Lo Wall

Emerging Adulthood

“You need to get over this fear of being an adult,” I remember my mom reproaching me during my senior year of high school.

“It’s not that I’m afraid of being an adult. It’s just that … being an adult kind of … sucks. And I don’t want to do it.”  

Now in my final semester of college, my defensive reply rings more and more true. When we’re children, it seems like all we want to do is grow up—to drive ourselves around, buy whatever we want, and eat cookies for breakfast (because we can). And sure, the ability to do those things is pretty liberating. However, lately I wish I could return to the days when I lacked this freedom—the days of others taking care of me, the days of no responsibility.

Still, at age 22, I can’t say that I personally have that much responsibility. In fact, so long as I’m still in college, I’m living the cushy life, which not all students can say. I can pat myself on the back as much as I want for taking out the trash, paying the internet bill, and getting my flu shot, but I’m still living without any true responsibilities, financial or otherwise. I am privileged enough to have my parents’ support for rent and food, and the little income I make I can put toward gas and frivolities.

I am, as my mom and therapist tell me, “in transition.” I’m in transition to becoming an “adult,” or “adultish,” or a person who practices the art of “adulting.” I imagine most, if not all, of my classmates recognize that they, too, are in transition. In fact, as part of my Third Block adolescent psychology course, we examined our own cohort: emerging adults. It was during this course that I truly came to terms with the reality that I was entering a new and distinct stage of my life.


As time has gone on, particularly now in the second semester of my senior year, I am compelled to come to my own conclusions about how one transitions to true adulthood with grace and genuineness, while grappling with feelings of shame and uncertainty about societal expectations. These unpleasant emotions typically emerge in the same way: someone asks me that classic cocktail party inquiry, “So, what are you doing after graduation?”

Despite the casual way it’s presented, this question often fills seniors with nausea, dread, and self-doubt. You mean I have to have everything figured out, beyond just taking out the trash, paying the internet bill, and getting my flu shot? I have to foster a career that offers me benefits? Not only is, “So, what are you doing after graduation?” a paralyzing, terrifying question, it’s a deeply existential one. It gives college students pause as to what they’ve been doing for the past four years and whether it was all even worth it. I feel particularly haunted by this question and the implications of my future decisions. But why? Because I have all the free time to think about it.

Fourth Block of junior year, I made an epic discovery: I could finish college in just three and a half years. I could be done with my major, two minors, and all-college requirements in exactly 12 months.

This discovery meant the world to me. It meant saving my family a semester’s worth of tuition, entering the workforce sooner than the rest of my classmates, and, most importantly, being done with tests, presentations, essays, and exams. That was huge because, during the first semester of my junior year, I decided that I was done with this whole “school” thing, done with this institution of cramming and regurgitation, of having to prove myself again and again.


At school, you’re never done. There’s always a way to get ahead, a meeting to attend or to plan, and an obligation to fulfill. So, after working my first real-ass, 9-to-5 job after sophomore year, I realized I just wanted to be in the real world, where I could finish my work at the end of the day, open a beer, and be done. In a sense, I was like a little kid again: I wanted to be an adult.

Well, here I am. I’m done with school, not yet graduated, with free time out my ears. I work part-time for Bon Appetit, network and job hunt relentlessly, and bide my time reading, listening to podcasts, and cross-stitching. I clean my housemates’ dishes and fold their laundry, sweep the floor, and buy the groceries. Whenever someone asks me if I’m free to do something, I respond jokingly, “Am I free? Please, I’m unemployed! Of course I’m free!” Though I’ve been slowly but surely making peace with my current position, there’s still a tinge of terror in my voice.

To be honest, I fluctuate between feeling completely secure in this job search process and feeling completely helpless and directionless. I could have taken a more conventional path. I could have just continued on with school, continued on with my work-study jobs, and pursued post-grad jobs when I could in between. But at what cost? At the cost of feeling like a robot, weighed down by constant stress, and left without time and energy to wholeheartedly explore my career options. As I watch my housemates cram for exams, furiously type last-minute papers, and spend hours at the library preparing presentations, I do not feel an ounce of jealousy. In this regard, I feel totally self-assured in my decision and recognize that taking time off is a viable option for someone experiencing burnout.

The real reason why I often feel like I’m in way over my head and going nowhere lies in shame. My housemate sent me an article from an advice column, entitled, “I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life.” The writer laments that at age 35, she has nothing to show for herself: she’s moved around constantly, worked multiple jobs with no upward mobility, and maintained few relationships, along with a myriad of other self-declared failures. In many ways, the writer was describing the life I feel destined for: a life of constant movement, never settling, but never really progressing, either.

Polly, the woman who runs the advice column, asks the writer to consider the root of all these feelings of inadequacy: shame. The writer is ashamed of moving around so much, rather than taking pride in the experiences she’s accrued by traveling. She criticizes her movement among industries, rather than applauding her adaptability and versatility as an employee. It’s all about frame of mind. Polly beautifully illustrates how the writer’s decisions don’t need to be viewed as destructive—perhaps she could have done things differently, but by making these choices, the writer has now brought herself to a point of wanting to change. And that’s good, too. At 35, she still has all the time in the world (so surely, at 22, I do as well).  

Shame creates an alternate universe; shame makes us believe that everyone is judging our choices and lifestyle. Like the writer, I periodically allow shame to dictate what I think others’ perceptions of me are. I think that everyone knows (and cares) how frustrated I am applying endlessly to jobs only to hear no response back or to receive flat-out rejection. I find myself pathetic for only being able to secure one part-time job, confronted with so much free time that I feel like doing my housemates’ dishes gives me purpose. I forget that I should be proud of myself for effectively graduating in only three and half years. I forget that, given my poor mental health record, having free time to cross-stitch, listen to podcasts, read, and even do dishes is inherently good for me. I forget that as aggravating as job hunting can be, at least I have the time and space to do it, without class, work-study, and extra-curriculars piled on. I am in an ideal position, thanks to my own hard work.

Still, the shame that many of my peers and I feel persists. It lies in the beliefs held by society at large about where we’re “supposed to be” and what we’re “supposed to do”—all insinuated by that cocktail party question. Luckily, the expectations that previous generations have laid out for us are shifting, and what we’re “supposed to be” and “supposed to do” are far murkier than they once were.

I learned in my adolescent psychology course that these shifts have to do with a new view of the human lifespan. Previously, developmental psychologists supported a simpler progression of life stages: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood. However, in recent years, they have discovered that our age group—namely, those 18 to 25—are their own breed. Why? Because society finds us in the most diverse of circumstances.

In our liberal arts bubble, we often think that all 18 to 22-year-olds are in college. The reality is, at age 18, many aren’t in school. Some might be married, have children even; many take gap years; many work or travel. Some are taking time off and working part-time for their school’s catering service. Those who do go to college might do any number of things after graduation: attend graduate school, move back home, explore the world, begin their career, or just flat-out flounder. It’s no wonder that I feel overwhelmed by being (kind of) out in the real world; our paths as graduates are practically limitless.

The ambiguity associated with “emerging adulthood” comes with many negative stereotypes about our age group—stereotypes that may add to our shame as we navigate this tricky time. However, Clark University professor of psychology Jeffrey Arnett demonstrates how many of these myths are misguided.

For starters, people imagine the college-age group as suffering from enormous stress, experiencing a “quarter-life crisis.” Sure, our anxiety manifests itself through memes and the frequent alcoholic beverage, but in reality, we’re all just trying to make sense of ourselves and our experiences. Arnett notes that we’re simply in an age of “identity confusion,” a term coined by developmental psychologist Erik Erikson to describe the process of exploring different selves to ultimately arrive at that self which will help us flourish in true adulthood. He counters social psychologist Jean Twenge, who points to the increase in major depression over the 20th century as evidence of our duress (even though this rise in depression is evident across all age groups). In other words, everyone is stressed out by the world right now. Thus, we seniors should all take a deep breath, acknowledge that we’re in the same boat as everyone else, and not blow our position out of proportion (I would do well to take this advice).

Thankfully, this should not be too difficult—our age group is pretty optimistic, despite this era of investigations on Russia, fake news, and polarizing tweets. Arnett points to studies by Hornblower (1997) and Schulenberg and Zarrett (2006) that demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of 18 to 29-year-olds believe that they’ll get to the place they wish to be in life, and that overall well-being increases from age 18 to 26. I’m honestly unsurprised; I find myself and my peers often saying, even in times of duress, “It’ll all work out.” I, for one, really want to believe it will all work out—I just struggle to internalize this belief.

Those emerging adults who are overly stressed are typically the ones who struggle to cope with the unstructured time that comes with this developmental stage. This fact reminds me to shut up when I start lamenting that I’m free to binge-watch “New Girl.”

Another negative stereotype about emerging adults is our selfishness. We appear self-indulgent because we spend more time and money on ourselves than on others. This appears true; how many Colorado College alums can I name who decided to dirt-bag around the West rock climbing or travel to South America after graduation? Many students, at least at CC, have the financial means to indulge in a “gap year.” That being said, our generation is the most likely to engage in volunteer work, and Arnett argues that “selfishness” is a misinterpretation; in this time period, we are not necessarily obligated to work, marry, or have kids, so we foster our self-development. We travel, experience new places and jobs, or engage in further study, not because we’re selfish, but because we’re trying to be our best selves. If we did not practice this self-development, we wouldn’t be prepared to devote ourselves to others in the future, whether it be to a spouse, children, family, or co-workers. Especially after a school as rigorous as CC, taking time to recharge and reassess only seems healthy.

The final negative stereotype about emerging adults is the notion that we refuse to grow up. This one hits close to home. Yet our “refusal to grow up” may not be a refusal, but a necessity. Arnett comments that economic constraints nowadays have made it much harder for our generation than previous ones to settle down with a job, partner, and kids by age 25. Many jobs require more than an undergraduate degree—that’s a given now. But also, most emerging adults see the same bummers about adulthood as I do: Though independence is nice, paying bills, going to work, and caring for all your personal needs is onerous, and lacks spontaneity. Moreover, on the personal side, I feel as though adulthood means sacrificing bits of my childlike identity—wearing a turtle backpack skiing, making pancakes for dinner, and embarking on hairbrained schemes on late summer nights.

Still, Arnett says that by age 30, most of us settle down, whether it be through a job or a relationship or both. We land on our feet, much the same way that practically all of us end up at the right college. We experience some stress, we self-develop, and ultimately, we accept adulthood, for all its perks and suckiness. And I think that all of us, as confused as we feel currently, recognize this as our future.

Though I still feel frustrated and dip in and out of optimism, I have come to accept that all of the existential thoughts I’ve been having are not particular to me. Though my immediate peers may appear less jumbled by their class routine, they’re struggling with the same challenges as I am: getting responses from potential employers, questioning whether they’re making the right decisions, and feeling shame if they’re pursuing aspirations that others don’t find as meaningful. Even those who do have an answer to “So, what are you looking to do after graduation?” may feel a pit in the bottom of their stomach, unsure if this first step in their career path is really going to take them places or fulfill them adequately emotionally and mentally.

The bottom line: None of us really know how to transition into true adulthood, and there isn’t a prescribed way to do so, but we can still remain optimistic, foster personal growth, and embrace our transition. I still don’t know what “adulthood” means for me. Maybe it’s job stability; maybe it’s buying my own house; maybe it’s finding a significant other. For now, I can learn and define what my emerging adulthood, or adulting, means.

To me, it’s first sticking to my values: being a loyal friend, practicing self-care, and always working on my communication skills. Most of all, never accepting adulthood as a walk in the park, but learning to deal with the unfortunate aspects (taxes, health insurance) with grace. It means doing away with my shame at my current position and focusing on the positives. It means embracing my free time and using it to explore this chapter of my life, to cultivate the best Slaico I can be. And sometimes, it means eating cookies for breakfast.

Fill In The Blank Issue | April 2019

Demystifying Wicca

When I asked Colorado College students to describe Wicca, “something witchy” was the most common explanation after “I have no idea.” In CC’s classically innovative style, community members hard pressed for a definition came up with guesses ranging from “a fun search engine” to “an innovative way to clean ears” to “similar to a wiki link.”


So, what is Wicca? The oversimplified answer is modern-day witchcraft. However, Wicca is a complex and diverse religion that, despite its foundations in ancient and medieval times, has its roots in the 20th century. Wicca is the best-known form of Neo-Paganism, a term which encompasses a plethora of religious and spiritual values, but pays specific attention to honoring the Earth. Other commonalities among sects of Wicca are the practice of magic and worship of a female deity called “the Goddess.” Common uses of magic, sometimes spelled “magick” to distinguish from stage magicians, include incantations and symbolic ritual or ceremonial actions. Due to the lack of centralized authority and a focus on small covens, there is a great deal of variation in Wiccan practices. Because people are largely unfamiliar with Wicca, there exist a great number of misconceptions about it. One of the largest misunderstandings lumps the identity of the medieval witch together with the identity of modern witch. Despite this misconception, the origins and practices of each identity are vastly different. 


Wicca took off in England in the 1950s after the repeal of archaic witchcraft laws. A retired British civil servant named Gerald Gardner published “Witchcraft Today” in 1954 and formed a coven of followers. Prior to publishing the book, Gardner had been involved in occult practices during his time traveling throughout Asia and had worked extensively with more obscure readings of Western witchcraft. While he wasn’t necessarily a religious pioneer, he familiarized people with Wiccan values, initiated them into small, organized covens, and made sure the culture was known and could survive worldwide. The movement spread rapidly in the United States during the late 1960s when many subcultures held a high regard for nature, unconventional lifestyles, and spirituality independent of traditional religion.

Covens are typically small, with around 10 to 15 members who enter through an initiation ritual. A member who becomes familiar with magic and ritual can undergo further levels of initiation, rising through ranks that ultimately end in the authority of priesthood in the witch realm. Rituals vary between sects, but magic may include old folk healer practices and spells passed down generation to generation, or new spells and approaches to magical manifestation; Wicca magic is not static. Features of Wicca magic often incorporate herbs, candles, tarot cards, magical oils, incense, or crystals. Members conduct important rituals surrounding new and full moons, equinoxes and solstices, Halloween, the beginning of February, Mayday, and the beginning of August. The eight solar holidays, or sabbats, are all very important, comparable in weight to the 26 lunar ones (about two per 28 days), depending on the individual group’s tradition. Meditation, the sharing of a ritual meal, and rites involving ceremonial magic to invoke help from the deities are also important components. Some versions of Wicca are polytheistic, with collections of deities from around the world, many belonging to the Roman and Greek pantheons, while other versions are strongly monotheistic, worshipping only the Goddess. Some are duotheistic, worshipping one goddess and one god. Wicca can also be pantheistic, meaning that there is no individual God; rather, the universe as a whole is God, as the combined substances, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe. Many Wiccans abide by the ethical code called the Rede, which states, “If it harm none, do what you will.” Though medieval witchcraft was inextricably linked to Satan, the term “witch” in Wicca has different connotations.

While Gardner pulled heavily from the witch crazes and trials of medieval Europe, the modern witch or Wiccan presents much differently. In the past, witches were those who made a pact with the devil and practiced harmful magic on the world around them. When one thinks of a time period characterized by witchcraft, images of bubbling cauldrons and broomsticks may appear. The era is better characterized as one of rampant fear and hardship. The citizens of Europe were indeed terrorized, but not because of women’s supposed weak morals and subsequent susceptibility to the devil’s seduction. The severe weather patterns, droughts, blights, famines, and the spread of disease were caused by natural phenomena. People’s fear of the devil was very real, and witchcraft seemed like a logical way of explaining the cruel state of the world without the scientific information that exists today. Accused witches were women 80 percent of the time, and many were already alienated members of society who made easy scapegoats. The use of torture often brought about false confessions, and, in a cyclical way, these confessions provided more “evidence” that the devil was present.

Dr. Margaret Murray was a British folklorist commissioned to write the entry on witchcraft for the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1929. Instead of delving into the plethora of competing, though not necessarily comprehensive, accounts and works on the matter, she spun her own tale and presented it as if it were the leading mainstream theory. She accounted that “witches had been up to something of which society disapproved, but it was in no way supernatural; they were merely members of an underground movement secretly keeping pagan rites alive in Christian Europe.” Although her story wasn’t fantastical in its reductionist, rational approach, it forced the imagery of broomsticks, animal costumes, representations of the devil, and other coven gatherings into public consciousness. Once Murray’s work was reprinted and became influential to well-known authors of the time as well as filmmakers, journalists, novelists, and thriller writers, the individual reader or viewer’s imagination could run wild. And thus, with time, “Charmed,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” were born. Although Murray’s theories were later disproved, the modern witch became immortalized in popular culture. For whatever reason, we are pulled towards the supernatural and the unexplained. The disprovement of Murray’s theories left a vacuum in place of what was, for a short time, understood as an academic truth. And perhaps this excited people. Therefore, while Murray’s description of witchcraft lost credibility, the same witch now took on a host of potential identities and truths in the public realm of sensationalism.


Today, Wiccans exist in all shapes, sizes, and sects around the world. They have a large presence in the Western United States, and fortunately for those reading this, there is a large Wiccan presence right in our backyard in Manitou Springs. However, through the CC student poll, I found that only one person out of 75 identified as having ever practiced it, and said so hesitantly. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to collaborate with a self-described “Wiccan from the West Side.” While he is open about his practices, he wished to remain anonymous to be as candid as possible, so for the sake of this article we’ll refer to him by his chosen pen name, Witga. It’s important to remember that Wicca practices and devotion range largely between individuals and groups, and, like other religions, cannot be distilled into an all-encompassing experience. Nor should Wicca be trivialized to spells or sparkly Urban Outfitters crystals and other witchy aesthetics rampant in pop culture; even though some of these objects are used in ritual, the objects without the proper consideration of their role in the religion can be problematic. All that aside, Witga’s views open a window into an understanding of a spiritual section of the world that many are unfamiliar with.

“Am I a witch? I am witchy, doing witchy things, deliberately using magic daily in small ways and occasionally in large ways in my life … I don't generally say out loud that I'm a witch, because I don't feel the need to publicly claim the label, and I prefer to avoid the little battles I sometimes encounter when I name myself that way publicly.”

In an earlier discussion, Witga said that while he is open about these practices, he isn’t outwardly vocal about them out of the fear that the public judgement could impact his professional life. He discussed how his practice of his religion in the Southeastern part of the country was similar to his experience in Colorado Springs: “It’s relatively hard … and people have to be pretty dedicated to it for it to be worth the hassle, the social cost, and the potential economic cost.” By contrast, there is often a greater sense of acceptance on the West Coast. It’s not so much a question of whether you're a sorcerer, but rather “what kind of sorcerer, what flavor?”

“Am I a Wiccan, a more religious category than ‘witch?’ I have fully and happily participated for decades in Wiccan rituals and other events. I share the central tenet of the Covenant of the Goddess in my envisioning a world where all living beings are honored and cherished as manifestations of the Sacred.”

It’s important to note that although in the popular sense, witch or Wiccan seems to have a female connotation, gender identity is not a constraint. The fluidity in Wicca actually makes for a community of inclusion not reduced to a hierarchy of binaries. Because Wicca is so tied to the Earth, mother Earth, and is cognizant of the moon and of other seasonal cycles that often parallel cycles in the female body, it is easy to draw these conclusions. However, the celebration of such natural powers is not exclusionary—quite the opposite. Although Wicca does not have the same type of historical textual base as some other religions and, in some forms of practice, can consist of cherry picked, romanticized, and hyperbolized imagery of pre-Christian fertility cults, scholar Diane Purkiss argues that this unconventional fluidity doesn’t matter. That the development of Wicca was independent from classic academic approaches of “this is what happened” versus “this is what could have happened,” is actually liberating, as it exists separately from the patriarchy and from the traditional writing of history that is by men, for men. So in this deviation from traditional religion to one that values the Earth, feminism, and spirituality, anyone should be able to support Wiccan beliefs.

Witga explained his individual involvement with Wicca. Since moving to Colorado he has not joined a coven or other group. “Personal mystical experiences starting in my childhood let me know that magic is afoot in the world. Denying the evidence of my experience has always seemed illogical to me; I respect logic too much to not embrace magic in my life. I speak only of my own response to my own experience, and I have no desire to convince anyone else that there are such things as the mystical or magical, or to convert anyone to my ways of perceiving or naming.”

Much of his personal practice tends toward gratitude and deeper connections with the world around him. "I do magical things which may or may not have direct, physical effects on the world. Those magical things definitely do have effects on me personally, however, and the resultant changes within me cause me to feel, think, and act differently, thereby resulting in indirect but perceptible effects in my world. That is how my magic and logic combine in daily praxis.” It’s undeniable that our perceptions and attitude towards the world at a given moment play a large role in how we experience it.

Wicca is not confined to mysticism, but it can be an important aspect for those who practice. Witga offered an example of his practices:

“I happily lived in a house across the street from a college campus, but had to move to be closer to an aging family member years ago, and decided to rent my old house to college students. I loved my house for many reasons, one of the most magical being the boulders powerfully constituting much of its century-old foundation.”


He continued, “I was concerned about strangers occupying my former home, and I wanted to not worry about it all the time, so I performed magic, what I call witchcraft, on my house's space. This included putting a boulder at each of my yard's corners and other powerful places on the property.” As he placed the boulders, he said some words which “made a difference to my feelings about the safety of the house and the safety of the renters who would be occupying it.”

“The rituals I performed, along with the engaging effort of moving the boulders, valuably changed me. I felt calmer and surer about renting the house to strangers. I had a new body-memory of working to keep the house and its occupants secure. I was at once more relaxed about my new renting endeavor and also more aware and more vigilant about ways to keep it a safe place for all concerned.”

Magic was not the only way Witga had kept his house safe; he screened prospective tenants and checked references very carefully, in addition to adding new locks and an alarm system. “Over time, I added an inscription in new concrete at a doorway, welcoming specifically well-intentioned folks. This is at the core of my practice: magical work is not instead of mundane action, but in addition to and interwoven with it. They synergize with each other, with each affecting the other and their weaving creating something new that is not strictly of just one or the other.”

Witga finished the interview by explaining, “I have always lived in a timeless and temporal magical community of witches in a sense, even though I'm usually a solitary practitioner. My consciously experiencing and naming it that way is a function of my awareness of it and deliberate engagement with it.” With such dedication, it becomes evident that Wicca as a belief system can be integrated into one’s personal identity.


“I do magic because it makes me happier and more capable, just one more tool in my life along with psychology, physics, sociology, math, a car, a wrench, and electricity. I identify as a witch because it gives me a trans-generational sense of connection with other magic users and witches going forward as well as back in time,” Witga says. There has been a decline in the number of Americans practicing organized religion. Coupled with other factors, many theorize that this has led to a decline in community and a disconnect from “greater goods.” Using Wicca as a tool rather than a truth may be an appealing route for people looking for a larger connection outside more mainstream religion.

This piece can’t possibly serve a comprehensive explanation of the religion, nor is it meant to convince you to practice or not to practice Wicca. Rather, it seeks to shed light on a lesser-known religion and set of values and to give voice to at least one kind of identity within the Wiccan community. Wicca has a unique historical place at the crossroads of magic, other religions, and reckoning with history. No matter its origins or misconceptions, the foundational, universal aspects of Wicca lend to inclusivity and offer many opportunities for further exploration.

 Fill In The Blank Issue | April 2019