Turning 18 And Navigating Adulthood

Two of this year’s UWA Student Guild Women’s Department Ordinary Committee Members, Rhianna Ta and Medha Agarwal, wrote to Damsel under the prompt of what ‘Turning 18 and Navigating Adulthood ’ meant to them.

Rhianna Ta: What shedding my ‘highschool skin’ meant for me

Shedding your ‘highschool skin’ and coming into your own adult person means different things for different people. 

While I’m still on that journey, I recognise that it came in 2 paths for me personally: (1) It meant leaving certain parts of myself that I didn’t like behind, (2) rebuilding myself and familiarising myself with adult/uni life. 

(1) Leaving the unsavory parts of my highschool life meant saying goodbye to friendships that no longer emotionally served me well. This meant drifting apart from one-sided friendships, unfriending and blocking certain people. I realised there was no longer an obligation to ‘water’ these friendship plants that were well on their way to drying out. University meant a fresh start, and it was extremely refreshing to me that I could rebuild my friendships, and surround myself with as many like-minded people as I could. 

(2) For me, highschool was a difficult space to have a sense of identity. Often, I found I wasn’t given much of an opportunity to express my interests and opinions. I was pleasantly surprised to find university to be the total opposite: it was the perfect time to decide who I wanted to be, to reinvent and rebuild myself. This came in the form of joining different club and Guild politics. This taught me not only how to be an adult in terms of appropriately balancing study and a social life, but also gave me the opportunity to explore my newfound freedom as a legal adult. The less fun side was learning how to ‘adult’ in uni. This meant learning how to hold myself accountable with prioritising my study correctly, and learning the hard way that you are solely responsible for yourself and realising no-one checks in on you to make sure you hand in assignments. This also meant discovering that failing was okay, and everyone is bound to fail once or twice in university. University is so different from high school in that it’s less of a rat race. You learn to go at your own pace. The best piece of advice I’ve heard in my first year is that university is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t burn yourself out or die trying to compare your progress to others! 

Medha Agarwal: Setting boundaries as a new adult

One of the biggest things I wish I’d been taught pre-uni was how to set boundaries. Like, actually set boundaries. Not just the “remember you can say ‘no’!” stuff they talk about in highschool because we all know that isn’t always possible. However, it is possible to create a space that’s all your own. This comes with time and practice, so if you feel like you’re ‘behind’ everyone else, you’re probably not! 

The very first thing to sort out is your personal timetable. Separate work, study, friends, family, and me-time. It helps to start with figuring out how many hours you’re on campus, and how much of that time you’ll actually use in the library -ground floor Reid is the perfect place to waste about an hour thinking you’ll study but ending up looking for a place to sit, then finding your friends, then getting a bite to eat, then searching for a bin…your time is too precious for that! Once your on-campus hours are set, go through everything on LMS and see what you’re expected to do. Then, slot in your work availability around that, but make sure you leave time for family, friends, and yourself! Me-time can include any hobbies that get you feeling like YOU again; whether that be skincare, art, gardening, or something new! It can also mean time you set aside to plan for the week ahead. Personally, I like to do this on a Friday evening, so that I have the weekend to get stuff done and then I can wake up on Monday with part of my to-do list already ticked off. Everyone always tells you to set these boundaries, but the day you realise you don’t need to forgo your mental health for an extra half-hour of studying will be the day your life changes for the better!

Another aspect of setting boundaries is your social space. This doesn’t mean not using social media or hanging out with friends. It means filtering who you see and interact with. Just because you and your friends went through highschool together doesn’t mean you need to be their personal therapist 24/7. You don’t owe anyone but yourself your energy, as selfish as it feels, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to re-assess how many of your friendships and other relationships bring you joy. That being said, staying in touch with people can be totally worth it! It’s just harder in uni where you’ll find yourself feeling like an adult whose friends all have things on at different times. Set plans to catch up with your dearest friends every so-often because as the pandemic has taught us, time alone drives you insane.

Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s no good tiring yourself out in the first four weeks only to have to drag yourself through the rest of the semester. So, take your time! 🙂

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