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A 19 Year Old’s Thoughts on Turning 20

I used to hate my birthday. Not because I hated the process of aging, it is an inevitable thing that everyone on the planet has to deal with so why should I freak out about it? Generally, I hated my birthday because I’d never actually celebrated it in a way that I wanted. Most of my birthdays had been spent with my family, which was not cool in high school. I would be eagerly waiting for my parents to come home from work so we could cut a cake and go out to dinner together. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve made new friends that I celebrate my birthday with every year and I do willingly spend a portion of the day with my family. I don’t hate my actual birthday anymore. Now, I hate the fact that I’m getting older.

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After freshman year of college, I finally turned 18. I am almost 2 years younger than everyone in my class so I had never felt old until then. It wasn’t a big deal, I joked that I couldn’t lie about being a high school student anymore. Now that I’m turning 20, however, it feels like I’m leaving behind a big part of my life that I’m never going to get back. It feels like I’m closing the door on something I never took advantage of.

I understand that at 20 I will still be young and will still have my whole life ahead of me but I have always been an over-thinker. I can’t help but think that I will soon be too old to play on the swing-set by my house, too old to play Legos with my little brother, too old to still be reading young adult novels, too old to still dress the way I do and too old to still have the childish attitude that I have right now. To truly understand how much of an over-thinker I am, you should know that my birthday isn’t for another eight months. I am not even halfway through being 19, and I’m already freaking out about turning 20.

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My biggest fear about turning 20 is that I am not going to be able to have fun. My friends and I will move away from each other to get our own jobs and I’ll have to start spending time with myself. I will probably make friends at work that I can hang out with but these friendships will always seem forced. I won’t have low maintenance friends anymore that I can watch TV or eat takeout with. These people will slowly disappear. I’ll watch TV and eat takeout by myself. I also fear I’ll have to let go of the small and silly things I do for fun; like sliding around in fuzzy socks on the tile floor of my apartment, riding on the back of the cart when I’m grocery shopping, or making up weird dances when I’m home alone and listening to loud music. If I can’t imagine my parents (who are real adults) doing any of this, I can’t imagine doing it myself when I’m an adult.

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Recently, I expressed my concerns to a slightly older friend of mine who has been through this and he told me that as he’s getting older, he is only becoming a bigger child. He’s taking on more responsibilities but he is balancing them out by doing whatever childish things make him happy in his free time. We went to Target together last week and as we were filling our cart with adult groceries like laundry detergent, tin foil, and various other things that I always assumed came with an apartment, and we strolled through the toy section as well. Along with his very grown-up purchases, he bought two Star Wars light sabers for us to duel with later.

He is very loud and proud of the fact that he still enjoys some of his childhood hobbies and people are attracted to him because of it. Too many people put on a mask to make themselves look older and more mature than they are so they are taken seriously in the adult world. Too many people miss out on a significant part of their youth because they’re scared of being judged by older people who have forgotten what it’s like to have mindless fun. My friend has made many new friendships since leaving college and I think it’s because he hasn’t let go of the part of him that still like to have immature fun and because of this, people are comfortable taking their masks off around him.

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I’m a kid. I don’t think even adulthood can take that away from me. I don’t have to change overnight to be an adult. Turning 20 and leaving my teen years behind won’t be as drastic as I had initially imagined. I won’t suddenly wake up and be a put as put together an adult as my parents are. It’s not such a scary and sudden change, it’s a gradual process. Right now, I like who I am, it’s fun holding onto the spirit of a kid. And who’s to say that I’m too old to have fun? I’ve decided that I’m not too old to play on the swing-set by my house, to play Legos with my little brother, or to be reading the books that I enjoy. I’m going to be an adult for the rest of my life; I shouldn’t make it a miserable experience.

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Alishbah Arsalan is a graduating senior at Rutgers University majoring in Health Administration and minoring in Human Resource Management.
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