Growing up is bittersweet.

Bitterness means letting go of illusions and facing a broken and imperfect world. Sweetness comes when experiences transform into reminiscences as we further explore our potential.

Throughout my high school years, whenever I faced five exams within a week and piles of homework that resulted in three hours of sleep, I would complain to my parents about the pains and agonies of being a high school student. Every time, they would respond that being a high school student is the easiest time of one’s life.

Of course, I thought such an idea was absurd. How can being an adult be hard? Sure, they have to go to work, run errands, do chores and do other miscellaneous things — but to me, those tasks sounded wonderful compared to endless tests on top of going to club meetings and sports practices while struggling to finish the homework on time. High school me would take being an adult over a student in a heartbeat.

And so, until I entered Yale, the term “growing up” represented becoming an adult that gained some sort of newfound freedom. But now, I finally realized what my parents meant when they said adulting is hard. And they were right: adulting indeed is hard.

Adulting does not particularly lie in embracing new-found independence, learning to be self-sustaining or finding a balance between school, work and social life. Instead, it lies in little things that we often take for granted as they have been pillars in our lives, such as keeping in contact with our loved ones, learning to communicate with those we live with and setting emotional, mental and social boundaries, to name a few. 

Most importantly, it means understanding yourself and your needs, not letting the environment you’re in influence you, but for you to influence the environment. It lies within knowing that you hold control in your life and the decisions you make and that you, and only you, hold the sole responsibilities for your actions, may they be good or bad. 

And yes, in many ways, college is similar to high school. The school load and extracurriculars are just, if not more, rigorous than high school. Coming to college does not necessarily mean I have become an adult. But it is different: college acts as a gateway for one to slowly matriculate into the real world stripped bare of the childhood comforts and supports.

Although I am not adulting full-time, I got a taste of what is yet to come. And that taste is bittersweet, in the most heartbreaking yet heartwarming way.

Growing up is bittersweet. 

However, this bittersweetness becomes a choice. A choice that many of us will eventually face and decide to take up the challenge.

In this first month at Yale, the term “growing up” has revised itself. In my mind, it no longer stands for being mature and figuring out my life to the tee. Rather, “growing up” redefined itself as a process: a process to make new mistakes, a process to learn from our failures and a process to rediscover ourselves in a greater environment outside of the sheltered bubble we have spent most of our lives in. 

Even now, as I write this piece, I recognize I have yet to discover the full scope of “growing up” and entering the world as an adult. And I probably will never completely understand; every second, every minute, every hour leads to a new spiral in my life that may change how I think and influence what I do. I am not necessarily the same person that I was four years ago nor will I be in a month or a year’s time. But that’s okay. 

Maybe that’s the key to “growing up” and becoming an adult — it’s a process that never ends, but only prospers with time.

TIFFANY HU is a first year in Ezra Stiles College. She can be reached at