Besides of age driving and drinking, what it really means growing up?

Do you ever have those moments, when you suddenly realize that you have grown up? I have, and I have encountered several of those quite recently. Saying growing up, I don’t just simply mean that I am of age to drive and drink. Also, I don’t think someone can just grow up in days. It takes time and the changes of a person from within will gradually show themselves.

We was doing an interview with a mom/student/boss talking about her study abroad experience for an assignment. We were shooting b-rolls of her face-timing with her three-year-old daughter. They were singing children’s songs together and the daughter said “I miss you mom. When will you come back?” I thought of my own parents at that moments and my vision was blurred. Looking at my group members, they all had tears in their eyes like I did. Unlike the daughter, I said to myself “I miss home. When can I go back?” It is just sad to think about. Do I go back home or go back in time when I was younger and careless. Isn’t this just the pain of growing up? 

Thinking back on my life for the past few years, especially the time when I studied abroad, I came up with a few ideas of how I understand growing up.

Don’t ever take things for granted and be grateful. 

I grew up with loads of love from my parents. They took good care of me emotionally and supported me financially. They taught me how to be a better person to myself and to the society. Because of their love and care, I have thought that all parents in the world are like them. But when I left home to study abroad, I had to do everything by myself, from studying to cooking and everything else. That’s when I really realized how lucky I was to be able to live a careless life under their protection. I still live under their protection, but more like spiritually now.

Besides my parents’ unconditional love, I never really realized how privileged I was. I am very healthy to start with. I don’t even have allergies. I grew up attending top schools in Beijing. Although I was not one of those top top students, I still enjoyed much more resources in comparison. I almost never had any major setbacks growing up. All of these things I mentioned here are things I didn’t realize before.

Now, I started to think twice before taking it in, and I always remind myself not to take things for granted. Whatever I own now, knowledge, friendship, achievements are accountable. I learned hard and worked hard, so I possess knowledge and can achieve something. I treated other people genuinely, so they treat me back the same way and I earn friendship. Other things are the same. There is a price for everything financial wise or emotional wise.

Cherish the time you have with family. Be present as much as you can and never leave regrets. 

This is the third consecutive year of me studying abroad. For the past two years, I have stayed in Beijing for less than six months. Within those limited time I stayed in Beijing, I only devoted little time to my family, especially my extended family. My nuclear family was alright. Although it is not the same living together, we still get to chat a lot over FaceTime. I have missed two Spring Festival celebrations, and I will miss this coming one too.

Besides family reunion, there is a lot more I have missed. In that period of time, two of my grandparents passed away. I get to say goodbye to one, but to the other, I did’t even find out about the news until a few days later. There is nothing I can do about aging and dying, but I have too many regrets whenever I think of them now. How I wish I could spend more time with them while I can, even it was just sitting in the same sofa and watching some stupid TV.

Enjoy the time by yourself and learn to keep things to yourself. 

I noticed that I enjoy the time alone more and more. It is ok not to talk to anyone and there are a lot of things to do by oneself. I don’t mean I don’t need companion at all, but just that I can endure “loneliness”. In the process of learning to enjoy “loneliness”, I learned how to take care of myself, physically and emotionally, because growing up means that these now are all your responsibilities. If you don’t care, no one else will. I also learned to not to think too much of what others may think of me. My life is more enjoyable if I live it following my heart and not others’ words.

I noticed that I am getting better at facial expression management. I learned the importance of keeping things to myself. Everybody has their own pressure and bad temper, and this is not something that others should share. There is no point giving a dirty look to others or pouring all your issues to others. Other people don’t want to see or know, and they should not. I learned to face my demons just by myself and try my best to complain less.


This is what growing up means to me and what I learned from my experience. Growing up can be painful if you think about it, but I would not accept a time machine ride taking me back to twenty years ago, because there still are good things about growing up.




Author: Yue Zhang

Graduate student currently studying at University of Westminster, London. For my passion in storytelling, I am adventuring abroad to learn more.

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