July 15, 2018 | ° F

Real world approaches fast

I am freaking out. This morning, as my train into the city was moving at a glacial pace and everyone around me had their eyes fixated on the Wall Street Journal, I had "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" conspicuously sitting in my hands, opened to page 182 for the first time since eighth grade. I have been posing as an adult for months now — commuting in the city, being a crab until I have had enough coffee, forgoing building blocks to build my resume — but it does not stop the familiar clout of pressure looming in my head, forcing its way down, billowing into my throat. I do not care what you say, Rutgers, I am not ready for the real world.

I was doing fine a minute ago, but the instant I catch a glimpse of my senior checklist stapled to my résumé and my mouth instantly dries up — all with the thought of onset adulthood. The notion of graduation combined with the possibility of full-time employment force my arms numb. I am trying desperately to somehow transform back to my 7-year-old self. Right here, on the train. It's not working.

At the very least, I am an extreme case change-o-phobe. I am sure there is some medical terminology that would better describe my mental instability, but I refuse to look it up because that might lead to a self-diagnosis, and that is a word I like to reserve for old people. You know, people in their 30s. I hang on to things, relationships not withstanding, for years past their expiration date just because getting rid of them would mean my routine might have to stand some irregularity. I stayed with a major I despised for two years, solely because changing it would be entirely too overwhelming. And by that, I mean I would rather have failed calculus for a third time than go to my dean's office to fill out a few papers, and yep, I was taking Expos II for fun. I know. I am the perfect embodiment of insanity.

I am not willing to endure the biggest change yet — the leap into adulthood. All the clichés we hear about the real world are morbidly depressing, so I would like to stay a preadolescent forever. Lucky for me, I look the part. Although my 22nd birthday came and went, I can effortlessly pass for 12. The only downside to this is the annoying — and sometimes infinitely embarrassing — triple and quadruple carding at bars. If I skip the eyeliner on a night out, I know I have got to take at least three picture IDs with me. I opened up a Visa credit card so I would have a fourth form of back up. I guess I just thought growing up would involve some actual growing, but my body had other plans.

To get a gist of who you are dealing with here, as I write this, I am eating Girl Scout cookies and Gushers and washing it down with my fourth Jamba Juice in half as many days. Seriously. I still sleep with Fluffy, a cat-like stuffed animal — I think he is a cat, but he's seen better days, so it's hard to tell — that has adorned my sleeping quarters before I was in an actual bed. "Saved By The Bell" is the only TV show I make time to watch because my love affair with Zack Morris progressed outside of the '90s. I forego real meals for Fruit Roll-Ups and Cookie Crisp — two of my major food groups. How am I ever going to make it in a world without fruit snacks?  I hear they don't even exist there. I could not imagine myself sitting at a desk adorned with paperweights and staplers, but I guess I can always be the quirky one with the gumball machine.

Part of me thinks I subconsciously sabotage my jump into the real world so I will be forced to remain stagnant. I have managed to only purchase one pair of professional-looking heels in the past decade, and I would sooner die before I walk out of the house clad in a pinstriped suit. I threw away a six-year relationship once he hinted at marriage. I cherish the time I spend with my 12-year-old cousin more than I do most of my friends. I have taken quite a liking to Justin Bieber — more than I, or my best friend, would like to admit. But this week, I am scheduled for my first big girl job interview. I suppose that's the incident that spurred this rant. It means I will have to throw around terms like "salary" and "benefits" — words that usually force me into a cold sweat. Although my biggest problem went from a thicket of homework to a stack of bills long ago and I have registered a billion growing-up grievances in the past two decades, none are as daunting as this. I have been financially independent for nearly half a decade now and I have been working three jobs at any given time since 2007, but in a few weeks, I cannot hide under a veil of collegiate irresponsibility — at least not if I want to get paid.

Further igniting my real-world apprehension is my mother's new game. She thinks it is cute to inform me on a daily basis the days until I graduate, which usually leads to a countdown on the days until she can kick me out of the house. This is mostly because my attendance at the University was a result of tuition remission and my mother's looking toward retirement. This is the woman that still buys Ssips juice boxes for my 25-year-old sister and me to drink after we play with our Wii Fit. Apparently she's sick of the real world too.

But there is a bout of relief, a few separate rationales I entertain to prove that I will make it. I would like to think that, in comparison to the majority of my classmates, I rate on the mature side of the spectrum. After all, I grew out of the "blasting pop music out of your car so piercingly loud so everyone in the tri-state area can hear it" phase years ago and I no longer think warm weather brings a valid excuse to display lower butt cleavage. That should grant me a few real world brownie points, right? So what if I only want pancakes for dinner?

As a side note, I originally planned to utilize my last column as a means to wish my classmates good luck, but that would have just been insincere and tediously lame. Honestly, I am hoping that many of you fail miserably. I wish luck to those of you who do not spend your free time rocking out to Ke$ha's despicable (yet catchy) songs she tries to pass off as music, or those whose routines can be summed up in three even more despicable letters (GTL). So to the eight of you left, I wish you even more luck. You will need it.

Lauren Caruso is a Cook College senior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in environmental policy, institutions and behaviors.

Lauren Caruso

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