College sometimes seems like a factory that produces adults. You arrive fresh out of high school, nervously carrying your belongings to your dorm with your parents in tow. You quickly realize that the courses are harder, the teachers are now professors, and the summers in between are no longer the unending pool parties from before. You pass through the different stages of production, each assembling you into the final product. After four challenging, stressful years, voilà! The adult you emerges, ready for the real world.
But college is no factory, and adulthood isn’t a fixed commodity. Adults might have more responsibilities, but they aren’t the steely robots we frequently prepare ourselves to become.
In reality, most Lehigh students spend a good portion of our college years frolicking in comical onesies, enthusiastically shouting the lyrics to 90s songs that we’ve known by heart since we were five years old, devouring yummy bowls of Kraft Mac & Cheese, taking BuzzFeed quizzes to determine which Disney princesses we are and curling up to watch a SpongeBob marathon. It’s common for students to study solely in Linderman Library simply because we’re thrilled by its resemblance to Hogwarts. The cafeterias offer a dizzying array of sugary delight: all the best cereals, all at once. And as much as we resent the hill, it admittedly makes the perfect slope for sledding on snow days.
On the way to preparing us for adulthood, Lehigh can seem like a childhood dream come true.
College is a strange, transitional time — we’re becoming adults, but in many ways, we’re really returning to our childhood and enjoying our new-found independence by unleashing our childish creativity. As freeing as it is to make decisions about our lives, it can also be really intimidating to be on our own.
It’s funny, because kids usually just want to grow up. But now that we have, we’re mixing the comfort of the past with our newly acquired freedom. Savoring our nostalgia for simpler times and reliving moments from our childhood comforts our college-age worries, as cliché as it sounds.
As a child, you have an unrestrained creativity. Your imagination enters all areas of your existence, and no task is approached without an element of fantasy. Over time, you slowly outgrow that level of creativity. Walking to class can’t compare to magical bus rides, calculus homework is nowhere near as fun as counting apples for algebra, and what happened to recess? Coffee break just doesn’t have the same ring.
As adults, we’re working against social norms that appear to restrict the way we express our creativity. We don’t run with our ideas as enthusiastically and publicly as we did when we were young.
For instance, at age five, anything we painted was a masterpiece. Even if the dog you painted was not intentionally abstract, if you had fun painting it, that’s what mattered! At age 20, we feel like if it’s not beautifully artistic, it’s not good enough. Now, even with hobbies, there is a lot more pressure to perfect our crafts. The goal always seems to be improvement, not enjoyment for its own sake.
It’s interesting, because we are truly at an age where we can pursue our interests and the studies that make us feel creative as adults. In the adult world, problem-solving and other frames disguise creativity, so we don’t recognize the little ways our imagination does come into play.
Consequently, we fumble for sources to put our creativity to use in ways that avoid judgment, mainly indulging in our goofy, childish past. But childhood wasn’t our last hurrah. And neither is college, for that matter.
Our college years are generally seen as “the best years,” which implies that what follows is all downhill. Alternatively, there is the idea that equates college to an anxiety-ridden factory that transforms students into adults, which also paints a pretty bleak depiction of adulthood and the change it demands.
These faulty distinctions between childhood, adulthood, and everything in between give people the wrong impression of how they should behave during each period of their life.
Adulthood and childhood might be two separate stages on a linear graph of our lives, but the ideas they represent merge much more than we think. Creativity and responsibility can walk hand-in-hand. Author Ursula K. Le Guin says, “The creative adult is the child who has survived.” So don’t ever stop that inner, creative child from growing along with you.