Leaving Behind a Decade and Starting a New One: My 20th Birthday

On February 27th, 2021 I will be turning 20 years old.  When the clock ticks from 11:59 to 12:00 A.M. that day, I will officially have entered into a new decade of my life.  While no one really makes a big deal about this particular birthday, I have found it to be the scariest and most exciting one yet.  Everyone hypes up turning 16, 18, 21, 30, etc. but I have almost never heard anyone share their experience of turning 20.  While we are now about 5 days out from the momentous day, this birthday has been consuming my thoughts for a while now (and I am not talking about how I am going to celebrate or which fabulous outfit I will wear that day).  I have found myself falling into two distinct thought patterns surrounding my birthday: mourning and celebrating. 

Let's first talk about what I am mourning.  I thought when I turned 18, I would go through an existential crisis about no longer being a child.  And while I may have felt that a little bit, in reality I did not truly feel “seperated” from my childhood yet.  I was still a “teen”, I was still living at home and I still had nothing but time.  When I turned 19, I felt even less ceremoniously about it because it was just sorta this nice number in which I could officially declare that I was “well past” being legal.  But here is the truth about my upcoming 20th birthday, I feel this deep-seeded sense of sadness about leaving behind my childhood and the previous decade.  From age 10 until 19, there was so much that happened.  I loved myself and hated myself.  I failed so many times but I also triumphed so many others.  I played with Barbies and went to prom, all within the same decade.  I was a kid, a teen, and an adult all at once in this respect.  This past decade let me be everything at once, it let me grow and it gave me this sort of freedom that I will never get back in my life.  I could scream at the top of my lungs to songs about the plights of being a teenager (ok I am NOT giving up these songs once I am 20 let's be honest here) and relate to every single lyric because that's what I was, it was my world.  Everyone writes about being 16 and doe-eyed, and for every moment leading up to that age and in the few years after it too, you can identify with that.  But there is just something about turning 20 that makes me feel like I am going to have to completely shed that part of myself.  I will never be a teenager again.  From February 27th, 2021 and on, I will always be an adult.  I can’t long for the days when I am no longer a “tween” and am instead a real teenager, or for when I can finally respond “I’m an adult now, you can’t tell me what to do” on the arrival of my 18th.  I am leaving behind the magic, and the pain, of my childhood with this birthday.  I am leaving behind “me” in a lot of ways.  I struggle with the balance of living in the moment and also hating that I know that at this very second, I am the youngest that I will ever be again.  It's a blessing and a curse, knowing your time is going by right in front of you, and before I turn 20 I want to really allow myself to grieve the loss of my childhood and all the memories it encompassed.

Okay, so I am a Pisces and an Enneagram Type 4 so I can’t help that I got a little deep and moody just now but I swear I do have some positive things to say about turning 20.  While I am experiencing grief around this birthday, I am also experiencing such extreme hope and excitement that my heart feels like it may burst.  My childhood brought me a lot of wisdom and experience, for which I am grateful.  But entering my twenties means entering a decade that I alone control.  Neither of my previous decades afforded me the luxury of control of my own life.  I know that my 20s will be the time in my life in which I actually get to craft the future that I have spent the last 19 years dreaming of.  I don’t have to think in terms of “Once I graduate college then maybe I can do x, y or z”.  Or “Once I am a ‘big girl’, I can spend my money on what I want”.  The time for idly waiting is over, and I could not be more jazzed about it.  I am a “rip the bandaid off” kinda person, so the thought of FINALLY being able to actually work on and enact my dreams makes me feel elated.  I know that this decade is not one of waiting, it is one of doing.  While I don’t know exactly what the next decade will hold, I can make some (maybe too hopeful) guesses.  Being in my twenties may mean getting my dream job as a therapist.  It may mean finally having my own income and financial freedom.  It may mean that I may meet the love of my life.  It may mean finally taking all the vacations I have obsessed over.  It may mean that beautiful wedding I have imagined all these years.  It may mean owning a house that I can make my own.  It may mean having kids or a dog.  It may mean all of these things at once, or none of them at all.  But the beauty of it is, I know that these are the things that I want, and being in my twenties will allow me to grasp many of these free-floating dreams that have been orbiting in my universe my entire life.  Gosh, I am literally smiling as I am writing this, thinking about how close I am to doing so many of the things I have always wanted to do.  Being 20 means that for the bulk of the next 10 years, I will finally be more than an adult in namesake alone, and instead one of true power.  It means that I alone have the control over my life to shape it into exactly what I want it to be.  It means that I am going to be blessed with so many lessons, tears, friendships, excitement, fear, pain, experiences and more than I can even imagine.  It means that I am starting fresh, that when I emerge from my next decade I will be 30 and so much more formed than I am now.  This decade means my dreams are right there in front of me and I can’t wait to watch them come true.

Wow, I feel so many feelings about turning 20.  I am embracing all of them though.  You can hold grief and excitement at the same time.  You can cry and also dream.  I can love this age but also recognize what I am losing when I reach it.  My twenties are going to be amazing, and I just know I am going to love every beautifully messy moment of them.