Intense fear of adulthood

Question: I am almost 17 years old, starting my last year of high school. Recently, I’ve been obsessing over all the time that I’ve wasted. I am terrified of going back and finishing my last year because I haven’t chosen a career path. I also fear growing up because of the negative things associated with it, like going to university, getting a job, paying bills, and watching the people you love die and not being able to do anything about it. I am scared, tired, and despair that nothing will be okay. I pray to Allah to die before I turn 18. I do not want to suffer anymore, and being an adult will be ten times worse. But I also want to live because I don’t want to be denied Paradise. I wish that I could redo middle and high school all over again. When I see young people at my masjid especially, I get jealous and angry at myself.

Answer:Assalamu alaykum,

Thank you for your question. I empathize with your fear of growing up, and I pray that you can reconcile this soon and look to the positives.

First of all, I am very concerned about your wishing to die, and you should seek out a therapist or hotline immediately to help your deal with these feelings. Here are some resources in your area:

Please see these excellent links concerning despair and wishing for death:

Wasting time

Please look at your life from a different light. You have not wasted any time. The sheer example that you are about to complete high school and have been a believer your whole life means that you have a gift that millions of people don’t have. Your Islam and your education. This is not something to take for granted in the world we live in. My teacher once told me that his high school education was more important than his university education because it formed his understanding of the world around him. It was instrumental in his transition from childhood to adulthood.

The negatives of adulthood

You mention that the negatives of adulthood are numerous, but what about the positives? When a person grows up, they have much more freedom and choice, but with that comes responsibility. Would it make sense for a child to want to stay a child and never have those freedoms? Should decisions always be made for him? Similarly, does it make sense for an adult to go and come and spend as he pleases without any responsibility toward anyone?

Allah has honored the son of Adam with life and an opportunity to know Him and worship him. The biggest, greatest, deepest, and most unquestionable benefit, hands down, is that being a morally responsible adult can bring you closeness to Allah. This is something a child can never have, and this is something to be eternally grateful for.

Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said, ‘I live in the thought of My servant, and I am with him as he remembers Me.‘ (The Prophet) further said, ‘By Allah, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant than what one of you would do on finding the lost camel in the waterless desert. When he draws near Me by the span of his hand. I draw near him by the length of a cubit, and when he draws near Me by the length of a cubit. I draw near him by the length of a fathom, and when he draws near Me walking, I draw close to him hurriedly. [Muslim]

Turning back time

Allah, Most High, says, “As for those who repent, believe, and do good deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.“ [Qur’an, 25:70]

Ustadha Ra’idah Shah Idil mentioned, “A wise high school teacher told me once that instead of a “rewind” button for life, Allah gave us something better – He gives us the gift of repentance. Please know that Allah can transform all of your bad deeds into good deeds. No matter what happened in your past, know that Allah’s Mercy is greater than that. He loves you, even with all of your imperfections.“

Optimism, knowledge, and practice

Try to focus on the good that Allah has given you and know that you were never meant to be created as perfect humans. Allah wants our repentance, and this will draw you closer to Him; there is no other way to get close to Him. Start a gratitude journal and write what you are thankful for in it daily.

Take a course on the Prophet’s life and the people around him so that you can see that no one was perfect and that everyone strived to improve themselves until their last moments. Most importantly, pray to Allah to clear your thoughts and let you move forward with your life plans. Pray your prayers on time and the Prayer of Need before dawn.

Don’t worry about not having chosen a career path yet; this is not uncommon. Just get yourself to university and decide there. May Allah give you tawfiq and help you through this difficult time. Know that Allah loves you, that you have worth, and that you must rely on Him and be patient. Any time a negative thought plagues you, say, A`udhu billahi min ash Shaytanir Rajeem and the Devil will retreat from whence he came.

[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria, for two years, where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, Tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Master’s in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.