Happy 18th birthday to me! Even more exciting: Happy Adulthood! Today, I can guarantee, the rainbows in life will be shining just a tad bit brighter, as they rejoice and celebrate the day that I can officially say that I’m an “adult.”
I’ve been hungering for this moment, this day, this milestone, for what seems like years (18 years in fact). Today, I am a legal adult, according to the “official” rules of the government. It is real. You can act like an adult and feel like you deserve to be an adult, but until this day, those feelings give you no clout when it comes to your identity under the law of your state and country (and, I may add, under the law of your parents and guardians). This is why turning 18 is such a huge milestone in every person’s life: for the first time ever, they are not legally bound by rules about their decisions and actions. There is no bouncer who kicks you out of the club, no pharmacist who refuses to let you buy cough medicine over the counter, no tattoo artist who requires a parent/guardian signature. The Law has declared it: YOU are old enough to do these things yourself.
What are these things exactly? There’s a huge list, from being able to skydive to the right to buy spray paint in the store. Just a look:
- I can vote 2. I can work full time. 3. I can open my own checking account. 4. I can go sky-diving. 5. I can go bungee jumping 6. I can get a credit card. 7. I can get married 8. I am charged as an adult in court 9. Jury duty 10. I can get a tattoo 11. I can get a piercing 12. I can buy a lottery ticket. 13. I can go clubbing 14. I can change my name. 15. I can sue someone. 16. I can buy a car. 17. I can buy fireworks. 18. I can gamble. 19. I can buy spray paint. 20. I can buy cough medicine in CVS. 21. I can adopt a child. 22. I can go on a cruise solo. 23. I can stay in my own hotel room. 24. I can buy insurance. 25. I can donate blood. 26. I can sign my own permission forms. 27. I have no curfew when driving. 28. I can drive anyone in my car. 29. I can become a US Citizen. 30. I can transfer to adult doctors and dentists out of pediatric. 31. I can use a walk-in clinic without a parent present.
And I’m sure there’s much, much, more. Yet, take a close look at that list. Sure, that’s what I legally can do now, but being 18 years old isn’t about the actual laws. How many of those will I actually do today (or any time soon) anyways? I mean, I love adventure, but I’m not already signed up for a bungee jumping excursion. I can get married, but who to? I’m not exactly jumping out of my seat to visit a walk-in clinic alone just for fun. No, it’s not these individual privileges that create the monumental 18th birthday, but the underlying weight they carry: in their potential.
Potential: it’s kind of like a game show. The host is announcing that, behind one of three curtains, there could be a brand new, shiny car. Yet, you have no way of knowing which one the car hides behind. Adrenaline rushes through your system, as you build upon the anticipation of owning a new car, yet in the back of your mind you know you might not get it anyways. The potential and possibility of that success, however, is what makes you excited. It’s what makes your eyes light up and your heart beat a little faster. You know you have a choice to make, and that you control your decision. Will you choose curtain 1, 2, or 3?
Turning 18 is like being the player on that game show. All of a sudden, where there was just one curtain and you either got a car or didn’t based off of the luck of the draw, now there’s many curtains, and many decisions. You come to the epiphany that no one is making that choice for you. Not fate, not your parents, your teachers, the government. YOU pick the curtain you want, and YOU handle the results. You get excited not because of the car (although brand new shiny cars are always welcome) itself, but because of the potential you have to get it.
So back to that list from above. Each item on that list now becomes a car, and is behind its own unknown curtain. Being 18, you now have the option and choice of having or doing anything on that list. That is what makes you excited. You could potentially get a crazy tattoo all up and down your back, and your parents could not legally stop you. If you happen to get a cold, you can get your own medicine and heal yourself. If you have the sudden urge to toss yourself out of a plane, just say the word and you could be sky-diving tomorrow.
You could, you could, you could. That’s what becoming 18 is about—those coulds. Those choices, whether small or large, that you could make. The seeming boundless freedom with making those decisions. The great potential they carry. At 18, you, and only you, own your life.
That potential is powerful. That’s why I have looked forward to this day for many years. Not so I can go out, be reckless, and take advantage of every single thing I can now do simply because I can do it now, but because they are options now, if I am so inclined to pursue them. Gone are the barriers. Gone are the roadblocks, the permission forms, the legal limitations. The possibilities are endless. The Potential is dramatic.
As an adult now, I plan to thrive off this potential. I plan to let myself participate in the game show of life, take some risks where I need or want to, and “phone-a-friend” if I desire help. I am an adult now, and I am able to harness even more aspects of my life, so that I may mold it however I wish through my choices.
My color palette of life has now expanded. I had color before, yes, the basics: red, blue, and yellow. The colors of children’s toy blocks and the foundation of the color wheel. Now, I have vermilion. I have violet. I have sage, and aqua, and popcorn yellow. I have magenta pink, chocolate brown, orangutan orange, lime green, incandescent indigo, pitch black, cerulean blue, dusty rose, moody mauve, and traffic vest lemon. The rainbow of choices I can now make is mine for the taking, and I am ecstatic because I now have the potential to make those decisions.
Christina Baker Kline says: “Every decision I make is determined solely by the spark and limitations of my own perspective.” Maria Montessori says, “Free the child’s potential, and you will transform her into the world.” Bob Barker of “The Price is Right” says, “Come on dooooown!”
Well, Bob, I’m on my way. I am 18 today, I am an adult, and I am running off of the adrenaline of the potential to make the decisions which will determine the course my life takes. My perspective is wide, colorful, and open-minded to change and choice, and I am thriving on the freedom of everything I can accomplish.
Will I choose vermilion? Will I choose violet? Will I get a tattoo? Skydive? Gamble? Buy a lotto ticket? Time will tell. No matter what those choices are though, I know I now have the power to make them. I have potential. There is only going up from here.
There are always more colors to discover and add to the color wheel-of-fortune that is my life. You too, can add to your life with each decision you make. Together, we can embrace the exciting quality and power of potential, and build a future we love around it. Freedom, here I come! Happy Birthday, Self!