I feel like a New Year should symbolize something bold and brilliant; it should be some sort of clear signpost aligned with a major life change.  I am graduating from college this May, so I guess that signifies something. But nonetheless, I feel damp; cold; stagnant.  It’s not that I’m not excited about graduating, or that I regret 2010 (quite the opposite; it was a joyful year).  It’s that the overwhelming characteristic of my emotional landscape right now is fear.

I have a tendency towards anxiety in general (I believe it is often associated with depression), but it has never been particularly associated with the changing of years or the passing of time.  As a child and adolescent, I was so unbelievably eager to grow up that sometimes I felt as though I might explode from waiting.  And there are many pleasures of adulthood: romantic love and sex, of course, but also things like living on your own, exploring new places without constraints or boundaries, and choosing the life that you want to live, in terms of education, career, friends, lovers, location, etc.  There is an exhausting number of variables.

More than anything, I felt my childhood crumble away in late 2010.  I had a similar feeling in late winter of 2009, just about two years ago. You can read my essay about that here.  Maybe there are a series of sudden moments or realizations or overcomings that signify the end of childhood.  Maybe this is one of the moments in that series.  But it still feels too sudden, too painful.  From the time I was about 12, I had the skills to take care of myself.  Granted, I was not an emotionally sound adolescent, but I was remarkably good at cooking, getting myself to and from places, and keeping track of events (gymnastics meets, doctor’s appointments, school concerts).  I don’t remember thinking of myself as a kid past the time I was 11 or 12.

And now I’m 21 and I’ll be 22 later this year and it’s too late to go back.  I want to at least stop time, if I can’t go back.  But I’m not allowed to do that either.  For the first time in a decade, I don’t want to grow up.   I want to stay the same.  I want to play outside with my cousins.  I want to catch minnows in the summer in glass jars.  I want to build intricate snowmen in the winter and not worry about how many calories are in the elephant ear I’m eating.  I want my mother to live with me and make me pad thai or spaghetti with meatballs. I don’t want to take planes and trains and buses by myself.

Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic, but I see 2009 and 2010 as the last years of my childhood.  In May, I will graduate from an Ivy League university with absolutely no clue what I want to do in this world.  I will probably delay the inevitable entrance to the real world by travelling and going to law school.  And maybe I will eventually do something that’s sort of un-adult, like teach kid’s dance lessons or be a nanny.  But my little safe cocoon of late adolescence is peeling away.  Soon, I’m going to have to do things like pay bills and taxes and apply for grown-up jobs.

So that’s the fear and the anxiety that I am feeling.  But as I write this, I’m beginning to feel a spark of some other feeling: it’s not exactly joy or excitement.  Maybe possibility?  Or curiosity?  Or calm?  There are wonderful parts about being a grown up.  And I have a feeling that I will always be the sort of grown up who doesn’t think twice about wearing colorful mittens or sifting for shiny seashells at the beach.  So maybe 2009 and 2010 do signify the terminal point of my childhood.  But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

The very end of this year (the second half of December), which I spent with no less than 27.5 relatives from my mother’s side of the family, was rough.   But I think that it makes sense: I was acting out in ways that a seven year old might.  I alternated between fits of misbehavior and moments of deep, deep sadness.  I think somewhere inside, I knew that this was not just the ending of a year, but the ending of an important segment of my life.  Maybe I was trying to delay the onset of 2011.  I will admit that midnight, January 1, took me by surprise.  I was sitting on a couch with my favorite aunt and uncle.  We didn’t notice until it was about 12:03. We promptly went to bed.

In 2011, I do not want to be a misbehaving girl any more.  I want to be a real woman.  This, of course, is probably dangerously undefined, but that’s how I want it to be.  I think that my transition to womanhood began a long time ago.  USB probably sped things up, and then my 21st year ended and I was nudged over the edge.  In this next year, I wish to move away from the child who had to do everything she could to take care of herself and thus grew up too quickly.  I will never leave her behind; that girl is a big part of who I am and how I am today.  Instead, I want to move closer towards the bright, collected, exuberant young woman that I want to be.

Over the next few days, I will begin to compile a list of ways in which I intend to become such a woman.  If it is blog-appropriate, I will most definitely share.  I am not sure they will be resolutions, per se — I strongly dislike the pressure of a resolution.  More like ideas.  Let’s call them ideas.  Stay tuned!

What did 2010 signify for you?  How will 2011 be different?  What are you favorite parts about being a grown up?  About being a child?

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caronae from Philippines
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 22:08:49

    I could relate to your write-up. I have always been the responsible girl, too, who thinks about what she really wants and the next thing I know, I’m looking for my ways to find the path towards it. Many things I have risked for the topmost priorities. Lately, I have left behind writing, believing in the cliche “We can’t serve two masters at a time.” Commitment to a specific field of study is really just as important as “eating this healthier food than the other” in order to survive. But sooner, I could reunite with that childhood sweetheart of mine, andl nevertheless fill up that another craving of my heart.

    2010 spelled studies and more studying. It had been a very significant year for I gained the degree I’ve been working for my entire College years. A very tough challenge I have to survive for achievement and practical purposes. Enveloped with pressures I can’t even let anybody else share to carry but me. Even if it meant sacrificing the things I used to do. But there was no thinking twice. All I knew is I have to prove something. Something big.

    These journey continues until 2011. The fuels that has been keeping our passion burning is one no else can provide but us. Only us. At the beginning of the day and at the end of the night, what matters most is that whether we have appropriately made our purpose without totally escaping from who we really are. Wherever we may be heading, changes are thoroughly inevitable. Even without us noticing. But childhood? Those younger years that formed us and started young our principles in life will never be forgotten.

    Whoever we are right now are somehow a result of how we were raised and formed by the external forces. But our internal force will always subsist as a prevailing truth.


  2. AJ
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 22:23:50

    Are you planning on returning to your intense workout regimen? Any changes in your workouts planned for this year? Good luck with the LS applications!


    • caronae
      Jan 04, 2011 @ 11:58:37

      Hi AJ! I do not plan on returning to intense workouts for a while. At this point in my life, it isn’t really necessary. I am all about the 30-60 minute workouts! Of course, if and when I train for another marathon, that all will change. 🙂


  3. Erin
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 22:34:58

    2010 was my last year of ‘freedom.’ After spending 2 years traveling around the world, I settled down in a real apartment and got a real job. All of a sudden, I’m an adult. What a scary thought.


  4. Maggie @ Say Yes to Salad
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 23:49:46

    I’m interested in how you’re going to become such a woman! I still don’t feel like a woman and I graduated from an Ivy League university 3 years ago exactly thinking that the world was full of possibilities (it is). I still don’t know what I want to do in this world. I have some ideas, but nothing concrete. I suppose we will have to figure it out.


  5. Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine
    Jan 04, 2011 @ 11:46:37

    2010 was my last year of certainty. I knew when it began where I’d be, physically and more or less emotionally, when it ended. 2011 is open-ended…I have a feeling its going to be a big year for me, whether good or bad. I’m hoping for the former, especially since I now know that even in the hardest trials it’s attitude that means everything.

    I’m not ready to leave childhood, either. Or rather, I am, but I don’t want to do the in-between stage. I want to have a family, a home, and a routine. I’ve been told I’m an old soul many times, because the excitement of change and experimentation has never held much interest to me…I hate change. I like to stick with what I know, not necessarily because it’s comfortable, but more because it doesn’t take much to make me content with life. I can’t wait to settle down and take more pleasure from simple things, than from big actions.

    This was a beautifully written post. I’m so glad you’re back!


    • caronae
      Jan 04, 2011 @ 11:53:32

      Thanks Gabriela! I have been called an old soul too. I don’t want the in-between stage either because I hate it when things change constantly. It’s not that I dislike change, I just want to be able to anticipate the changes, I guess.


  6. Jess
    Jan 04, 2011 @ 13:41:32

    For me, 2010 was about making changes to make myself happy: I ditched a boyfriend who wasn’t good for me, and made decisions that were for me for the first time. I’m not really sure what 2011 will hold…honestly, I’m hoping for more of the same- I’m happy now!

    Beautifully written post!


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