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MCCARTHY: Approaching graduation, but not quite adulthood

Photo+by+Amy+Elliot-Miesel
Photo by Amy Elliot-Miesel

Photo by Amy Elliot-Miesel

Photo by Amy Elliot-Miesel

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I thought at some point in the last four years, I would wake up and be an adult. Suddenly, in a moment of clarity, I’d choose a direction in life and all my anxieties and fears would be put to rest. Newfound confidence in hand, I’d set out into the world with nothing but my degree and firm handshake to conquer the job market.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I prepare to move into my parents’ basement. Here I am, almost finished with school, and the thought of calling myself an adult is still laughable. My dad does my taxes for me, I still rely on a parental subsidy and the majority of my meals are microwaveable.

Believe me, I tried to make it happen. Part of the reason I chose to go to school 800 miles from home was a desire for independence and the maturity I thought would come with it. Sophomore year, I went even further, studying in Ireland and living with strangers. As I soon learned, distance does not always equal independence.

College graduation always looked like a starting line, like the beginning of the “real world” everyone always talked about. Now, as I watch people my age getting engaged, having babies, looking at apartments, I’m beginning to wonder what happened. What did they do that I didn’t?

I know I’m not alone in this feeling. Baby boomers have complained about millennials’ lack of maturity and independence for years now. While I hesitate to paint any generation with broad strokes, there might be a little truth in it. Heck, just look down Wisconsin Avenue on a warm day and you’ll see 20-something-year-olds playing Pokemon on their phones and riding Razor scooters to class.

It feels like it’s taking our generation longer to reach the same milestones as previous generations. Just a hundred years ago, boys far younger than I were mobilizing across this country to fight in World War I. The further back you look in history, the earlier it seems that circumstances forced people into maturity.

But is this phenomenon of arrested development all that new? I’m not so sure.

One of the greatest films of the 1960s, “The Graduate,” is a story about a guy who graduates college and mulls around home for a while, uncertain what to do with his future. Even Hemingway wrote about the “great American boy-men”; those who did not fight in World War I and were not shaped by it.

The truth is, being an adult is about responsibility, and it takes hard work to develop. It’s easy to forget this during the day-to-day of my relatively charmed, care-free collegiate life, but most adults don’t actually have it all figured out. In fact, most aren’t even close. Learning the little things like taxes and 401ks will come with experience.

Life is not a coming-of-age novel. There is no bookend on adolescence. When I leave Marquette on May 21, clad in cap and gown, I won’t suddenly have all of the answers. But I trust that as I take the next step this fall in attending law school, the lessons I learned at Marquette will continue to guide me.

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