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Goeun Park: Becoming an adult isn’t all that bad

I was picking out some asparagus for dinner last night when I realized that this was the kind of typical thing adults did with their lives: buy vegetables from the grocery store after work with the money they made from their 9-to-5 jobs.

I left the produce aisle like I suddenly remembered my room was on fire and walked back to campus feeling deeply disturbed.

A friend of mine recently celebrated her 20th birthday. Most of my friends will be celebrating their 20th birthdays in the coming months, myself included. It’s a little unsettling if not a lot terrifying.

Every once in a while, I’ll be depositing a check or making myself breakfast when it hits me that this is going to be the rest of my life. My parents are no longer next to me as my personal money dispensers and food makers because I might be, kind of, sort of an adult. A really, really young adult but an adult nonetheless.

Most days, I don’t think about it. Some days, I think about it and I don’t have a panic attack. Some days, I feel like I can do this, whatever this is. Other days, I feel like a child who just ruined her mother’s best lipstick while playing grown-up.

My official job this summer is research assistant but what I’ve really been doing for the past week is learning how to adult. By learning how to adult, I mean learning how to cook in bulk, learning how to avoid overdraft fees, learning how to not eat spoiled food, how to drink coffee in the morning and how pull out coffee stains from my shirt.

This acting-like-an-adult business is difficult work. Frankly, it can also feel a little depressing.

Since I got here, my biggest newfound preoccupation has been money. (And also food, but I’m always preoccupied with food.) I am mildly horrified by how flippantly I spent $5 in milk tea or coffee on a weekly basis during the school year. Five dollars can buy two loaves of bread. That could feed me for like, a week.

Thinking about groceries and rent and paychecks is as boring as it sounds, but I also love it. I love booking my own plane tickets and making my own dentist appointments and making myself a Nutella sandwich for the third day in a row because I love being self-reliant.

And I know, at the end of the day, that I’m not as alone as I fear or hope to be. Being a really, really young adult is forgiving in the sense I have safety nets to fall back on. But with a cabinet full of ramen noodles and a freezer full of frozen vegetables, I think I can do this. Whatever this is.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.