worse.

The meaning of adulthood.

Greater freedom means greater responsibility.

Maybe you have to do extra housework. Maybe your parents aren’t doing your laundry, cooking you food, or cleaning the dishes for you. This is your life now. You can either take full ownership, with the increased responsibility and increased freedom to live how you want to, or you forfeit part of your freedom to your parents and for the sake of less responsibility.

That little apartment you have to scrape by to pay rent for might not be the nicest, but it’s yours. That car might not be like your parents’ Lexus or Mercedes, but it’s yours. Your trips might not include those 5-star hotels that your parents would have paid for, but you were calling the shots. You can go out and come home at whatever hour without having to explain yourself. You can wear what you want without comments from your parents. You can spend your money how you wish.

You can live the way you want to.

That’s what was so appealing about adulthood.

As children, we didn’t know how scary adulthood would be. We didn’t know that we’d have to make so many life changing decisions. We’re constantly reminded when people ask us what we’re doing with our lives. You probably won’t have all the answers. Even if you think you have the answer, things can still change. None of us can predict the future with complete certainty.

But the uncertainty of the future shouldn’t scare us from growing up.

No matter what, we will continue to grow up whether we like it or not. We can either embrace adulthood, or continue to run from the responsibilities. But we will all grow up. Time only marches in one direction.

We had the simplicity of childhood once.

It’s time to embrace the freedom of adulthood.

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About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.