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December 20, 2012
College Voices
Metamorphosis - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Michela Hunter
Freshman, Brigham Young University

I scrubbed the stove drip trays with vigor, cursing the charcoal-like food residue that was fused to the metal. I had figured I would probably get one of the more tedious jobs for cleaning checks this month—not that they aren’t all tedious; but the oven-and-stove job wasn’t exactly one I’d been looking forward to, provided the number of cooking spills that occur on our stove on a regular basis.

Once I was through with the kitchen, it was time for this month’s bathroom assignment―chiefly, mopping both bathroom floors. Cinderella had birds and mice to help her, but I think I can at least pride myself on my superior singing. Cleaning is always so much more fun when you blast music to dance along to as you do it.

That day, if you stepped out into the hall, you could hear all the apartments buzzing with the sound of vacuum cleaners and smell the acrid scent of cleaner mixed with the burnt smell of the self-cleaning ovens. Everyone usually waits to clean their apartment until the day of cleaning checks—they kind of have to, or it’ll just get dirty all over again if they clean it any earlier. You can always tell (in our building at least) what day is cleaning check day.

People have told me that cleaning checks at BYU are brutal, and they weren’t lying. No matter what job you get each month, you should expect thorough, meticulous tasks that at first seem kind of ridiculous—what is the point of having to pull your bed away from the wall and vacuum behind it every month? Or scrub the walls or vacuum the corners of each room or in between the couch cushions?

My roommates and I aren’t exactly Disney princesses when it comes to cleanliness, but I wonder sometimes where all the dust and grime and disgusting comes from every month. There is a good reason for the extensiveness of cleaning checks, and a good reason why we have them. Still, no one really likes them. They always come at perhaps the worst possible times (like the week before finals) and take forever to complete—sometimes longer, if you don’t pass and have to redo something. It reminds me a lot of hated times spent cleaning our house when I was a kid.

When I was little, my least favorite day of the week was Saturday. Oh, sure, we didn’t have school; and overall the day wasn’t bad. It generally proceeded the same way every week: my little sisters and I, displaying that uncanny knack of elementary school children for rising before the sun no matter how late they’ve gone to bed, would creep downstairs (being careful not to wake our parents), turn the sound on the TV way down, and amuse ourselves for a few hours by playing on our GameCube (and later, when we got one, our Wii). Sometimes we would all play Super Smash Brothers, MarioKart, or MarioParty together; sometimes three of us would munch cereal on the sofa and watch while one of us (usually me, the bossy older child) would play a one-player game.

And then our mother would inevitably ruin the fun by coming downstairs and, just as I was squaring off with a temple boss in Zelda, announcing, “Okay, it’s time to turn that off and get ready to do Family Cleaning Day!”

I hated Family Cleaning Day; all four of us did. It always took a huge chunk out of our precious video game time (we were only allowed to play on the weekends or breaks from school and never on Sundays); it was hard; it was boring; Mom was always telling us what to do; and what was the point of cleaning when it was just going to get messy all over again?

But Mom was boss, and so to work we went, grumbling and complaining and working hastily, so we could get back to our video games as soon as possible.

Sometimes, I can feel my grouchy little video-game craving, anti-housework self beginning to surface again when I get that monthly email labeled “Heritage Halls: Cleaning Assignment for [Insert Month Here]”. I can taste the old impatience that I never really conquered as I read over the assignment and realize how much time it’s going to take to do, feel the beginnings of stress and a little panic as I calculate what day we’ll be having these cleaning checks and realize I have a test the next day and a million other things to do that same week.

And then I think about Family Cleaning Day, and about how much longer cleaning checks would take me if my mom hadn’t insisted on having it every week and teaching me how to clean, and I know it isn’t going to be quite that bad.

Cleaning checks still aren’t exactly fun, especially when you’re busy. But now that we have them, I understand well why my mom made me do Family Cleaning Day in the first place. It’s something that I’m beginning to recognize in various parts of my life as I face new responsibilities that I’ve never had before.

Though I’ve been at college for an entire semester now, it’s still difficult to come to terms with the fact that I’m an adult now and can do—quite literally—whatever I please. I mean, really, my parents are across the country—what are they going to do if I suddenly decide to go inactive, or never shower or let my grades tank because I’m feeling lazy? It’s freedom—absolute, unlimited freedom—freedom of the kind that I’ve never had and don’t quite know what to do with.

If it weren’t for all of the things I’ve learned up until now, I’d probably be pretty lost. It’s not just how to clean and cook; it’s how to make decisions, how to be social; how to follow the principles my parents have taught me even though they aren’t watching me; how to take care of myself when I’m sick; how to organize my schoolwork and social life and church callings and sleep each day into an increasingly fleeting period of twenty-four hours.

It’s hard to believe I’m now an adult and am responsible for myself; I really didn’t think much about it even up to my graduation from high school. I don’t know what I thought—that I’d just magically stay young forever, maybe—but now that I’m grown-up and at college, it doesn’t feel at all the way I imagined it would. There are times when I still feel like—well, like a kid. In some ways, I still am a kid, a naive, doe-eyed kid, and I still have a lot to learn.

But every day I wake up feeling less like a kid and more like the adult I’m supposed to become someday. That doesn’t mean I’m forgetting how to have fun—rather, that I can feel myself stretching, breaking, being molded into something bigger, better, greater, than I could ever have been if I’d stayed cocooned in the shelter of my parents’ home and hadn’t learned to grow.

Sometimes, I really want to retreat into that cocoon; it’s not exactly comfortable all the time, this new growth. But I know that if I try to, I won’t fit. I’ve already changed so much. I’m still changing so much, and the thing is, this metamorphosis is such an adventure that I don’t want to go back now, no matter how small or nostalgic I feel sometimes.

Now that I’ve glimpsed her, I can’t help but be curious about what the person I’m going to be will do, what she’ll accomplish, how she’ll affect the people around her, whether she’ll make her kids do Family Cleaning Day no matter how they groan. And I can’t help but continue along the path that will lead me to become her, I know there’s no turning back. It's all right; I'm excited about what lies ahead, and I know I'm in the right place to discover it. I can’t wait to meet that person one day. I bet she's really going to be something else.

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