When you are a teenager, finding the one place you fit in is hard enough. Countless movies and TV shows have highlighted teen angst so well that it borders on cliche. Coming into college, I really didn’t expect that this would carry over into what was supposed to be the next phase of my life. I could look back at 16-year-old Kayla and see that she really wasn’t grown up or anywhere near an actual adult yet. The scene of Ariel screaming at her dad in “The Little Mermaid” really comes to mind. But now, being 23 and a senior in college, I can also see I’m still not quite at the place that I would like to be. It was always hard to explain it until Adam Davis, professor of English, started talking about liminal space in my folklore class this semester.
“Liminal space is neither and nor.” Davis said. “It’s like a threshold of a doorway in between two different things.”
It was like a lightbulb went off in my mind and I realized that people in this room and on this campus, even on college campuses everywhere is in this shared liminal space with me. We are all simultaneously grown and not, adult and child. Now I know that some generalizations have to be made here, but we all understand this concept to some extent. I realized that even though I have 23 years of experience at being a human on this planet, I am still not done with my transition into adulthood, and college is the main reason for that. I am stuck in the threshold Dr. Davis was talking about in class. I am neither independent nor dependent, not a child but not grown. I pay taxes. I pay rent every month and my utilities, go grocery shopping, cook for myself everyday and even had my cracked car windshield fixed on my own. I have my own renter’s insurance, for God’s sake. In every aspect that counts, most of us are adults. We can survive on our own. The duality to this is when those breaks in the school year come around. Every winter and summer break, most of us flee from Kirksville like our pants are on fire. The mass exodus out of town is biblical and you can just about see the dust kicked up in our wake. With these long-awaited trips home comes the return to our adolescent sides. I go back to the same bedroom I have slept in since I was 10. My dad makes dinner every night and I can’t have people over past a certain time. I am constantly living in this liminal space. Both on my own and not. Both adult and not.
I thought that my days of being the odd man out were done. No longer the awkward teenager but fully grown and independent. I guess I still have a little bit longer to be in this liminal space, but I’m glad you are all here with me.