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Chapter Nineteen

Last week, I turned nineteen, which – according to several friends – is the most boring age one can turn. I can’t deny the validity of this statement, but I’d attribute the lack of emotional fanfare to the too-real aging aspect of entering the very last teenage year. As a child, I never quite understood why adults didn’t make a big deal out of their birthdays—it is a day, all for YOU, after all! But now that I’ve had a little more than a couple birthdays, I’m starting to feel the apathy of adulthood creeping in.

I suppose it’s also because birthdays start to become attached to an inevitable sense of dread. This past year, I’ve slowly become considerably more aware of the fact that my body and brain are very likely in their physical peak and – worse – that I’ve hardly taken advantage of this peak at all. In fact, I’m afraid that I’ve treated the peak rather poorly. Much earlier on in my teen years, I adopted “no regret” as my life motto. I realize how silly and juvenile that now seems. I no longer have life mottos. As I enter young adulthood, I’m terrified that every move I make will become a source of regret in the future. On the other hand, I’m also terrified that all the moves I do not make will cause regret. It’s a classic young-person dilemma.

This mental predicament is further fueled by the university environment. I remember telling a rising college freshman just this past summer to be especially careful of what he does in the next four years. I’m no longer sure if that was good advice, but it was based in good intentions. There is such a pressure on university life to be one of – if not the – most formative times of our lives. When middle-aged people reminisce, it is almost always about their college times. Whether this is because that era really was the most significant or simply the farthest back they can clearly remember, I don’t know. Regardless, I often feel chained to constant over-analysis of academic and social choices because I expect that they will be some of the most influence on my adult life. What professors should I attempt to make real connections with? Will they be my career-long mentors? How much effort should I put in when meeting strangers? Will they be my lifelong friends? In my wedding party? At my funeral? Should I socialize more, if only because it’s hard to make friends as an adult? Must I embark on more spontaneous adventures because I won’t have time for them in the future?

Clearly, all these questions culminate in one main question—am I being enough? Am I, as an almost fully-formed person of my own, existing well enough? I suspect this will never really be answered definitively, so I can only respond à la Tatianna—

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Choices, indeed. And a lot of them are coming, I expect, in this next year of life. There seems to be only one way of approaching them—to sink in, afraid but excited, and allow the panic to wash over and quell. I imagine it is then that one will be able to see the wonder of them all. Perhaps then I’ll be able to recognize how fortunate I am to even have so many.

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