Meeting Independence Halfway

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When I left the gym today and walked to my own car- the one I was paying for with my own money- and a thought popped into my head without prompting, as I jingled my keys:

Damn, I missed this independence.

Up at school I would have some semblance of independence. I lived in an apartment, could take public transport, and would often be on my own with my own agenda. It taught me how to be resilient, how to hold myself accountable, and most how to be by myself.

“Close enough to home that I can come back for a weekend if I need to, far enough away that I get the experience I need” is what I would tell people. By the time I was planning to transfer I knew it was time to spread my wings and go.

Of course, I still cried a lot when I left home. There’s a picture of my Dad and I crying, with me holding a replica of Sully’s clipboard in Monster’s Inc that had Boo’s door.

My friends in High School got a lot more independent a lot quicker than I did. Part of it was ADHD, which I know now, another part was I didn’t know if I was ready.

I get that it can be scary for parents- is it just a matter of time, or if we never let go, will our teen ever grow? Will they ever fly?

Only you can gauge for yourself what your teen is up for and what they want to do. When I write about my personal experience, know that this is coming from an undiagnosed ADHD adult who made it through adolescence alive and doing pretty dang well for herself. I’m here to help reassure you, guide you, advise you when I can.

Everyone works on different timelines, too. My brother became independent way before I did and even now, to me, he’s more emotionally and financially independent than I am (damn you, FAFSA). My sister is in between the two of us. But we all know she’ll get there eventually.

It’s in the independence where your teen figures out who they are and what they’re like. I learned that at school and camp, too.

For a while, I didn’t really like being alone. Part of it, I think, was because I didn’t really know what I was like. But as college went on, as I made mistakes and learned from them (sometimes calling my parents about the mistakes), who I am slowly became more and more clear.  Even things like having to get my own groceries and developing my own palette helped me slowly become the person I am today!

But I won’t pretend to know 100% who I am, or what I can do, because I don’t think that’s a question that will ever have a definite answer. Just like the physical growing pains that come with puberty, so too will the emotional and mental ones come along in their own time.

We just need to be patient for those who seem a bit behind the curve. There’s a fear, especially among people my age, that once you hit 25 you’re on the downhill slope when it comes to careers, love, family, goals.

It creates this anxiety and rush for everyone who thinks that there’s this drop off of options at 25. Because of that, I think people miss a lot of opportunities to grow. Patience, too, I think gets lost in the mix of growth.

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We see this in pervasive diet culture, in school choices, in athletics. This sense of “goals need to be met ASAP or else”, or “if I don’t get it now, I never will” seeps into how we see everything else. Dating, jobs, even just going through the Starbucks drive thru becomes a “how quickly can I get this thing I want”.

(No hate on Starbucks, you all know I love my lattes).

Setting up long term success is what goal setting is all about. Rather than a light at the end of the tunnels, goals should be more like street lamps: there to light the way and see where you’re going.

If I could go back in time to high school and tell my former self one thing, besides stop frying your hair, it would be to just chill and keep working. Things come with time. You will grow up. It’ll happen, you just have to keep working. Everything you want in life won’t come to you, but it will meet you half way.

What goals have you made recently? Have you achieved any of them?

As always, do your homework, eat a vegetable, and don’t forget to smile at someone today. See you soon!

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