I remember once sitting on the couch with my dad, when I was around 5 years old, watching “Bob the Builder.” As I watched Dizzy the cement mixer truck work in perfect harmony with Bob, it suddenly occurred to me that when my parents were in control of the TV remote, they always picked shows I found entirely boring and impossible to follow.
I asked my dad if he enjoyed watching “Bob the Builder” and why he seemed to prefer other shows with jokes I couldn’t understand. To my disappointment, he said he did not really enjoy “Bob the Builder” and explained that people’s interests change as they grow older.
This news baffled me. I pledged to him and myself out loud that I would always enjoy watching “Bob the Builder” — no matter how old I was.
That’s the last time I have any memory of watching the show.
After coming to understand many of the different ways adults got to and chose to behave, I concluded that colleges were definitely teaching mandatory courses on skills and interests that I assigned to grown-ups: consuming boring TV shows and long books, understanding the news, cooking, grocery shopping and having romantic relationships. I truly could not fathom that anyone organically learned or developed this knowledge or preference over time. After all, why should they when they can watch awesome shows like “Bob the Builder”?
When I was little, my and my peers’ philosophies and politics seemed simple and appeared to make perfect sense. In 2008, I wrote my parents a persuasive letter asking that they vote for Hilary Clinton for president simply because she was a girl — like me. A classmate of mine attempted to sway her parents toward John McCain due to his name’s resemblance to candy cane.
I dreamed of the day that I would have my own money and buy my favorite candies from the store whenever I wanted and order dessert any time I was out for dinner and…I didn’t really think much further than that, actually.
At 19 years old, I feel like I exist in a strange in-between of childhood and adulthood, something many adults have told me never even goes away. Every time I buy a coffee just because I feel like it or drive my car wherever I want, I actually do feel a whisper of the delightful, grown-up freedom that I dreamed of in childhood.
Simultaneously, I sometimes feel discomfort, a lack of confidence or like I don’t belong when I interact with “real adults” — whether it’s their jokes and references flying over my head or the reminder that every day I am expected to grow up a little more to be like them. There’s an uncertainty in my head surrounding when I will finally experience the full abundance of freedom, knowledge and confidence I have always assigned to adulthood.
As college students, many of us are in the period of our lives where we are growing up at the most accelerated rate. It’s some people’s first time paying bills, having a driver’s license, choosing classes without anyone’s approval or coming home late at night with no one to provide an expertly-crafted explanation to.
[Related: OPINION: A defense of staying bed all day]
While my adolescent self would likely be extremely confused and disappointed to learn that Indiana University doesn’t require students to enroll in “Growing Up 101,” every day I find myself in curious awe of all the ways I and those around me are doing so nonetheless.
Leila Faraday (she/her) is a sophomore studying policy analysis.