When I was 18, I wanted to be older so desperately. For some of the reasons that everyone can relate to, and others that were unique to me (or not, as I found out later). I wanted independence. For me, that involved getting my parents out of my hair, and gaining freedom. There was no doubt in my mind that becoming older was the panacea to all my problems. Ha Ha. And Ha.
The word “freedom” is probably the second most misconstrued word in history, shortly trailing “love”. Just like there are many varieties of love indulged in by people both balanced and unhinged, there are just as many different editions of “freedom”, subject to use and abuse, interpretation and misinterpretation. The triumph of leaving home at 18 (albeit for school) lasted only for so long, as I soon found out that 1) freedom means nobody will tell you anything anymore, and 2) freedom sure ain’t free.
First of all, freedom can turn into a burden when you are old enough to supposedly make tough choices for yourself. Decisions like choosing a major, picking a summer internship, or whether to go long-distance with your significant other. Your parents, siblings and friends now recoil from giving you any sort of concrete advice, but resort to lame catch-all phrases such as “only you can make this decision”, or worse yet, “just follow your heart”. Highly impractical and definitely not actionable. Soon enough, the only times that you can get yourself some decent advice is by sitting next to a complete stranger on a cross-Atlantic flight, munching over peanuts and wine in a plastic cup. Or more expensively, lying on the couch in your therapist’s office.
Secondly, if you weren’t born with a trust fund, freedom means paying the bills. Paying the bills means picking up a good job, and picking up a good job means that you are only free to do fun things once the sun sets. In other words, you’re paid to sell the best time of your day for money, so strict time and geographical limitations are placed on the practice of freedom. During those paid hours, you are expected to do as told (probably by someone a lot dumber than you), dress in unfortunate slacks and shirts, and sit in on pointless meetings and feign enthusiasm. It’s probably too early for you to truly appreciate the sadistic ironies of Office Space. That’s ok, you will get your strain of the Muuundays soon enough.
When I was 18, I used to roll my eyes when people spewed out stuff that complimented my age. I always took the praise as backhanded and gratuitous. How was a disadvantage youth with hands tied behind her back supposed to feel next to an adult who was free to go everywhere and do everything? Now crossing over to the latter part of my 20s, a lot of us murmur that we would not want to be 18 again. But why are we so nostalgic about those years past? Now looking back, the world was indisputably simpler (despite what you may think now) and lighter. Many of us marvel at how time could fly so fast and retaliate against it in our own ways – against the shackles of those so-called freedoms of the grown-ups.
If I was 18 again, as futile as my words would be, I’d tell myself to slow down just a bit. Because life will not always be as it is now, for better or worse. For every bit of freedom you gain, there’s something else that gives.
picture source: `gilad