I’ve always had a fascination with independence. I love it. Nothing makes me happier, fills me with more satisfaction and wholeness than walking alone down a main street in Westport, book in hand and backpack donned, window shopping or studying by the Saugatuck River. To paraphrase a quote of Mimi Rose from Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls, “When I was 11 I had this boyfriend. He always wanted to do activities with me and it starting cutting into my art time. I broke up with my 11-year-old boyfriend because he hindered my creative process.” I had an interesting day today, so I thought I’d write about it. I find it so fatefully appropriate that this would be published on the eve of my 18th birthday. I woke up at 7:40 this morning to take my Honda Pilot to a repairman in New Milford for a 9 a.m. appointment, a 45-minute drive that my driving skills would assuredly complicate. I get to the auto repair place prepared for a nice waiting room with some wi-fi only to find a cold garage and a handful of old men who are all rather confused why I’m alone and hanging around their territory for the next three hours. I decide to sit at their desk, play with their dog and read some Sound and the Fury.
Ten minutes pass and they’ve hoisted the car onto the lift when they come over to me and ask, “Why did you think the brakes need to be replaced?”
I respond, “Well, I had to get an oil change or something and the Honda man said that I needed to get them replaced asap. Within the month, he said.”
“He’s wrong,” they reply.
I guess car dealerships are notorious for unnecessary, expensive repairs, especially for naive blond children. Well, with my driving skills I guess that long drive was just good highway experience!
I then drove to a nearby deli and got a breakfast sandwich. Was called “darling” and “honey” repeatedly, by everyone. Decided, hey, I’m spontaneous, I’ll go to my favorite store, it’s right on the way. Made two wrong turns but got there eventually. Bought two dresses and some booties for my sister. Basked in the freedom. Capped off the gas tank because it’s absurdly cheap up there. Pondered the Middle East and gas prices. Got home. Been sick for a few months and tired after relatively emotionally exhausting morning so I turn on some Grey’s Anatomy. Mother gets home, particularly negative argument ensues. I leave and resign myself to the life of a homeless teen.
And now here I am, typing away in the library listening to some elderly people discuss their experience in the Korean War.
Youth is a difficult state. How frustrating it is to have all this freedom in your bones yet be so incapable of acting on it. Life and its questions can be overwhelming and we don’t have the wisdom or experience (or apathy) to just be complacent with it. Youth is an insatiable desire to be the commander of your destiny and decide how to spend your day and what to spend money on. Yet age impedes that. I feel so immature sometimes that it’s hard to take myself seriously, feeling something so deeply but telling yourself not to, blaming it on age and gender. I’m independently poor in so many ways and am so inseparably dependant on my parents for advice, funds, a home, food, validation, decisions. Young adulthood is such an uncomfortable space.
Even when we feel as if we’ve come into our own, or perhaps just a more defined sense of ourselves, we’re still asked what we’ll be when we grow up, wonder what sort of person we’ll marry, who will we love, what will our own kids’ futures look like. When are we complete, with no more questions? When have we achieved ultimate oneness? 18? 21? Adulthood? Death? Perhaps this struggle of youth and independence and self-definition never truly goes away, it’s not a state at all; the only thing that goes away is the need for answers.



Olivia Phelan is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.