Eighteen has been a...weird, weird year — to say the least. I often find myself thinking about what life was like before masks, before quarantine, before chaos and I can’t remember much.
This time last year, much of us freshmen were gearing up for what we hoped would be an ending to remember. After four years of toil and tribulation, we were finally going to graduate high school and step into the real world. There was so much to look forward to. From senior prom to baccalaureates to everything in between, we were ready for it all.
Then, one-by-one, our schools closed and the world stopped. We were trapped in our homes with nowhere to go, with nothing to do.
I turned 18 one day before everything shut down.
Never getting the chance to celebrate, I watched as everything I’d work so hard to build crumbled to ash in my hands. No amount of force could bring it back to life. Like my peers around me, I was devastated.
When I look back on this past year, I think I’ve grown more in 365 days than I had in the 18 years before I reached adulthood. In chaos, I became more appreciative of normalcy. In loss, I grew to cherish what I have. In boredom, I found new ways to find fun.
In grief, I learned to honor my feelings.
These are lessons we all had to learn in some way. The pandemic robbed us of much, and so we had to adapt and grow in new ways.
I feel like for those of us that reached adulthood during the pandemic, and to a lesser extent, graduated high school during the pandemic, were forced to grow up when we should have been reveling in the rites of passage so sacredly held to that first year of adulthood. When you turn 18, it feels like the world opens for you. The ceiling shatters, and there are so many things to try.
Instead, many of us stayed home, trying to keep ourselves safe. And yeah, maybe now we’ve got more wiggle room, but at the end of the day, there is still so much out of reach.
Looking forward, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The life we all once knew is making her grand return, but I wonder if we’ll ever really be the same again.
The pandemic changed us.
It’s changed me.
Through all the pain and struggle, I’ve become more appreciative of the little things. Something as simple as a hug carries so much more weight than it did before. I take my time, never rushing, always savoring. My mental health has become more important.
But a side effect of all this growth is that I feel much older than I should be.
I don’t feel like I’m 19.
I feel like a weird, mutation of an adult: not necessarily young, but not experienced enough in the world.
Now, standing on the other edge of 18, I’m not quite sure how to feel. There is much to look forward to in the coming year. However, I think if I am to honor my future, I should reclaim that lost time — give myself a year I will never forget.
All of us should do this.
In spite of the hardships of the past year, let us all celebrate like there is no tomorrow when things reach a state of normal. Throw confetti in the air. Pop the champagne — or sparkling cider. Make bold progress and beautiful mistakes. We all deserve that reclamation.
So...cheers to 19, and to all of us who grew up a little too fast.
May we all honor a year lost.