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On Turning Twenty

I’m turning twenty, six years after I thought I was an adult. I’m turning twenty, five years after my first boss assumed I was. I’m turning twenty, four years after I decided twenty-one wouldn’t be the age I was allowed to drink. I’m turning twenty, three years after I graduated high-school, two years after I started college, one year before I finish my undergraduate degree.

It’s an odd age to turn. You’re done with your teens, but you’re not a real adult. You’ve been able to vote, enlist in the army, get a credit card, go to R-rated movies, live on your own, sign for yourself, for two years. But you’re not real.

When you’ve been treated like an adult until proven otherwise, for so long, how do we handle the disappointment of still being just out of reach? For me, a twentieth birthday means twenty invitations to get drinks, that I have to turn down. It means more interns thinking they know more than me, because they’re older. It means another conversation where I break someone’s expectations of my age, and rather than being impressed, it feels like they’re disappointed that I’m not good enough for that age bracket—as if it’s something I can choose any more than I’ve convinced myself I can.

Turning twenty is a reminder of what I can’t do, of the respect I don’t have, of the accomplishments I haven’t accomplished, yet.

Our generation was raised on extra-curriculars and the internet and unrealistic expectations. We’re in the era of internships and thinking of a future we can’t afford. The inherent idea of national security was taken from us when we were toddlers, or conceived, or tweens. The thought of equality was stolen just before we could vote, or just after we could, or just when we cared for the first time (but didn’t make a difference).

We’re raised to be older, but not quite allowed to be. And I don’t quite have a solution to my own frustration.

When I wonder out loud about it, I come up with “just keep on keeping on,” and “age doesn’t define you,” and “don’t worry what other people think” But none of those satisfy me. I ask my roommate and she suggests, “you can have fun without alcohol.” I tell her “that’s not the point” and she agrees.

I think the closest thing to a resolution I have is the reminder to live in the present. It’s something I struggle with on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis (there I go again), but it’s good to at least try and keep in mind.

Sure, next year I’ll be a part of the club, next year I’ll be graduating, next year I don’t have to be successful but. But—this year I’m doing a lot. This year is exciting, just like last year was, and the year before that.

I'm a senior at Emerson College, in an individually designed interdisciplinary program called Writing and Publishing on Inequality. You can catch me at school, culture writing, editing, or acting as a HerFuture Mentor here on HerCampus; doing economics research; writing for a data science company; co-running The Ethical Employment Company; or catching up on Netflix.
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