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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at West Chester chapter.

Both before and after turning 20 a couple days ago, you felt unsure how such a shift in age would come to you. Of course you don’t feel any different (yet), though you panicked over every new age you’d turned in years past, so of course “20” stood out like a sore thumb. The end of an era, middle and high school years that won’t repeat. An end to life’s chapter of steadiness and lack of responsibility. The same streets and same faces. This new decade is synonymous to life just beginning, though. New experiences, new faces and places that have both already happened this year and have yet to happen. New work opportunities, new surprises, a new life

You still remember when you’d cried for weeks leading up to your 18th birthday, blaring “Cigarette Daydreams” on repeat when driving home from high school senior year, while you were still 17. The same drive every day home is now forever ingrained in your memory.

You remember the slow dread that consumed you leading up to your 19th birthday, the final “-teen.” Too bad that Olivia Rodrigo’s “teenage dream” wasn’t out yet… but let’s not pretend that you liked her then, anyway. (Are there any songs about being 20?) Your 19th birthday was something you’d chosen to forget, to wash away as any other day as final essays, assignments and exams had overridden it. You actually drove home for four hours on May 5 last year, the final day of freshman year of college. That is a drive you intend on never making again, at least not for 50 years. At this point in your two decades of living, you often say transferring was the best decision you’ve made in life. If you had not, you can’t begin to imagine who you would have been, what you could have been like. The only word coming to mind is unrecognizable.

This 20th birthday of yours is a milestone. After everything that 19 threw at you, these lessons have since proven to you that change is not evil nor is it your enemy. Better yet, you’re okay. 

Relish in the fact that you have made it this far when you didn’t know how you would even push through your first semester at your new school (your family didn’t either). There is a different level of bliss that comes with proving everyone wrong — including yourself. 

Every new day that the sun rises is a testament to that. Your teenage years were certainly a time of confusion — much of it being overshadowed by the pandemic that consumed ages 15 through 18. The years before that, a faint dream. Like something from another life that you created, as life now is not even close to what it was then, and never will be again. 

20 is about accepting that that sort of change is okay; actually, it’s good. It’s beautiful. Nothing will ever be the same and you cannot go back, and I now look at that sentiment with a lighter heart. It’s hard to grasp the fact that everything can only really be experienced once — except that’s life — and that’s how you know you’re doing it right, all things considered. Living for a moment, knowing in the back of your mind it may not come again, and being more than okay with that.

Surprisingly, you didn’t cry leading up to, or even during your 20th, so maybe you are finally accepting how extraordinary change is, how extraordinary it is to be able to experience everything at once. Of course, you can try to repeat things, moments, memories, but they won’t come twice. That’s okay.

The ages ten and 19 are a wild dichotomy, so it’s beyond comprehension what 20-year-old you and 29-year-old you will be like in juxtaposition. I guess we’ll find that out in nine years, but for now: look at 20 as a reward for getting up and making it through each day again and again. Sometimes we think to ourselves that a thing or task is end-all be-all without appreciating or taking into account that we’ve made it another year. 

Your teenage years were certainly scattered, messy, all over the place, gorgeous and memorable and life-altering but everything in between is why you are who you are today. It’s worth appreciating. May our 20s be focused on further change, growth, happiness, love, dreams and ambitions.

Angelina Stambouli

West Chester '26

Angelina is a sophomore Communications Major and Journalism Minor. During her freshman year of college, she served as a staff writer, associate editor, and Pinterest Director for Her Campus at Gettysburg. Outside of Her Campus, Angelina serves as Vice President of WCU College Democrats, a Copy Editor for The Quad, a Hands Helping Paws volunteer, and is a member of Delta Phi Epsilon.