I turned 18 three days ago (happy birthday to me!) and I’ve spent the last few days in the wandering depths of existentialism trying to figure out what this supposedly significant and jarring transition to adulthood is. I’m excited for the new growth that is coming my way. The following is me thinking out loud about what I want my adult life to look like for the foreseeable future.
What did I get for my 18th, you ask? Freedom!
I think I am looking forward to and will get the greatest taste of freedom that I’ve ever had as I transition to my college years. All throughout high school I was bound with obligation and cared deeply about what other people thought— this tied me down to specific behaviors, attitudes, and people. I don’t want the same thing to happen in college, so I’m working on ruthlessly cutting down my obligation to as many things as possible, including:
- Trying to reduce my compulsion to follow/add people back on social media, because it’s “what’s expected”
- Asking, “do I care about this extracurricular, or is it for clout/being able to add it to my resumé?”
- Reflecting on whether work at my job is intentional, or if I’m working for the sake of having something to do
Cutting down on these things will free up mental and physical bandwidth for the things I need to or want to be thinking about. This desire for freedom manifests itself in a few ways:
“A healthy man wants a thousand things, a sick man only wants one” -Naval Ravikant
Achieving anything becomes 100 times harder if you can’t understand and fulfill your most basic needs. All too often I find myself in social environments where small talk becomes a deprivation rat-race, to see who put in the most hours or has slept the least. This behavior starts in middle and high school, and gets much worse in college. Exercise, good eating, and sleep is the pinnacle of self care, not lying around with a bunch of oddly-scented candles (if you do this, that’s fine– I’m very sensitive to scents so I chose to bash candles). Creating good habits around my health gives me the freedom to not have to worry about if I get enough sleep, or eat the right things, since the behaviors become automated.
“Stay hungry, stay foolish” -Whole Earth Catalog, eventually Steve Jobs
I want to cultivate an enjoyment and desire for learning. I’m not saying this because I’m going into over 100K in student debt and should be damn well enjoying my learning at a cushy state school, but because I think that currently, learning new things is my one inalienable purpose. There’s no downside to becoming a lifelong learner, and I’m hoping to link a sense of fulfillment with learning new things so that I’m rewarded with a hit of dopamine when I choose to purse new and challenging opportunities. I’m not just talking about academics, though. When I say learning, I’m referring to learning anything and everything. What else is there for me to do? I think freedom manifests itself in knowledge, and the ability to choose what it is I want to be knowledgeable about is the ultimate freedom.
“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest” -Henry David Thoreau
This is going to sound incredibly pretentious and ego-boosting, and I’m not going to pretend it isn’t. Moving forward, I want to value my relationships with people even more than I do material or financial gain. I’m not saying I didn’t before, but I’d like to increase the value I put on my interactions with people. Money and material goods are nice, but I think that after those needs are taken care of, I need to move onto cultivating the richness of creating and maintaining good relationships. I hope that college gives me the opportunity to surround myself with people that I can have constructive conversations with, and that I can provide value in their lives. That to me is the greatest wealth. The freedom to choose who I want to let into my life, choose how often we interact, and what we make of our relationship is another personal tenet that I plan on pursue aggressively.
Freedom is the ability to choose, and ultimately that’s what this post is about. It’s obvious that the boundary that is crossed when you turn 18 isn’t just a legal one, it serves as a social indicator that says, “Look at me! I can now accept full responsibility for my actions!”. I think a majority of people don’t map out what they want out of their newfound freedom, and it’s because they are afraid of making the “wrong choice” or deciding halfway thorough their degree that they want to become a someone that lives a simple life in the woods (this sounds pretty cool to me). I don’t know where I’ll be in five years either, but I think that inaction is the worst path to take.
So, leftover birthday cake, anyone?
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