Birthdays. They come and they go every year; some people dread them, and some people wait for them in excited anticipation. My relationship with my birthday has always been kind of fickle. I always get really excited for it the week before and end up having all the big expectations for how it will go down. And, of course, if almost never goes as planned. One time I ran into my ex-boyfriend when I went for birthday-morning brunch with my friends. Another time, all my friends forgot and even though they tried to recover from it, I never really did. Last year, the boy I was seeing decided it was the perfect time to tell me he didn’t want to start anything serious. And, one time, when I was seven, my brother blew out all my candles for me and smashed my face into my cake. Which was chocolate, which I hate.
Still, every year I come in with expectations and a positive outlook. This year, the year I finally turn 21, my birthday already has the mother load of expectations placed on it. Turning 21 means something, and it’s not just that I can officially, legally, go out and buy myself a bottle of wine to drink in entirety by myself on a Wednesday night. It means finally being able to be an adult, to go out to clubs and bars and meet other adults. Men who might actually be ready for a real relationship. And friends that exist outside of the bubble of Emerson and the college atmosphere. People who aren’t chained to class schedule and dorm rooms; it means that I will soon not be chained to these things either. I would argue turning 21 means entering a new era of your life.
So does that mean it requires a little reflecting? It seems nowadays the pressure to be successful and financially stable at a certain age is slowing slipping younger again. When I was growing up, it was all “your twenties are for being young and stupid and for making mistakes!” But now, with the looming climate catastrophe and an omnipresent economic collapse on the horizon, the expectation to have your sh*t together and “land that career making job at just 23” or even right out of college seems to be all I hear these days. My motivation is draining, and I can’t find anything to replenish it. I look back on these two and a half years in college and the one and a half I have left to go, and I wonder if I’ll have any energy to actually have a life after. I turn 21 in less than a week, and this is all I can think about. Am I the only one? Is this just me stressing myself out and worrying about a future I have no immediate control over? College Magazine lists spending more money, people referring to you as an “adult” all of the sudden, and a tendency to depend less and less on your parents among the “10 Things That Will Inevitably Happen to You When You Turn 21.” While the Huffington Post claims that turning 21 means more doors start opening up for you, I feel like from here on it doors will inevitably start closing. To me, turning 21 starts the stopwatch that counts down the minutes I have to achieve all my dreams before their gone forever. Finding a life partner, realizing my professional aspirations, making enough money so that I can take care of my parents and family, have kids (maybe). I think I’m starting to realize that turning 18 is like playing at being a grownup, now it’s time to actually be one. And I don’t think I’m ready.