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What it means to grow up from someone who has a long way to go

May. 21, 2018
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I opened my first bank account last week. The process was long and painful and culminated in a two-hour session with a banker in which I had to repeatedly prove that yes, I am in fact Sarah Kearns, and no, I don’t want overdraft fees sent to my account. This took place after I watched a required informational video on overdrafts whilst my overzealous banker beamed at me from across the desk. I made an effort to mimic the expression of someone much more financially literate than myself, nodding my head and leaning back in my chair, but exercising my amateur acting skills did little to lessen the inevitable impact of just how boring banks and bank-related events are. Ultimately, my dramatized suffering was worth it though. I got the whole financial shebang—a checking AND a savings account.

My dad took the liberty of using the three-block car ride home to lecture me on being responsible with my money and avoiding debt at all costs. (As if the past two hours with my banker-babysitter weren’t enough. Choosing to not jump out of the moving truck was truly a testament to my resilience.) But in all seriousness, I’m thankful that I have a real life adult to help navigate all the adult-y things I have to do now that I’m eighteen. And though my dad’s speech was cut short by our arrival home and I’ve long forgotten most of it, his last line struck a chord within me. As we pulled into the driveway, my dad said to me, “You’re all grown up now.”

I’ve been thinking about what my dad said a lot, probably too much. And now that I have to rationalize the messy musings of my brain in actual words, the only explanation I can chalk up for my obsessive overthinking of a four-word phrase is that I simply don’t feel like I’ve grown up. After all, it was only a few days ago that my life savings consisted of crumpled bills expertly crammed into a plastic Tupperware container. 

Not only am I financially inept, I’ve omitted all the major getting-older milestones on my way to turning eighteen. I’ve never had a real relationship, attended a doctor’s appointment alone, or tested for my driver’s license. While I know that these are insignificant markers of growth in life’s big picture, they stand as personal reminders of how much of a kid I still am, and they’re reaffirmed every time my mom wakes me up for school or hands me a packed lunch on my way out the door. (No shade, ILY mom.)

This sparked the epiphany that I had indeed cheated growing up.

Of course, this wasn’t true, and I came to my senses shortly after when, upon sharing my thoughts with best friend, she didn’t just laugh, but quite literally CACKLED in my face. She told me that she had yet to do any “grown-up things” herself, but isn’t too bothered by this because she “has a few more years before she really has to get her shit together” and empathized with my lack of financial immaturity. While it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one feeling lost in the grey area bordering teenagedom and adulthood, there’s a key difference between my best friend’s perspective and my own. She’s relishing the unknown, whereas I’m resenting it.

As corny as it sounds, I’ve come to understand that growing up isn’t a journey. It’s a destination. (I’M SORRY!!! I’M CRINGING TOO!!!) There’s so much to learn at eighteen, and there’s still going to be so much to learn at nineteen, and twenty, and even when I’m old enough to confidently tell my children’s children what overdrafts are. (I’m still not really sure.) Growing up has no limit and no age cap. It’s simply progressing toward becoming a better version of yourself, whether that means smarter, kinder, or in my case, financially responsible.

Don’t get me wrong, I would rather forgo modern currency and get by on bartering alone than go through the process of opening a bank account a second time. But I must admit, I left the bank feeling a little wiser, a little older, and just a little more grown-up.