grow /grōTH/, n.

This Memorial Day weekend, I went to visit a friend in Foster City. She’d recently moved there from San Leandro because she and her boyfriend wanted to find a smaller, more affordable apartment. A couple weeks prior, they’d also become proud parents of a corgi puppy, whom I absolutely had to meet—which was in large part how I found myself driving across the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge on the Saturday of Memorial Day.

On the way down, my mind drifted to the various other things I needed to accomplish over the course of the weekend: bake brownies for a friend’s potluck, pack and prepare for a hike in Point Reyes, double check with my landlord if there was anything I had to do to renew my apartment lease for our second year as tenants.

I’d moved out of my parents’ home and into my new apartment in Berkeley just a year ago. At the time, I was feeling particularly anxious of how I would continue to visit my current counselor, whose office was a ten-minute drive from my old workplace but almost a 90-minute drive away from my new apartment.

A lot has changed over the past 365 days.

Spirit | Photo by Courtney Cheng

I’m not just officially and happily broken up with my counselor, but I’m also finally finished furnishing my living room. Conversations with my Corgi-owning friend have taken a deeper dive. We no longer just share about “adulting.” We’re able to come together as people with lives that aren’t at dictated by our grades and talk about things that matter, like parents, making new friends, and our lives as even older adults.

These new, common conversation topics speak tremendously to the growth my friend and I have gone through as we transition further away from student-hood. It’s a shift I notice happening in many of the exchanges I have with my partner and other friends as well.

This process has been intimidating. A part of me wants to shy away from the pressure of these new adult responsibilities, while another part yearns to lean into this newness to meet it with excitement and eagerness. The first part reins this second part back; why meet the unknown with such fervor?

This process, however, has also been one of my favorite changes of adulthood thus far.

Harro, human! | Photo by Courtney Cheng

The more I live my life beyond the limits of final exams, the more I’m becoming familiar with my own quirks. I’m more willing to admit their existence and acknowledge my need for support because of them. I’m better aware of what I need to get me through particular challenges in life, and I’ve developed relationships with people who are able to provide me this reassurance, both when I ask and before I ask.

One of my coworkers has learned many of my tendencies and makes a regular habit of providing me with words of assurance or inviting me on a walk when he notices my stress. His want to help used to bother me a little. All I wanted to do was to soldier through my work, but over time, I realized how significant his acts of care are in my quality of life at work. I always feel supported through his actions, even if he can’t directly take anything off my plate.

I accept and welcome my coworker’s nurturing now. Sometimes I make a point of seeking him out before my stress builds up too high, and I often try to find every opportunity to pay this care back to him. There are moments when I can recognize in both of us a hesitation in asking for these small favors—because of pride or fear or anxiety or something greater—but we push past it, knowing the value that lies beyond our stubborn selves, in the other’s words.

Being an adult, I’m realizing, doesn’t mean I have everything under control. On the contrary, I’m finding that adulthood means more that I’m able to recognize the value of seeking and accepting help from others, and offering it to them in turn. As adults with greater age, we’re simply more aware of the different types of support we need than we were when we were younger.

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