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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Oswego chapter.

Please note, this article contains brief descriptions of depression.

I turned 21 last week. You always hear about people’s crazy adventures for their 21st birthday—how they went out, how they were so excited to finally have all this freedom. I felt more terrified than excited, though.

I was terrified because for the last eight months, I’ve been incredibly depressed. Life got really hard out of nowhere. The last thing on my mind was my birthday. My 20th was fun, but I don’t really talk to anyone from that time anymore. Everything got flipped on its head and I barely knew who I was, let alone who I would become. How did I know if 21 was going to be any better? Would my friends actually celebrate with me? Would I be happy in the moment rather than dwelling on the past? Would my partner understand why my birthday was such a difficult time for me?

This isn’t to mention the existential dread that comes with getting older. 21 isn’t old by any means; it’s the beginning of everything, when you really figure out who you’re becoming as a person. That doesn’t erase the reminder of your mortality, though. Birthdays have always been difficult for me in that sense; it’s a fun idea, but it terrifies me to think I’ve pushed myself one year closer to… what, exactly? The thing is, these fears and the intense sadness I’ve been experiencing melted away once I got to be around my partner and friends. They were able to remind me just how beautiful it is to be alive. With how difficult this past year has been, I deserve the treatment I got last week. My partner was gentle and understanding in my low moments and my friends were able to quickly lift me back up. I got to know that no matter what was going through my head, whether it be my thoughts on mortality, my fears for what comes next, or my sadness for what I lost, right now is what I should be focused on. I figured out that the only way to enjoy what I have is to look at it from an outside perspective and know that while things hurt right now, it’s going to get better. My 21st ended up being my best birthday yet, and while I’m still struggling with my mental health, I know that I actively want to get better, if only to get to my 22nd.

Tess (they / them) is a senior theater and creative writing double major at SUNY Oswego. They love reading, hanging out with friends, and writing in their free time.