1. You take care of yourself. When you get a cold, you have to know what medicines to take and make an appointment with the doctor if things become worse. You have to know what to buy at the grocery store so that you get the right intake of vitamins and minerals. (No, you cannot live on pizza and ice cream for too long if you want to make it to your next birthday.) You have to find time to take care of your body, mind, and soul, and you have to do it all on your own.
2. You budget your money. Spending frivolously is not an option if you have to pay for gas and groceries or even rent. Mom and Dad may or may not be generous enough to drop you some cash if you spend it all on iTunes and hamburgers. If you have a job (or two), you have to figure out how many hours you need to work per week in order to make ends meet at the end of the month. You have to save enough to eventually go into a savings account and pay off your credit card bills when it comes time. You have to understand when you truly need to buy something and when you can wait a week for your next paycheck to come in. No one teaches you this. You learn it on your own.
3. You learn how to be alone. The transition into adulthood will never be easy and never truly finished. You may spend time with friends, family, or loved ones but there is always a settled realization that you exist on your own. There will be days when the solitude weighs on your bones and the rainstorms refuse to give way. But those are the days that count the most because you survive them and realize that it is possible to have water in your lungs and still be able to breathe; it's what pushes you to swim to shore.
4. You realize what you want from your life. When you become the only person actively deciding the stops on your road map, desires fall into place and dreams shift into possible realities. Each connection, each experience makes the picture a little less fuzzy and while it may shimmer and change, you are in charge of the developed image and you can choose to change the angle of the camera. This, like you, will change with the times but every decision you make about your life will shape you into who you're meant to be.
5. You take responsibility for your decisions. As an adult, you are expected to present yourself in a polished, manicured manner to the world where all the tears are stitched together without leaving a trace. Every mistake you make will lead back to you and no one is there to handle them for you. You must deal with problems on your own which requires creativity and critical thinking. No one can rescue you from the fate you make for yourself and when the tears are ripped open, the needle and thread to stitch you up fall into your fingertips.
6. You discover what you really think. When we are little, our opinions are shaped from the words of our family and loved ones. Disconnecting from the structure allows room for new ideas to be considers and assumptions to be rejected. You have to understand the world for yourself and make your own opinion of it. You will be expected to defend it so really understand why you want to believe and what makes you so sure you're right. This will be difficult, arguably the most difficult task, because you must let go of what you've been expected to learn and instead let in what you're afraid of.
7. You understand that change is inevitable. Attachments will always be formed but the art of letting go is one taught with heartbreak and sadness. Sometimes the scales fall in your hands and you have control over the balance, but other times you are only an observer while the world turns in orbit and the constellations move through the sky. There will be people who leave marks on you and are forced to leave, as well as the people who pass you over without second glance. Whether it's moving to a new city or losing an old friend, things will change and if you fight the laws of motion, everything else will change without you.
8. You step out of your comfort zone. Things will seem scary and other will seem impossible but you will find the courage to fight Goliath with a slingshot and follow the North Star to your destination. No one will be there to catch you when you fall but you must fall anyway because your two options are crumpling to the ground or landing on your feet and either way movement is necessary to move forward or pick yourself up. People will seem strange and ideas will seem confusing but you have to believe that the splendor of a thousand suns shine beneath your skin and finding your own path will inspire others to do the same. Living on your own pushes you to grow into your own supernova. You will leave vibrant colors and stardust in the heavens for generations to see.