The Eleventh Hour: An Ode to Being 20

Now, I know that turning 21 is a big deal and a milestone that almost everyone looks forward to, at least in the United States. And for good reason—turning 21 comes with more independence. Not only can you drink, book a hotel room, and update your license, but you are also regarded more as an adult. Most people don’t think of that beforehand, though; rather, they solely think about the fun aspects of being 21 and wish away their days in futile efforts to get there sooner.

Believe it or not, I have never bothered with wishing away the first 20 years of my life. Not to sound pretentious (I would say I’m not, but unfortunately, I am), but I never minded waiting simply for the fact that I have been too busy enjoying my current age to try to travel in time to wish it away. 

Unsplash It pains me how the age of 20 is overlooked. I blame 16 for hyping up the ages around it with accessibility to new parts of life: 16 brings driving, 17 invites R-rated movies, 18 means adulthood and voting, 19 is the end of high school and the beginning of college or work, and then there’s 20. Often referred to as the year of waiting for 21. 

But 20 is incredible in its own right. While there are no newfound tangible freedoms to be had, there is the entrance into a new decade of life and an opportunity to begin a new chapter. 

Now, as I am about to turn 21 (by the time this article is published, my birthday will have already passed), I am reflecting on the remarkability of being 20. It is a time to still be figuring out who you are––starting with an open mind to trying new things. Though as a 20 year-old who lived through a pandemic, I feel like I still got to do so much this past year—I drove a jet ski, started a novel, and went skydiving. The value of the year has less to do with age and more to do with what each individual does with the year. 

I was having a conversation with someone I love, and they told me that 21 is a big deal partially because it is the last birthday people look forward to––the last time it’s psychologically exciting to be a year older. I laughed, saying how excited I would be for my 22nd birthday (Taylor Swift-style). He told me that wasn’t the point; the point is that humans become excited about getting older only to an extent before their existential crises kick in.

Haters Taylor Swift Giphy While I’m sure that’s true and getting older can be a scary thing (Alexa, play “Ribs” by Lorde), I don’t believe in excitement over birthdays because they mark another year passing, but rather because they signify an entire day to celebrate yourself and remember all the love that surrounds you. It’s a day of self-love and excitement over doing something special to celebrate all that you’ve overcome and all that you are. Birthdays mark not only age, but all the love meant just for you.

My time as a 20-year-old during quarantine has been exactly that. I am very fortunate to come from a loving home, and it was the small moments while living with my family that made me fully appreciate just how lucky I am to be loved so much. While 20 wasn’t exactly what I could have predicted given the state of the world, it provided me with everything I didn’t know I needed. 

Life, regardless of what age you are, is about making the most of what you have. Even though there wasn’t much to do during the pandemic, I embraced my time with my family and developed new music tastes, new passion projects, and more layers to my character. I loved and was loved.

Looking back, I am thankful for every second of this age, just as I am for all the moments left to come.

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