I like to joke about how at 18 I don’t feel qualified to be an adult. However, the truth is that it’s been a long time since I’ve really felt like a kid. Probably at least since before I started high school.
I mean, I know that I’m lucky. I’ve never been poor or starving, and I spent most of my childhood with two parents who loved me. And at least I got to have a childhood. Most of the kids I met in Kenya learned to cook and do laundry and take care of their younger siblings at maybe four or five years old.
That’s why I’ve never let myself complain about my mom’s death, or use it as an excuse. It could be so much worse. I’m constantly reminding myself of that.
My mom always ran a tight ship. She was the one who enforced rules and made my brother and I clean up after ourselves and be on time for dinner and take responsibility for household chores. That feels so distant now. It’s been years since then.
Now that it’s just me and my dad, it’s different. Some days it’s easy. I like being independent and I like that at my house I don’t have a curfew and I can come and go as I please. I like that I eat when I want and go to bed when I want and when I need something I buy it myself and my dad just pays me back. I’m good at doing things on my own.
But every now and then, maybe every month or two, it hits me that there’s no going back. Gone are the days when I had someone to remind me to wipe off the counter or get ready for soccer practice. My dad loves me to pieces, but he’s never been good at that stuff. Now there are crumbs left on the counter and I remember to go to practice on my own.
In the past few years I’ve learned what it means to be an adult: it means freedom and independence, but it’s also tiring and lonely. Some days I wake up and think, I don’t want to do this anymore. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days before I drove my mom to chemo appointments and pushed her wheelchair and made her soup and cleaned the floor when she puked it back up. Back when she baked muffins for my school lunch and nagged me to practice piano. If only I could go back there.
These are dangerous thoughts to have; they’re the kind that could break me if I’m not careful.