What It Means to Grow Up

I traveled back in time and realized my idea of growing up, was not really mine

Planet Serotonin
Published in
6 min readFeb 6, 2021


A girl sitting on the stairs wearing headphones as she looks back on the mementos, posters, and pictures from her past.
Art by Beebo

I looked at my dusty to-do list on my wall, every goal unachieved, every opportunity that went down the drain because we were forced to stay at home for the quarantine. Being locked up with nothing else but your own thoughts is scary. Especially when constant signs of failure were lurking in every corner of your room, echoing the anxieties you had in your head.

So I wanted to get out, I was tired of seeing these grim reminders everyday that I decided to makeover my whole bedroom. As I put myself to work to throw out some painful memories, I thought it’d be nice to have some company, so I put my earphones on and listen to old songs I keep in my phone. And I unboxed some happy memories that I forgot existed for a while.

The songs that played on shuffle when I redecorated my room

I started listening to The Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy) and transported myself to the car ride home with my friends from when I was in university. The song blasted through the radio because it was one of the guys’ turn on the aux. It was the evening and we were going down the mountain after ditching class just to smoke and eat hot meals at the peak. I was the only girl, but I always felt safe with these men.

The car was his dad’s and I sat on the back seat facing the window to the right. There was a megaphone attached to the roof, and when we reached the freeway, we would yell into it to announce to the other drivers that we were switching lanes. It was so dumb.

Then the song ended. I felt bittersweet as I opened my eyes to my room, with none of them in sight. It was sad to remember that we drifted apart, but happy to have that memory treasured. Some friends were only there for a chapter, and that’s okay. When I was with them I was careless, lewd, and I acted like “one of the guys”. I needed that break from my rigid and logical nature.

Marina & The Diamonds’ Radioactive came on, and I was transported to my last year of high school. I had just lost a friendship, one that I had with my best friend, because I was too selfish and proud. But I was in a relationship with a girl from the class next to mine, and I would’ve done anything for her, she gave me companionship when I needed it most.

Then she broke my heart to pieces because she was in love with another girl and lied to me about it. I distracted myself with plans for the future, college test practices, and a LOT of math, yet nothing worked. Because of this pain, I went to therapy and started working on my traumas for the first time.

I didn’t get accepted to my first pick of university, but I managed. I remember a lot of regrets, a lot of time alone, and a lot of stupid shit I wish I didn’t do.

I Am The Best by 2NE1 blasted on my ears. It was the beginning of high school and I was in the cafeteria, bonding with my best friend for the first time. The smell of meatballs and noodles filled the air as we found out the many interests we had in common. Music taste, TV shows, artists we loved. We had one difference, could you imagine I used to listen to The Wanted and she used to listen to One Direction? But that didn’t stop us from being friends, cause they used to make us so happy.

My trip down memory lane stopped and I started comparing my happiness. What’s different now? What’s changed? Some of the things that made me happy then, are no longer the ones making me happy today. I wanted to think it was because I grew up. But then I realized that even my definition of ‘grown up’ has changed.

The song changed to Say Goodbye by Hillary Hand, and suddenly it was all the times I was crying on my bed. It encapsulated the sacrifices; everything I gave up on, so I could be happy when I grew up — so I can be happy now. It was morning, I was rushing to print my assignment for a test that day, panic and fear consumed me as I watched the clock getting nearer and nearer to the deadline.

I had stayed up late to teach the night before; it was a part-time job that I took in order to be more independent, to follow this 20-year plan that I had created since I was in elementary school. The stairs to my university never looked so tall and challenging, but I climbed up every step with speed, to deliver the assignment that was still unorganized in my hands. And when I finally reached my class, all the lecturer gave me was a shake of her head.

My heart sank. It felt like every progress was thrown out of the window; that was the first time I got an F, a freaking zero. I was late by 3 minutes. As I remembered it, I felt like my life could be summarized by that one single moment. A plan, a failure, and me spiraling as everything went out of my control.

I used to think that growing up meant I would have everything figured out; a job, financial stability, non-stop happiness, and living on my own. I had planned for everything. Yet, here I am, still living with my parents, jobless — so obviously no financial stability, and forcefully suffocated by the world’s biggest pause. Is there even something out there that could make me happy?

Then, Euphoria by BTS started playing, and I started crying. It felt like a hug, an assurance, that everything was going to be okay. I guess growing up isn’t as I dreamed it would be, but it doesn’t mean that I should just let things be. I mean, that was why I wanted a bedroom makeover in the first place!

I tore away my vision board for 2020, I was no longer that person who wrote those materialistic goals, and failing to achieve them was not a reflection of myself. Instead of goals, I put up things that made me happy, pictures of friends and family, photocards, past achievements (that were not based on or for money), memorabilias, cute quotes to start my day bright, action figures, LEGO sets, and pop culture knick knacks that just put a smile on my face.

Those are what make me happy now.

After losing this core part of myself for God knows how long, I found her again. She was stuck slaving away for barely anything in return. She taught herself to believe that she was happy working for a job she didn’t like and didn’t even pay her well, tying her self-worth to productivity, and leaving behind the things she actually loved, all just to make her parents happy. To give back on what they invested in her. To live up to their expectations of what a ‘successful’ life should be like.

I lived for someone else for so long that I didn’t know what I really wanted, but I’m finally starting to. I may not know what success is for myself, but at least I know now what truly makes me happy. I have learned that having plans doesn’t guarantee a good life or if I still want the same life that I had planned for myself. From now on, I will try to just live in the moment, something that I have never done before.

As I looked at my new bedroom, I marveled at how much I achieved that day. There were and still are so many treasures to be found within these four walls that I previously felt trapped in. And I guess, that is what growing up means to me now.