Clusters of Milestones

During this week of midterms, I am once again reminded that big projects and tests have an alarming coordination. Every other day, I’ve given a speech, taken an exam, submitted newspaper articles, or completed some other project of similar caliber.Sitting in psychology seminar today, listening to the science faculty outline the research projects they’ve been involved in, struck a related chord. As I listened to the rather impressive list of research papers that have been published by Bethel psychology majors in the past few years and stumbled on the recollection that I will be turning 21 in under a month, I started thinking that college years were the chunk of time that a lot of life’s milestones cluster together. And all of them have an unnerving “adult” quality.I think I’m one of those people who comes to her birthday and feels no older, but because everyone else is getting older, she kind of gets dragged along. I can’t define a difference between how I feel on the cusp of 21 than I did when I was 17…not eloquently anyway.So why, all of a sudden, am I looking around and seeing friends who are behaving like adults?It’s an election year, and my generation has joined the voters. We have the new responsibility to be informed on the issues and vote critically, not just for a president, but for local referendums and bills that will affect my life.The economy has plummeted just at the moment that I’m about to start fending for myself, paying taxes (on the $700 billion bailout) and using credit systems.My best friend from high school just rented her first apartment. It’s her apartment! That’s like a house! That same friend was recently dating someone five years older than her. I have another friend who is in a serious relationship with a French guy, and oodles of friends who are dating someone who has already graduated from college.By comparison, high school relationships were like bubbles. Boyfriends and girlfriends attended the same school, or at least lived in the same city. Now, distance and personal responsibilities make them so much more complex. Relationships hold more importance now; these are the relationships that sometimes lead to “’til death do you part'” moments. And people my age are doing that sort of thing.It’s not that I think people my age are irresponsible; far from it. I have watched many close friends show responsibility and quality work as they design research projects, publish professional articles, or submit their B.A. Theses. (Doesn’t that sound really impressive?) What’s astonishing to me right now, is that these relationship and academic milestones all seem to cluster around each other, and it’s at the time of life that I am now.I know a lot of the coordination probably has to do with the culture here at Bethel, or in the Mennonite world, and I don’t have to set a schedule for myself to reach these moments in a certain order, or by a certain time. And it’s not that “being an adult” changes much. Even as I was writing this blog, I caught some of Bethel’s staff members discussing tactics for Balloons Tower Defense 3, the most recent in a highly amusing computer game.Still, it’s something that pulls me up short some days: that milestones like these might not be too far away.