Coming of age

Not until the day I had to take a taxi cab by myself and go all the way to Avenida Faria Lima for an interview did I realize the immense task ahead of me.

The Graded administration may call us high schoolers “self-regulating young adults,” but I never really stopped to think about what that expression actually meant. Inside the white cab, trying to hold my trembling hands still on my lap and wishing I had someone there (mom, dad, a friend) to calm me down before my interview, I finally understood. “Self-regulating” is just a fancy word for independent and mature.

That’s not even close to how I see myself at this point in life. At seventeen, only a few months away from being of legal age, I still don’t know how to make money and my cooking skills are questionable at best. I’m not even tall enough to be an adult—my height is several centimeters short of 170. My ID shows the picture of a 9-year-old with bangs and pink overalls, whose handwriting is still feeble and uncertain. For my parents I’ll always be a girl; for the Brazilian government I’m old enough to vote. Am I sufficiently responsible, independent, and mature to move to a different country and live by myself? Do I have what it takes to be and act like an adult?

Of course, throughout my teenage years, I have gradually taken more responsibilities that are, per se, adult-worthy. From staying home alone for a weekend to learning to use credit cards and laundry machines correctly, I slowly acquired some of the skills necessary to live by myself, to be independent. In many ways, I’m already a grown-up. There was no coming-of-age ritual, no exact point in time where suddenly everything made sense and life was instantly figured out. If anything, the process of growing up only made things more complicated, as now I’m able to see things once invisible to my infantile eyes. Poverty, inequality, and war—these words weren’t in my child vocabulary. But now I see the crowded bus next to my taxi, the passengers pressed like sardines, the favela right across the street and  the evident problems of a world that is far from perfect.

But being an adult is not only about realizing such things, nor is it about undergoing physical changes. Just because I can use an oven doesn’t mean I’m mature. It shows a certain degree of independence, certainly, but that’s not a requirement for adulthood (or is it?). Maturity comes naturally with time, and can’t be forced. As I walked out of the taxicab into a fancy office building at Faria Lima, I realized I was taking the first step of a brand-new chapter of my life, where I’d face difficult tasks with support from other people, but with maturity and independence.

There are no clear steps to reaching adulthood and the line between childhood and adulthood is hazy for most of us. In the end, it’s all a matter of perspective and, above all, self-understanding. Can I be an adult? Most definitely, but I don’t guarantee it will coincide with me turning 18 or going to college. I’ll get there eventually. But will I be able to move abroad and be independent? Challenge accepted.