There is Something Terrifyingly Sad about Growing Up

Illustration by Mary Galloway

There’s something terrifyingly sad about growing up, which is why sometimes people refuse to do it. 

I remember high school like it was just yesterday. I remember all the emotions, and I remember wanting to get away so badly. I wanted to escape the thrill of being young and dumb. Now, all that’s left is a memory of all the ups and downs–the bad, and the good that was buried deep within the bad. I remember waiting for the bus to get to school, breaking the rules, hating the Winter Ball, still dancing, failing a psychology test, and eating Goldfish as I wallowed in self-pity on Valentine’s Day. I wish I could bring these memories back to life, but that is not possible, and it makes me sad. 

Sometimes, I look back and think about how I should’ve wanted to be a problematic, angst-ridden teenager. High school would’ve been the perfect place for that. Then, finally, like an adult, I would grow up and overcome my inner demons. My growth would become apparent, and I’d write a biography and become famous. Shoot, why didn’t I think of that before? 

As I begin to grow more cynical regarding all my lost opportunities for an award-winning narrative on redemption, I realized that the knowledge of wishing we had partaken in something greater as adolescents is only a part and parcel of growing up. Surprise! We aren’t done with it yet. 

In some way or another, everything we do is a story to go in the books. That’s what I keep telling myself. We collect memories and store them away in a jar, kind of like what we do with dead people’s ashes, which may seem a little morbid. That’s because as much as we wish to experience the good ones again, we can’t. 

As I walked past little children playing tag and silly hand games, I thought to myself that those little children are going to have to grow up someday. One day, tag and silly hand games wouldn’t be enough. All those children are probably going to grow out of games the way we did. They are probably also going to grow up and do the things that we do. Get a boyfriend or girlfriend, go to college, not go to college, have sex, and perhaps even fall in love? Question mark? 

I wonder what it would be like to be an air stewardess. They get to be on airplanes all the time, constantly floating up in the air somewhere. I can’t help but think that time becomes negligible when you are that detached from the world. Down here on Earth, time does a great job of making us feel that something has been lost. I miss being the girl who could do straight backflips across the tumble track, the preteen who layered tank tops over one another in hopes of starting a trend, and the teenager who was so in love with performance arts even though she really didn’t do a good job. Every time I feel this way, I try to remind myself that that’s the beauty of growing up, or not wanting to. The whole process of clinching on to a memory, moving on, and growing older is simply a rite of passage. 

Your childhood home, home country, and high school are only places. They aren’t responsible for who you become. You just miss the foolish person who used to live there. It was your youth. Now you are older, wiser, and better in a thousand ways. 

Well, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. 

By Sonia Wee

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