Student to Student
May 23, 2007
On your birthday, people always ask if you feel older, like it might not have fazed you all year, but suddenly, in one day, it hits you all at once. But there are actually a few birthdays when things do change suddenly.
At 16, you can drive a car outside of a farm. At 21, you can legally drink alcoholic beverages. At 15, you can sit in the exit row of an airplane and assist the crew in case of an emergency.
Celebrating my birthday this weekend, I began to ponder the significance of the big 1 8. After some quick brainstorming, I gathered that turning 18 means legally being allowed to vote, to serve on a jury, to buy pornography, to be eligible for the draft, to be put in jail, and to smoke cigarettes (but not buy them).
But the biggest thing about being 18 is that I am henceforth considered an adult (at least by the law). I’m sure my parents still think of me as their little girl, however, with the passing of my 18 birthday, I am now completely responsible for accepting the consequences of my own actions. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time is less forgivable now.
All of the sudden, I am an adult and it seems like I should get my life figured out. This is when I have to start making decisions that will affect my uncertain future.
I realize that living away from my parents next year, I will be responsible for myself. I will have to make my own choices. I will have to manage little choices like how late I stay out, but also bigger choices that affect the overall direction of my life.
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On my 18 birthday this past Sunday, my father gave me an insightful letter which meant a lot to me. I feel that the value of his words extends beyond me and also applies to many of my peers who are at similar points in their lives.
My dad’s note reads as follows:
Eighteenth birthdays are one of life’s milestones, not so much for what you do that day as for what that day represents. You are half still a kid and half a grown adult.
As you move more to the adult side, I would encourage you to keep and cherish some of the kid in you no matter how old and grown up you get . . . As Samuel Ullman said, "Youth is not a time of life it is a state of mind."
My dad also expressed that what matters is not only who you have become and what you have done, but also who you are growing into . . . and what you are capable of doing.
All the things you have and achieve are nice, but mostly I smile at the person you are . . .
I know it sometimes it might feel difficult, my dad empathized about the stress of making your own decisions and of helping others with their decisions along the way.
He advised . . . Even when you don’t have an answer, have faith that you will figure it out. Trust yourself, follow your own lead, and believe in yourself . . .
As I move on into adulthood, I will remember my dad’s advice and wisdom. I will cherish my youth, strive harder to be a great person than to achieve great deeds, and have faith in myself.