I thought the morning of my eighteenth birthday would be a transformative experience. When I was younger, I imagined that I would be the protagonist of my own John Hughes film – staring myself in the mirror suddenly as a grown-up, ready to take on the world and all its challenges. Lately, though, I’ve just wanted to embody Christine from “Lady Bird.” However, when I looked in the mirror I just saw plain-old me. Ready to take on an IB Economics test, maybe, but not any more grown up.

My eighteenth birthday was kind of surreal because while I didn’t look or feel any different, I exercised my right to vote. I was probably the most excited (and the youngest) voter at my polling station, and my enthusiasm was met with smiles and laughter. I think my fellow voters thought I was a nerd (they were right). Unfortunately, I wasn’t any cooler or more put together before or after voting. Overall, it was quite disappointing.

Being a legal adult is weird when you still feel like, and technically are, a confused teenager. I thought that I would feel more certain and confident post-college decision and eighteenth birthday, but sometimes it feels even harder. I often worry that I have no idea who I really am or what I’m doing. The uncertainty of my future is both mind-blowing and terrifying. The person I am in three or four months probably won’t even remember the vulnerable girl writing this article.

But maybe she will. And maybe eighteenth birthdays aren’t supposed to be transformative. Senior year is full of Big Moments. From your first day to homecoming to prom and, finally, to graduation, there’s a lot of pressure for everything to be perfect. Honestly, though, my most memorable, life-changing, and significant moments this year have been the messy ones. I’ll probably look back on my nausea-filled, exam-heavy eighteenth birthday as one of my favorite senior memories because of how real it was. It was not picture-perfect, but I had my favorite people by my side in all the messiness, and that’s all that mattered.

Embrace the messiness – it’s kind of beautiful and very human. Even though all of us want to wake up and just feel different sometimes – whether that be older, prettier, more mature, etc. – we ultimately just won’t. Learning to love even the craziest, messiest times will make the ones that fit into place even more special. Don’t put too much pressure on a certain day or moment. Instead, just try to be present in all that you do – even if being present sucks because you’re in the middle of a math review session on your eighteenth birthday.

Keep shining, loving, and spreading joy,

Love always,