Coming of age in downtown Westfield

Sierra Byrne, Iris Commentary Editor

Be careful. Be safe. Call me when you get there! When the bell rang at 2:47 on a Friday afternoon I knew my weekend had started. I looked down at my phone to see where my friends would be gathering before walking downtown, but before I could text any of my friends, my mom’s text messages filled up the screen telling me to be careful.

Walking from EIS and going to “town” on a Friday afternoon marked the beginning of my freedom, but for parents, letting their children go into town alone for the first time was a scary thing.

From my perspective as a teenager, being able to go to town gave me my first taste of independence. I was able to walk down the busy streets without having my parents by my side.

For adults, I understand going to town on a Friday is a huge hassle. Countless teenagers stand in line at Starbucks ordering frappuccinos and overcrowding Baron’s as they buy their candy supply for the week. The number of teenagers that fill the sidewalks and street keep adults from completing their errands.

However, parents: I know going to town on a Friday after school lets out might be an inconvenience, but my friends and I have made the most incredible memories downtown that will last a lifetime.

As a 17-year-old now, looking back on my younger self, going to town taught me three life lessons: independence, freedom and responsibility. All three of these lessons will stick with me.

I learned from my experiences in town that being in a place with so many people without an adult hovering over me made me stronger. I felt less nervous being in a place with strangers walking all around me and cars driving everywhere. 

To put downtown Westfield in perspective: It is a mini New York City, with shops and restaurants and a lot of people. Growing up in a place with a constantly busy downtown made me more comfortable being around people I have zero connection or familiarity with.

I know some parents want teens to stop going to town because of the inconveniences it can cause, but these trips to town teach kids the valuable life lessons they need to grow up.

Thank you Westfield for the unforgettable memories. Thank you for being a place where I can learn and grow and be taught the most important lessons in life. Thank you to all the adults downtown for being patient as we gain our independence. Thank you to my parents for permitting me to go to town, even though you were worried, because it allowed me to become the person I am today.