Before I left for school, my grand-little came to visit me in New York. While we were catching up, she referred to me as an adult. I was shocked hearing this. If someone younger than me perceives me as an adult, then I’m officially an adult, right?
As summer came to a close, I began doing a little self-introspection to get to the bottom of the adult comment. I figured that legally, I am 21, and therefore an adult. Every morning, I woke up and went to my internship. I took the subway and maneuvered through the streets of Lower Manhattan alongside businessmen and women dressed in white shirts and blue suits. This made me feel like an adult. I sat amongst acclaimed designers in my office, working with them to create the most luxurious hotels in the marketplace. That made me feel like an adult. I got home from work and mustered up the energy to meet friends for dinner, because I was usually quite tired from a long day at the office. That definitely made me feel like an adult.
On the weekends, New York City was my playground. But I didn’t play on the swing sets in Central Park like I used to as a child. Instead, I found joy in visiting museums, attending outdoor orchestra concerts, seeking out public art installations, and walking alongside the Hudson River at dusk. The fact that I am did these activities, rather than blowing bubbles in Union Square (although I’ll never be too old for that), made me feel like an adult.
My mind seemed to be changing, shifting, molding, whatever you want to call it, into a new form. I began paying attention to different things. I developed new priorities. We were allowed to listen to music at work, so I played the Hamilton soundtrack as I edited redlines. When Lin Manuel Miranda declared, “I am not throwing away my shot!” and advised his listeners to “Rise up!” I felt motivated to complete the drawing edits with a heightened attention to detail.
I strived to be the best intern possible. A few years ago, I most likely would have been thinking about what time I would get off work. Yet this summer, I never looked at the clock. The day went by quickly, and as it should. I was engrossed in my projects, quite literally salivating over photos of the new hotel site in Okinawa, Japan. Vendors visited the office, bringing with them intricate fabrics from Paris and hot-off-the-press furniture collections from Milan. I gushed over the materials and learned how to speak the language of interior design.
I realized that my change in outlook was twofold. First, my brain evolves as I grow older. With each new day, I continually cleansed my mind of negative and meaningless thoughts. It was almost as if my maturing brain directed my attention to important goals and passions. My internship reshaped my mindset as well. I have never felt more proud of myself than when I realized I was an integrated member of the firm. I learned to be professional and connect with the so-called “adults.”
A few years ago, I would have been terrified to admit that I am an adult. Yet, today, I say it proudly. I am ready to complete my senior year at Wash U and embark on my design career. After all, we students cannot change our age, so our best bet is to own it.