When I turned 21, I became an official adult, but, to be honest, I didn't feel any different. The feeling of adulthood doesn't always come with birthdays. For me (and several other people), there are moments in life that force us to grow up. Here are our stories.
When I was in middle school, my dad was diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck. Cancer sucks, and it's never an easy thing to hear that someone you love is that sick. While my dad was battling cancer, the entire dynamic of my family changed. My mom had to work really hard to take my dad to doctor's appointments and keep him comfortable. So, since we were no longer our parents' biggest priorities, my brother and I had to grow up. We had a lot of responsibility put on our shoulders, and we didn't have the option not to take it on. It was so hard, especially at 13, but in the end, my dad beat cancer and my brother and I were more mature and responsible. Life threw a really heavy, hard thing at our family and we took it on without hesitation, ready to do whatever was neccessary to keep my dad comfortable and our family functional. And, because of how hard it was, I went back to church and met Jesus a few months later.
My senior year of high school was a challenge. Not only was I facing the unknown with college, but I also experienced a complete switch in my relationships. My closet friend group grew apart, a teammate passed away unexpectedly, and my sister prepared to move hundreds of miles away. Not having the comfort I had always known in my life *Cliche Alert* made me grow up. I realized that the world is not about me and that I won't always get my way. I learned how to handle loss in a healthy way, which was a completely new concept for me. At first, I let myself feel loss, anger, and heartbreak for weeks, which quickly became unhealthy. Learning to handle grief and loss was a step to adulthood and has helped me handle obstacles, loss, and heartache maturely.
The summer after my freshman year, I worked at camp for the first time. I had never been to Texas before, but I spent 13 weeks as a counselor and work staff at Pine Cove. It was the longest I had ever been away from home, and being a counselor for elementary school girls was exhausting in every possible way. I wasn't in a strong place spiritually when I went to camp, and that summer was one of the most stretching times I've ever experienced. I went to camp not knowing anyone, but I finished the summer with a strong community of people that are still some of my best friends. This summer will be my third summer to work at Pine Cove, and I wouldn't be who I am today without the growth I experienced through camp.
I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year in Salamanca, Spain. It was one of the best times of my life & also one of the hardest—funny how moments in life are so often great big paradoxes. I moved across an ocean from family, friends, & all the life I'd ever known to spend three months in a foreign country. There I learned a whole new meaning of independence & I made friends with all different kinds of people. Getting to make my own big decisions as well as interact with & learn from people of different cultures grew me in a fairly pleasant way. However, life in Spain certainly had its hardships. I experienced a lot of loneliness & I also felt the weight of living around so many people who, very publicly, did not share my faith. It was difficult to see the emptiness in the lifestyles of people who I had come to know & love, but through that hardship, Jesus became even more real to me. I grew up a lot in those three months & that time in Spain shaped me into the person I am today.
As you can see, growing up looks different for everyone. We'll never stop learning, and with that, we'll never stop growing up in different ways, either. The cool thing is that we can often use our hardest moments to encourage others when they're in the middle of a hard time. The power of our stories is incredible; here's to learning to share them proudly. Here's to growing up.
The Choctawk Team