By Katie Gomez
When we’re kids, we spend our childhood wishing we could be older. We look up to our older siblings and we dress like them, talk like them and especially act like them. Whatever they do, we do too because that’s what’s “cool” when you’re older. When we have younger siblings, we try to act more grown up so our parents will let us help take care of them. Although we spend most of our time playing, we’re always trying to be a “big kid.”
A few birthdays pass and suddenly we’re adolescents in middle school, caught between our playful youth and our need to act mature. We trade in our silly toys for skateboards and cute boys. Girls start wearing pounds of makeup in hopes to look older, maybe even pass as a high schooler. Guys start acting out, trying to be tough. No longer is it cool to kiss your mom goodbye when she drops you off in case one of your friends sees you. We are often heard saying, “I can’t wait to be 16 and in high school so I can drive and do whatever I want.”
Just a couple of years and that wish is granted. We make it to high school and now we’re in, we’re cool. Now that we’re teenagers, we can stay out late, hang out with friends, and date whoever we want. Bring on the pep rallies, the Friday night football games, the parties and the hot girls. For some of us, that even means more responsibility and less parental guidance. We’re old enough. What do we need our parents for when we can do it ourselves? By this point, our parents are just the “old people” of the house who pay our bills and make us do chores. We can’t wait to graduate, get out of the house and go to college.
Congratulations. Graduation comes and goes and suddenly it’s time for Freshmen Orientation. We move into the dorms with 100 other young adults, eager to be on their own without mom and dad around to make rules. This is college. There are no rules. Yeah, we have a few classes plopped in between eating and napping, but nobody is going to call our parents if we don’t show up. We ultimately have the freedom to do whatever we want. While some of us are afraid to inch closer to the edge of the cliff known as college graduation, many of us can’t wait to finally be done with school. We just want to get out, get a good job, get married and live in our own house.
The real world called and it was our turn to answer. We are now in our mid-twenties and thirties working nine to five at a company that makes us sit behind a desk staring at a computer until it’s time to go home to our wife and kids. We now have responsibilities we often forget come with being an adult. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed. We’re too busy with work and taking our kids to soccer practice or dance that we no longer have time to drink until dawn or to stay up playing video games. Now we are the ones in charge, taking care of our own children and hoping they don’t grow up as fast as we did.
Eventually, we become old…wrinkly old…my-kids-are-all-grown-up-and-I’m-stuck-in-a-nursing-home old. We sit back and wonder where our life went and what we spent it doing. We no longer wish for that next birthday, but rather that birthday fifty years ago. We wish we were still young and could act and play like children.
We become so busy waiting for the next milestone that we never stop to enjoy each stage of life. We are all guilty of wanting time to go by faster, but what happens when all of the milestones happen? We end up with a life wasted on waiting and wishing with not enough living.
Once we turn 16, there’s no turning back to five and playing with toys. When 21 hits, we are no longer crazy teenagers without a care in the world. When we turn 30, there is no late-night partying and exam-cramming in the morning. And when we are 60 and looking back, there is no substitute for your wedding day or watching the birth of one of your children or when they take their first step. We must all learn to appreciate the time we have at each stage in life before we miss out on things we can’t get back. In life, there are no do-overs and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Katie Gomez is a junior majoring in communications. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org