Several weeks ago, I had a quarter-life crisis. (And I’m not technically old enough to be considered quarter-aged.)
I was sitting at my desk, doing some work, when an anxiety-provoking thought exploded in my brain: “You’re a grownup.”
“No, no, no,” I thought. I hadn’t even reached my first high school reunion. In my head, I started checking off qualities that I associated with being a grownup: paying your own bills? Check. Wearing professional attire more days of the week than not? Check. Feeling grumpy on Monday mornings and exuberant on Friday afternoons? Check.
It was official—I was a grownup.
I freaked out.
It’s funny. In my younger years, I was consciously aware of how much older I felt than my numeric age and how eager I was to be an adult. Unlike many of my peers, I couldn’t wait for high school to be over. I knew for a fact that those were not the best years of my life and counted down the days until graduation. I even boycotted the supposedly most important night of high school—prom.
I was passionate and hard-working in school because I longed for a career and to be taken seriously by the people I respected. My junior year of high school, I even skipped out on lunch in order to take an extra honors class. (It was totally dumb and unhealthy, but as I say, “It builds character.”)
So you would think that I’d be happy about high school and college being behind me. And for the most part, I am (although college truly was extraordinary). But realizing that I was finally at an age that I had always dreamt about, that I was never going to get my adolescence back and that I probably should have had more fun as a kid, shook me up.
There was only one thing to do and I had to do it right away. Instead of heading home after work, I took the train to a place that would have exactly what I needed: Uprise Skate Shop.
I bought a skateboard.
It might sound crazy. Well, no, I’m pretty sure it does. I’m not the most nimble, athletic or coordinated person. I’m also not a teenage boy. But for me, a skateboard has a lot of meaning.
When I was a child, my parents (like many overbearing, well-meaning immigrant parents) were always afraid that I would get hurt, so they didn’t allow me to get certain things, mainly things with wheels that weren’t attached to me. I wasn’t allowed a scooter, and skateboards were completely out of the question (but rollerblades were acceptable.)
So when I was 14, I had my male, skateboarding best friend purchase a board for me online. It was the first significant time I actively did something my parents wouldn’t allow me to do. I had to do it. When I finally got on that board and rode down the streets, I felt like a rebel. I felt free.
Sure, I never learned how to do tricks and I never attempted to make anyone believe that I really knew what I was doing. But I loved how I felt on that board: young, reckless and independent.
Now, years later, I couldn’t wait to feel that again. I went outside my apartment, ready to ride the streets of Chicago, ready to release my inner child.
Ten minutes later, I was on the ground, chin and knuckles scraped up and bleeding. The board slid out from under me, leaving me to topple on the concrete. My face stung. Someone on the street stopped and asked if I was okay. And then all I could do was laugh.
I laughed because I had just spent money I should have saved, on a skateboard I would probably rarely ride, because I wanted to feel cool again.
But I’m grateful for the experience. I figured out that if you think you’re all grown up, you probably have a long way to go. Having a full-time job might make me more of an adult than I’ve ever been before, but it doesn’t mean that I have to lose my personality and my passion, or that life just goes downhill from here. It just means that when I’m not working, I should find things I love to do and have as much fun as possible (probably not on wheels though).
I haven’t stood on that skateboard since. It just lies around my apartment. The cats like to nap on it. But whenever I look at it, I laugh at my naiveté and foolishness.
I guess I’m not as grown up as I thought I was.