I am a 17-year-old senior in high school. I am currently in the process of applying to colleges and one year from November I will vote for the President of the United States. For all intents and purposes, I am a budding adult. But I don’t feel like one.
One of a myriad of essay prompts I have faced thus far in my college application process asked for a specific moment that marked my transition from childhood to adulthood. I never had a Bat Mitzvah or Quinceańera. I never had that moment, walking down the halls of my high school, where I suddenly felt grown up. While it is unlikely that anyone ever suddenly felt like an adult during these movie-like moments, the prompt– and my lack of an answer– caused me to realize the impact my disability has had on my transition to adulthood.
My life has been marked by inabilities and childlike dependence. I am put into bed at night, and taken out the next morning; I am rarely left alone; my food is cut into bite sized, guileless, versions of what it once was; and my toothpaste always magically appears on my toothbrush without any effort. I have not regressed into childhood, I just simply never progressed out of it. My knowledge, however, far exceeds that of one in elementary school. I have learned– and fallen in love with– the depths of American History, the glory of Their Eyes Were Watching God, the evolving relationship of humans and nature, and the story of Henrietta Lacks and her immortal cells.
Adulthood, and the transition into it, is blurry. So as a culture we give it physical attributes to make it appear clear. You are an adult if you can drive or stay at your house independently when your parents are away. Our society has narrowed the scope of adulthood, and left me in the awkward in between.
While I may have difficulty considering myself to be a full-fledged adult (I mean what 17-year-old doesn’t), society should not. Maybe it’s because I am on the outside looking in, but I believe adulthood should be defined by maturity, intelligence or the ability to reach out and relate to people– not merely physical limitations.