by Victoria Contreras
They say you become an adult when you turn 18, but I disagree. Adulthood is not some scheduled event that automatically fills you with knowledge of taxes and paying bills. It’s an idea, an abstract one at that, different for each individual. To me, adulthood is encapsulated in the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Over this past year, I’ve seen the grace of God guide me toward adulthood through this very prayer. Though it wasn’t obvious to me at the time, when I look back, I can clearly see the presence of God.
Here are some times when God was clearly at work in my life.
What people tend to leave out of their descriptions of college experiences is that when you return home, your role as a daughter or son changes. During my freshman year, I was blessed to be able to come home almost every weekend. I got to spend time with my parents and have a home-cooked meal after a week of dining hall food. As grateful as I am for those weekends, there were some surprises.
The more I immersed myself into the college lifestyle, the more I became confident being on my own. I gained a sense of independence, something my parents have always encouraged, but it was tough to bring this independence back home. As much as Mom and Dad wanted me to be comfortable on my own, they weren’t prepared for what it meant for them. Simple things like walking to the store by myself, making plans without them and managing my own time became problems. I began to wonder why it was that I couldn’t do at home the same things I did at school.
But as we talked it out together, I realized that this situation was just as difficult for my parents as it was for me. They were proud of the young woman I had become, but they had also had to part with their only child–and what’s more, the little girl they had sent to college hadn’t come back as the same person. And it grieved them. As we began to understand each other’s points of view, we realized that transitioning together into this new stage of life would require all our best efforts.
Through this experience, God gave me the serenity to accept that that my parents will always see me as their little girl; the courage to communicate my feelings and continue to grow into a responsible, independent young woman; and the wisdom to know that we are all learning as we go and that no matter what, my parents do what they do because they love me.
God’s grace continued to flow through me as my summer was just beginning. Finally able to relax without the stresses of papers and finals, I made it a point to get in touch with some old friends, but before long, I realized we didn’t have much in common any more.
You see, the great thing about college is that you are able to meet people from different walks of life and form new connections based on more than being the same age. What’s more, you realize that you can’t (and don’t have to) be friends with everyone. Upon reflecting on the relationships in my life, I realized it was time to let some of them go.
In this experience, God gave me the serenity to accept the fact that people and relationships change, the courage to let outgrown relationships go, and the wisdom to appreciate the friendships that had once been important to me.
As I look forward to a new school year, I see new and exciting things yet to come: a Residential Advisor position in my dorm, opportunities to meet new people, and a new baby sister on the way. And I know that God will continue to guide me on my path to adulthood.
1. How do you define adulthood?
2. Do you believe we ever fully become adults? If so, do you believe we recognize it when we do?
3. How do/will you apply the serenity prayer in your life?
Victoria Contreras is a sophomore at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., and is majoring in psychology and legal studies.
Photos courtesy of College 360 and Tulane Public Relations. Used with permission.