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My Teen Years Weren’t a “Teenage Dream” and That’s Okay: Reflections from a Soon-To-Be 20-Year-Old

My teenage years will officially be over on October 17, 2021, and I’ve honestly been struggling with that for a while. What was supposed to be the happiest, most fun, and free years of my life were definitely not that, but as I enter a new decade, I’ve finally become okay with that.

I remember being so excited going from being a pre-teen to turning 13. I had the boldest expectations of what the upcoming years would be like and what my new title of “teenager” would mean for me. I almost expected a switch to be turned on and suddenly be living the extravagant teenage dream that I had always fantasized about. Of course, this didn’t happen, and I then began looking forward to becoming a high schooler.

I can’t lie and say that high school for me was absolutely terrible, because I definitely had some great moments and met my best friends who I couldn’t live without, but it also wasn’t at all how I imagined it would be. High School Musical ring a bell?

Weekends that I had originally anticipated to be at a football game or going out were usually spent at home. Most days were fairly mundane and followed the same routine, which I wasn’t necessarily mad about, but I also was left feeling that I was missing out on something that everyone else was experiencing. I always felt like I could be, and should be, experiencing more and living my life more. But why? I was usually fairly content with either staying home or just hanging out with a few friends, but the expectations laid out for what a teenager’s life is supposed to look like really got to me. Still, at 19, I haven’t completely shaken this feeling of FOMO for a teenage dream that I’m not even sure exists, but I am slowly becoming more content with my life’s path and what really makes me happy.

The expectations I had for my teen years were pretty high, and like most people, I wasn’t exactly expecting the hard parts. For such a glamorized age, there were a lot of struggles that I was not expecting, both personally and in general. Being a teenager in this day in age can be difficult, to say the least. Like most people my age, I’ve pretty much grown up with social media, which added a whole new element to navigating young adulthood that no adults could really offer support in, simply because they didn’t understand it. Growing up and figuring out the world is a lot to handle and my teenage experience definitely hasn’t been all fun like I expected it to be – and that’s okay. Just because the past few years of my life might not have been as exciting as someone else’s doesn’t mean that my 20s, or any other time in my life, won’t be just as great. And even if it’s not, there are always some pretty great moments tucked in there somewhere.

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Tiffany Meh / Spoon

Although my teenage years didn’t exactly match up to what is shown in the movies, I learned a lot about myself and about the world. At the end of the day, I think that’s what being a teenager is really about.

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Elizabeth Tait

U Mass Amherst '24

Elizabeth is a sophomore at UMass Amherst double majoring in psychology and sociology. In her free time, she loves reading, watching sunrises at the beach, listening to music, playing tennis, and traveling.
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