As I enter my final semester of college, I find myself no longer worrying about partying or papers. Most of my serious thinking time when I sit on the toilet is occupied with the terrifying reality that I will soon have to be an adult. In no more than four months, the money from Mom and Dad will stop, the bills will pile up and I will find myself homeless for a time; that being a design of my Dad's construction called the "You're-not-moving-back-home" plan. Adulthood, once a vague notion in the back of my mind, seems to be inevitably on the horizon and getting closer by the minute.
Anyone at this age knows what I mean and if you don't, count yourself lucky. Slowly words you were convinced only your parents understood start creeping into conversations between you and your friends. You'll hear yourself say "W-2 Form," "insurance package" and "dental benefits" without a hint of sarcasm. Where has the carefree kid you were a few months ago gone? Where is the guy that used to list lighting farts on fire as one of his hobbies? Where is that girl whose idea of going out was to get dressed up, drink half a bottle of "99 Bananas" and pass out on the floor? Where, in short, have you gone?
I don't know, but what I do know is that I am a little scared of the new me: this adult me that shows himself from time to time. This version of myself makes to-do lists and hangs them in his room. When I see them, I wonder what kind of strange person would be so uptight that they needed a constant reminder of why they should be stressed. The adult me thinks things like, "I could work an office job for a few years ya know, just for some breathing room and work on my writing and comedy at night." All the ideals and plans I had laid for myself in High School and College seem to evaporate as the adult me considers rent, insurance, car payments, bill consolidation, medical coverage, homeowner's insurance and Levitra. I think it's safe to say that I'll have to put off my plans to own a beach bar in Hawaii for a few years.
What I really mourn though is the loss of my childhood wonder; that sublime, surreal notion that you actually can be anything you want to be. I blame my parents and all the parents of the boomer generation for this crushing loss. They raised us to believe we had the talent, natural skill and dedication to accomplish whatever goals we set for ourselves. In turn, we all grew up truly believing that we could be astronauts, presidents, superheroes and pirates because our parents said we could. I remember a time probably between the ages of six and eight when I felt if I tried hard enough, I could become a dinosaur. What they didn't tell us is that we can't be anything we want to be. I cannot be the president and neither can you. I can't be an astronaut or a pirate or even cry a dinosaur. They never told us that things like wealth, background and reality will hold us back from accomplishing most of our dreams. A few million kids graduate from college every year; we can't have that many presidents (or dinosaurs). They never told us that someday, if we work really hard, we can all be twenty-two year-olds with no direction and mounting student loan payments.
All dreams of reptilian metamorphosis aside, growing up is really serious business. The only problem with that is not one person I know is really a grownup. Even people who have been supporting themselves for a decade or so still laugh at the same stuff I do, still eat pizza in front of the TV and still think college girls are hot I suppose that's something you never grow out of, although it becomes sadder the older you get. Maybe nobody is really as mature as they seem. Maybe inside every buttoned-down business man beats the heart of a frat guy. Maybe behind the facade of every schoolteacher hides the girl that won a wet t-shirt contest in Cancun sophomore year. Maybe we have reached the peak of emotional maturity without even knowing it? Maybe, but that still doesn't help me find a job, does it?
At least I won't be alone. Everyone I know is going through the same thing I am. They woke up one morning and it hit them: "Oh shit, I have absolutely no plans." Suddenly everything got too real and their four year vacation from life was cut short by four months. In some ways it's a good thing; it forces us all to start thinking about things other than whether the caf will serve tacos tonight and focus on things like investing money and planning for our futures. But, at the same time, it hurts to be that rational and you long for the days when the most important choice you had to make was Bud or Bud Light.
My Dad always says that every big change in life marriage, children, death is just the start of a new journey. College graduation, according to him, is no different. Although for this journey, I wish I had packed a little better; my supplies are running low and I haven't even left yet.