Less than a year ago, I turned 18.
It was strange. At 11:59 pm I was watching Disney’s Princess Protection Program and banging pots and pans together. Exactly one minute later, I had the legal right to vote for my nation’s leaders, to drive motor vehicles and to stay up past my bedtime.
It’s hard to believe that within a few moments I had escaped the pimply angst of adolescence and stumbled into the glamorous world of adulthood. Eagerly, I turned to the mirror to see if I’d been physically transformed in any way. Nope, I still looked the same – like a remarkably short 13-year old with a small, inconspicuous bald patch. I’d had that patch for so long I’d even given it a name. Harold.
To be honest, I even felt the same. I felt like a child. I wanted to go back to my pots and pans. I wanted to lick the icing off cupcakes and the cream off Oreos. I wanted to watch PG-13 movies with adult supervision.
But I was not a kid. And I was not an adult either. Somehow, I had found myself in that blurry no-man’s land in-between the two spheres. I had become a kidult.
And exactly three months later, they packed me off to university.
I found it all terribly unfair. For 18 years straight, I had been told to “Go to your room!”, “Eat your vegetables, young lady” and “Go to bed, now!” And all of a sudden, one fine day, I was being asked to live in a different country, to provide nourishment and sustenance for myself and Harold, and to go to bed whenever I felt like it. I was horrified. How dare they give me the freedom to do whatever I wanted? Didn’t they know how young and dumb I was?
In the months I have been here, however, I have gradually had to come to terms with my hybrid identity as a Kidult. The process was by no means easy, and it happened in five distinct phases:
Phase 1: Denial
In the beginning, adulthood was a mere technicality. Technically, I was 18 years old, and therefore legally an adult. But this was merely an inconsequential detail. In my first month here, I pretended like nothing had changed. I’d constantly text my mother to ask her things like “It’s 11 pm. I should go to bed now, right?” Sometimes, I’d supply her with mundane details of my life, such as “I just poured some water into a glass and then drank it” and “I am going to floss.” For about two weeks, she pretended to be enthusiastic: “Yes! Stay hydrated, I’m proud of you!” or “Dental hygiene will serve you well later in life!” But as time passed, her attitude changed. First she started to respond with “K”. Then she started to seen-zone me. It felt like a bad break-up. Clearly, if I wanted Santa to bring me any presents this year, I had to grow up.
Phase 2: Anger
Now that I’d made up my mind to be an adult, I had to act like one. What do Well-Adjusted Adults do? For one, they’re independent. They don’t rely on their parents; they take charge of their own lives. Clearly, I was not very good at this – not only did I text my mother so much that she started to consider a restraining order, I also Skyped my parents every single day. If I wanted to be a real adult, I’d have to wean myself off this destructive habit.
But I couldn’t. I kept trying to find excuses to Skype them.
“I should call; today is Dad’s half-birthday” or “A dormant volcano on the Lesser Sunda islands became active today; I should call to find out if my parents are okay”. Clearly, I was addicted – but good old Skype saved me. Somehow, it realized that I was slipping, so it compensated by freezing every 30 seconds. This meant that instead of talking to my parents, I spent most of my time making Adele proud by screaming “HELLO? HELLO?” at my laptop screen. Skype made me so angry that I almost threw my laptop out of the window once, but luckily, I couldn’t open it. I took this as a sign: the problem was not Skype. It was me. Much like the Wi-Fi signal in my room, I was weak.
Phase 3: Bargaining
Another thing that independent adults seem to do well is money. But financial responsibility wasn’t really my thing. It took me a while to even register the fact that money has value – it is not a just a piece of paper with pictures and words on it. During our initial week on campus, they’d suggested that we download an app called “You Need a Budget”. My reaction to this was “Lol.”
It turns out that the joke was on me, because I later realized that I was not, in fact, Scrooge McDuck. I was not even a duck. I was an Adult, an Independent One at that, with Expenses.
Having realized this, I began to overcompensate. One of the toughest financial decisions I had to make was “Meal swipe or campus dirhams?” [Meal swipe: 30-unit swipes used to purchase campus meals; campus dirhams: university-specific currency, like Monopoly money, but real]. I needed to have enough campus dirhams to spend on toilet paper, but on the other hand, I also needed meal swipes, because I’m a compulsive hoarder and I liked knowing that I had 200 swipes left on my card at any point in time.
Ironically enough, my desire for financial optimization came at a cost. I’d spend so much time in the queue trying to bargain with myself that my food would often get cold. This made me sad.
Phase 4: Depression
All my efforts to become an independent adult fell through quickly the day I fell ill. It was just a mild cold, but to me, it felt like the plague. I lay in bed sniffling and patting my own head, because that’s what my mommy did when I was ill. I also tried to give myself a back massage, so in addition to suffering from the plague, I ended up mildly spraining my shoulder.
For the next three days, I was a sorry sight. I wanted hot chocolate without having to get out of bed, so I sat on a chocolate bar for a day. I wanted warmth, but the air conditioning in my room was stuck on minus 55 degrees Celsius. I wanted to sneeze, but there was no one to say “Bless you”, so I had to hold it in. And I wanted to be babied, but I was a grown-up.
Phase 5: Acceptance
Clearly, I had no choice. I had to accept the undeniable fact that I was a kidult. In an ultimate attempt to endorse this new identity, I decided to go wild and do the one thing that defines Adulthood: grocery-shopping. I am proud to announce that a few days ago, I went to the Convenience Store, and I bought my first vegetable. Then I called up my mother to inform her of my purchase. “What did you buy?” she asked me. I had no idea. I described it to her, and she scanned her Mother Portal for answers. As it turns out, I’d bought a rambutan. This was, apparently, a fruit. Darn it. My first vegetable was actually my first fruit. Never mind. It was a symbolic victory. I’d conquered my phobia of health, and I’d made a wise investment in my future.
But you know what the best part was?
When I looked into the mirror that day, I realized that I’d finally begun aging into Harold.
Originally published on The Gazelle.