Eighteen is not the Magical Age of Freedom
by Dan Blankenship
“You can do what you want when you’re eighteen,” my parents promised me on more than one occasion. Oh how terribly wrong they were. Eighteen is not a magical number that leads to invincibility, instant wisdom, or unlimited wealth. In fact, one’s eighteenth birthday is really just that – one’s eighteenth birthday.
Maturity is not bound by or delivered upon any certain age. And it is wrong for society to have somehow picked 6,570 as the number of days it takes a human being to be ready to jump out on his own and make his way in the world. Wrong! But, nevertheless, the age at which most laws and attitudes deem the appropriate time for such a transformation to occur.
I left my parents’ home at the age of eighteen. Most of my friends did the same. I will never forget my first night in my own apartment. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Part of me wanted to cry out in excitement over my new independence, and part of me wanted to rip up my rental agreement and return to my abandoned bedroom in the home I’d always known.
There is simply no doubt about it, turning eighteen and going out on your own, whether living in a college dorm or a rented apartment, is a huge shift – one that can cause a great deal of emotional and physical stress.
I remember times when things seemed to go from bad to worse faster than I could adjust to each event. My car broke down, and I had no way to get to work. I had not saved enough money to afford any major car repairs. And while I was still dealing with this problem, my car insurance company raised my rates because I had moved farther from my place of employment. So I was going to have to pay more money for insurance on a car that didn’t run and was not being driven at all! All of this within just a few months of my newfound freedom!
Another scary issue concerning adulthood is that there are so many people in the club who maybe shouldn’t be there in the first place. Even a well balanced, mature eighteen-year-old can become discouraged by the lack of character and integrity demonstrated by fellow Club-Adult members.
I remember – after finally having my car repaired – watching, in utter disbelief, other people – well above the age of eighteen – toss McDonald’s bags full of garbage right out their car windows onto the street. They did so in broad daylight. I remember asking myself if this was the kind of freedom that came with reaching a certain age level?
I had been raised to believe responsibility, civility, and uprightness were all characteristics of adulthood. But as I watched some of the over-eighteen crowd behave as juvenile delinquents, I began to understand that age is simply no way to gauge a man or woman’s character – no way at all!
At eighteen, I had a strong work ethic, a desire to learn as much as I could about the world around me, and a firm belief in a Creator who wanted me to act in a responsible manner as I lived out the days he set for me. I am not a self-made man, for I can’t remember a time in my life when God’s blessings have not been upon me. And he blessed me even more by teaching me about the maturity of one’s character.
The negative things I have witnessed in my lifetime have given me cause to walk a different path. And as others approach that supposed magical age of adulthood, I pray God moves on their hearts, allowing them to extend grace and compassion on the crowd that has not embraced integrity as a worthy trait.
Change can be a scary thing. But change can lead to a renewal of the spirit and a broader view of the world we live in. The challenges I faced when I ventured out on my own helped me to more clearly understand the divide between age-maturity and character-maturity, and to clearly mold my understanding that the latter is what we should be concerned with.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).