Looking back to move on

John Stark

The other day I was in the middle of buying groceries when the checker uttered the scariest words I’ve ever heard in my life.

“Mr. Stark, would you like paper or plastic?”

Baffled, I shot my head from side to side expecting to see my dad lurking over my shoulder somewhere. As the checker repeated her question it dawned on me. I am Mr. Stark.

Nearing 23, I know I’m not about to tumble down the wrong side of the hill, but my childhood seems to be a distant memory in my rearview. Since graduating high school, I’ve done practically everything I could to avoid this situation people call growing-up but to no avail.

Life is coming at me faster than ever. The year between my sixth and seventh birthday felt like a decade whereas this past year has gone by in the blink of an eye.

Living this fast-paced life I find myself bombarded with obstacles. Filing my taxes, washing my laundry, keeping up my grades while working and effectively searching for that summer internship that will put me on the fast track to career advancement.

I find myself perpetually in limbo living in Isla Vista. While I want to tackle these and other obstacles head-on, like an adult should, I constantly give in to the sophomoric temptations of my beachside community that touts nothing more than sin and vice.

Sure enough, I find myself engaged in the same drunken hijinks that engulfed my high school and early collegiate career. So the question is: am I making the right steps toward a successful adult life, or am I sadly over-extending my youth, only to stunt the growth of the stand-up member of society that could be me?

While some who know me might opt for the latter, I tend to think I’m an option-one kind of guy.

I admit I have gone overboard from time to time when it comes to nightlife and all that entails. But all this excess has also taught me restraint. I’ve learned my limits, when to push them and when to hold back.

I’ve seen the dark side of life: how substance abuse can ruin everything, and the abyss that is working a lifetime in retail.

My extended adolescence allowed me to sharpen my understandings of life and human nature. It has given me true inspiration and drive. It has helped me understand the value of hard work and its rewards. I have seen what happens to those who never make that transition from child to adult. Trust me, I am not headed down that road.

I haven’t made it all the way into adulthood yet but I’m well on my way, matured by leaps and bounds. As I travel this journey we call life there will always be uncertainty. I will face many more options and questions, but at least I’ll know how to answer one of them.