Smooth sailing on the USS Adulting
I am constantly surprised by how the things I used to love and yearn for as a kid now scare the heck out of me.
Take crowds, for example. I remember being a kid in Disney World in the middle of summer vacation, surrounded on all sides by sweaty bodies in tank tops and t-shirts. I don't think I cared about how many people there were around me. I was in the most magical place on Earth, where the air smelled like churros and cotton candy and sunscreen, and I was perfectly content.
Nowadays, just thinking about all of those people crammed together makes my heart palpitate. I cannot stand being in a crowd. If I'm constantly getting my shoulders bonked and feet stepped on and I can't see where I'm going, it's like I can't breathe. I've had nightmares about trying to ascend a bustling staircase when everyone else is coming down, getting trampled by the waterfall of people.
As a kid, I loved airplanes. I loved going fast and lifting up, and arriving somewhere really cool only a couple of hours later. I dreamt about flying, watching the clouds and seeing the world from above. In elementary school, my kindergarten class had to schedule out and draw our perfect day. The first item on my list was "fly to Hawaii," accompanied by a crude crayon sketch of an airplane over an ocean.
Today, I could not think of anything worse than spending a day on a plane. There's no leg room, you can't move, you're smooshed into the person next to you like sardines. There's a crying baby two rows in front of you screaming its lungs out when you're trying to sleep. When you finally do close your eyes for half a second, the turbulence shakes you awake like an excited kid shaking a present on Christmas morning.
When I was young, the fondest, most desperate desire in my heart was to be an adult. Adults decide if and when they want to eat vegetables, take baths, put on sunscreen, and do chores. Adults do whatever they want and no one can stop them. Adults have it made.
What I somehow failed to realize back then was that adulting is super freaking terrifying. All of those bad decisions I dreamed of making as a kid now seem like the stupidest kid stuff I've ever imagined. Being independent means making decisions that will shape the course of your life. One wrong move and you're stuck saying "if only" until the day you die.
The difference between past-me and present-me is that my idea of control has changed over the years.
I didn't mind crowds back then because I didn't mind not being in control. Now crowds terrify me because when I'm in them, I can't control where or how fast I'm going.
I used to love air travel because flying was a superpower I always wanted to have. Now I hate planes because once you board that tin can, you give up every ounce of control you have until you get off again.
When I was a kid dreaming of adulthood, I was sick of everyone ordering me around and wanted to order myself around for a change. Now I'm faced with giant life-changing decisions with giant, life-changing consequences. All that power and responsibility scares the heck out of me, and I'd rather feel safe than have the possibility of one bad decision ruining my life forever.
I've found, though, that the opposite of control isn't chaos. The opposite of control is trust. Trust in the crowd to not crush the air out of your lungs. Trust in your airplane pilot to get you safely on solid ground. Trust in yourself, listen to the quiet voice inside telling you what to do, and learn from mistakes moving forward instead of spending a lifetime looking back.
A little fear is normal, and a little turbulence is expected. But when you find that perfect balance of control and trust, it will be smooth sailing all the way to your final destination.
Kaleigh Henderson is a senior at West Linn High School.
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