Samantha (Sam), my oldest, turns 18 today. Eighteen… EIGHTEEN!! In addition to that, she is a senior in high school. A senior… A SENIOR!!

So far, 2018 has been a year of milestones for Sam: she took the SAT and ACT exams in the spring, she got her driver’s license over the summer, and started looking at colleges in earnest. Now she turns 18. 2019 will bring more milestones, like graduation, but I’ll save that for a future post (there’s only so much “growing up” a parent can take at once with regard to their oldest).

Why is 18 so significant? Well, an 18-year-old can now:

  • Vote in elections
  • Get a credit card
  • Open a bank account
  • Buy a car or house
  • Get married
  • Donate blood
  • Sue someone, get sued,or go to jail
  • Buy a lottery ticket or gamble in Vegas
  • Join the military
  • Serve on a jury
  • Decide who has access to their medical records or grades
  • Get a tattoo or piercing
  • Go skydiving or bungee jumping

What do all of these “perks” have in common? They are all things that adults can do. That’s right, they are “adult things.” Even though she’s still a teenager, at age 18, society now sees Sam as an adult. She can legally make her own decisions and shape her future. That is daunting, and I know Sam is feeling the pressure of it!

I remember when I turned 18. It was the summer immediately following graduation. My main objective for that day was to go to the local post office, register for Selective Service, and get some pizzawith my brothers and friends. The pressure of my senior year was behind me, and I already knew where I was heading to college, but being seen as an adult and taking on adult responsibilities weighed heavily on my mind way back then. I can sympathize with Sam.

I can sympathize with Sam over something else. She recently shared with me an essay she wrote for one of her college applications. In it, she talks about a lack of self-confidence, but it actually turns out to be more of a story about courage and bravery, two traits Sam exhibits plenty of.

First, the lack of self-confidence. Sam is not the only person to express this. I certainly felt it at her age, and there have been many times I’ve felt it between the time I entered adulthood and now. Type in “why do people feel a lack of self confidence” in Google, and a slew of results come back. One that I found interesting was an article by Dr. Vince Berger. Here is how Berger defines self-confidence:

…self-confidence…is the trust or faith that you have in yourself and your abilities…Having self-confidence does not mean that you can do everything. Self-confident people have expectations that are realistic. Even when some of their expectations are not met, they continue to be positive and to accept themselves.

Sam’s essay discussed an accomplishment that helped spark a feeling of personal growth and new understanding of herself. She focused on her athletic achievements and her decision to support two young people suffering from cancer: a basketball teammate and her cousin. Last year, she participated in the “Going Bald for Bucks” campaign, which raised approximately $10,000 for the 13thirty Cancer Connect program, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping and supporting teens and young adults afflicted with cancer. Sam helped raise money on her own fundraising web page that was linked to a team page in honor of her teammate. While many students, faculty members, and parents shaved their heads (this was done in front of the entire student body and was emceed by a popular local radio station that streamed the event live on Facebook), Sam was one of only three girls who shaved their heads.

Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in. In today’s society, with such attention and priority placed on appearance, Sam, a female, had her head shaved. That takes so much courage and bravery to stand up in support of two people she knows very well, one female and the other male, who did not choose to have cancer or endure the ravaging effects of the disease (including losing their hair), and essentially say to society “I don’t care what you think about how I look. I’m doing this for a reason!”

To back-track a little bit, Sam explains in her essay how her participation in sports ultimately gave her the confidence and courage to shave her head:

Becoming part of an athletic team was what really allowed me the confidence to express who I truly am. I was first exposed to team sports in the fifth grade, when I joined my youth basketball team. At the time, I was a high achieving student, and I desired to do well in sports; however, I possessed little to no confidence when I was put into a game. This lack of confidence caused me to freeze up when I was on the court, meaning I never scored, which added on to my lack of confidence. It was during one of the last games of the season that I finally scored. The basket was made through the combined efforts of my team, who kept passing me the ball, and I, who made the basket. My team continuously gave me the ball, believing in me, even though I didn’t believe in myself. That was the moment when I began realizing what it meant to be a part of a team: continuously believing in one another, pushing each other to improve, and giving each other the confidence to succeed, all while working towards a common goal.

Reflecting on this, I see a lot of my own struggles in Sam. I did not have a lot of confidence in my own abilities, whether it be in academia, athletics, or extra-curricular. However, I have a strong work ethic and a desire to learn and improve. I got mediocre grades in high school despite hard work, but that hard work paid off: I consistently made Dean’s list in college, I was inducted into an international honors society, I graduated Cum Laude, and I maintained a 4.0 GPA while finally earning my Master’s Degree. I was never captain of the football team (the only sport I played as I was cut from the basketball team each time I tried out), but I persevered and earned a Black Belt in Taekwondo, and have completed 19 half marathons and scores of other races. I can’t play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen or the bass like Geddy Lee, but I have enjoyed the thrill of playing both instruments on-stage.

What does that reflection have to do with Sam? I see Sam and me at opposite ends of a tunnel: Sam is about to enter a very scary, yet exciting period of her life; I have gone through that tunnel, and fortunately emerged a little wiser than when I entered (I still have a lot to learn and hopefully a lot of time in which to learn it!). She has overcome her struggles, but needs to learn how to take what she’s learned and apply it to the challenges that await her.  She’s a “newbie” adult; I may not always act like it, but I’ve been an adult for a while now, and want to help guide her when asked, share insight and knowledge to help her make her own decisions.

I am confident that she’ll continue to grow into a confident person who will make an impact wherever she goes. Why do I think that? Well, she’s my kid. Aren’t all parents supposed to think that? 😉 It’s something she said to close her essay that makes me confident of her bright and promising future, and so extremely proud of her:

Without the experiences and the confidence that I gained by being a part of a team, I
would not be the person that I am today, let alone have the confidence to shave my head in front of hundreds of people…To me, being a part of a team, no matter what kind of team it is, means pushing each other to improve, continuously believing in each other, and giving each other the confidence needed to keep moving forward, to succeed, even when we aren’t having the best day, or get down on ourselves after making a mistake. That is why I shaved my head: to show others that no matter what happens, no matter what kind of day you’re having, or mistakes you’ve made that we are in this together. We are a team. And that together, we can help each other gain the confidence needed to succeed in whatever we may pursue.

Happy birthday, Sam! I’m so excited to see what the future holds for you!

Oh, and now that you’re an adult, welcome to “the club!” 🙂