The world through the eyes of an only child is a fascinating reality.
Growing up as an only child, I was not lucky to know what having siblings was like. I’ve always imagined it as having a default best friend, a partner in crime bound to you by blood—literally.
Over the years, I realized how different it must be to be raised in a household full of kids. In contrast to my childhood, I was surrounded by a plethora of stuffed toys and Barbie dolls I called my companions. A sad thought, but in my eyes, it was my entire world, and a good one at that.
My parents constantly doting on me is a fond memory of mine. And, oh yes, my faithful nanny whom I nicknamed Popins was there. Being the only child in the house meant getting all the attention and love. Not to say siblings do not get the same, but I would like to think that this is especially emphasized in the life of an only child.
Shock of a lifetime
Having gone through all the pampering and spoiling of an only child, I experienced the shock of a lifetime when I moved abroad for university. From enjoying a happy-go-lucky life to the stresses of living alone, I was slapped in the face with how the real world actually functions.
The goodbyes were the hardest part. Bidding my parents farewell left cracks in my heart that still linger whenever I do so again in the summer and Christmas holidays. But the most difficult challenge was letting the feeling of loneliness sink in after years of having numerous safety nets made for you. A slow and painful vision of what my new reality looked like haunted me for days, depriving me of sleep and sky-rocketing my anxiety.
I waited for the day my classes began with dread, knowing I couldn’t speak Spanish and, more importantly, not knowing anyone from the school. I study at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, where I major in international relations. It’s a bilingual degree that gives insight into diplomatic foreign affairs of the global community.
Admittedly, I had no idea what I was getting into. I remember attempting to talk to people in English, only to be rejected by confused faces and an overwhelming amount of Spanish. I was definitely in over my head. None of it made sense to me: the culture, the people, the subjects … I was drowning with no lifesaver to help. I was alone.
As my first year went by, I felt no different from what I did at the beginning: clueless. The amount of growing up I did throughout the year felt useless the moment I got home. I felt that I was not growing as a person because I was too busy dreading the everyday chores I had to do or the errands I had to run. I simply had no time to enjoy. By the time my second year rolled around, I found it to be much worse.
Living with roommates, especially ones who did not quite leave the fondest of memories, I found to be a challenge I was not ready for—thus, I had to go live on my own. I felt the need to find my own independence before attempting to adjust to other people’s needs. A hard decision to make, but it turned into one of the most pivotal times in my life.
Toddler in the adult world
I am now in my third year studying an overwhelming number of Spanish subjects and attempting more than ever to be immersed in the culture. In hindsight, it feels a lot like my first few years studying here, nothing has really changed.
Except me. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to look back at the road you’ve paved for yourself and see how much you grew walking it. I consider myself to be a toddler in the adult world who just learned how to walk—a small milestone but still something to be proud of.
Despite the great deal of anxiety and heartache that comes with growing up, there comes a point where you will stop and stare at the beauty of the person you’ve become. A whole other new individual with new lessons, new abilities—a newfound sense of self that reflects everything you have been through.
I admittedly still have a long way to go. Although I feel like I’m finally blossoming into a woman I admire, the road is still just as long and winding as it was when I first saw it.
Growing up is intimidating, and it always will be. It hurts because it will stretch you, challenge you and break you down. But what matters is the person life is molding you to be and how you guide its hands in creating the masterpiece that is you. So, to this I say: Growing up hurts. The first few steps into your adult life will be painful. You will probably get some sort of anxiety and be really sad for a bit. I know I did.
But through it all, the most gratifying thing is to reflect on all you have been through and confidently say that it does not hurt anymore. So keep your head up and keep growing. That’s all there is to it.—CONTRIBUTED