Last month I turned nineteen. So far, I can’t tell if I feel different at all. Many people label certain ages to have certain expectations, like the catchy “sweet sixteen,” and the infamous “nasty nineteen.” The “nasty nineteen,” so far has not been as exciting as I always dreamt it would be. I could blame it all on the pandemic, but really, there is a pattern seen in a lot of nineteen year olds where life becomes more intimidating. This age comes with a lot of strange feelings as the transition from teenage years to technical adulthood creeps its way over the course of the year.
What’s particularly baffling is how this age can vary for everyone. Some newly-aged nineteen year olds may be rethinking their sexuality, may be traveling the world, a lot are entering into student loan debt, and some may even be teen parents. This age comes with plenty of opportunities; like moving away, going to college, or starting a new job. One can only wonder how the working world outside of college is going to treat the variety of people coming out to play.
It turns out the everyday responsibilities that pile on with age may be the reason for so many millennial and zillennial’s life crises. In a 2016 study, the CDC says “Percent increases in suicide rates since 1999 for females aged 15–24, 25–44, and 65–74 ranged between 31% and 53%.” Suicide rates are rising and mental health is dropping with age, so anyone entering a daunting new year is already experiencing heavy lifting from early adulthood. It’s especially easy for nineteen year old women to wonder if the world has nothing to offer them besides taxed tampons and iced coffee. In teens who have or are experiencing mental health issues, there’s a communal feeling of wanting to die sometimes…but they have an assignment due and due to an engrained need to achieve high grades, are now carrying a crippling weight. It sure puts the “nasty” in “nasty nineteen.”
A lot of musicians capture these unique feelings of adolescence in recent albums and EPs. Bea Miller came out with her song, “wisdom teeth,” where she describes feeling “stupid,” or inadequate to her younger self. Because the song is a catchy pop song about finding yourself around the age of nineteen, “wisdom teeth” makes me feel like Bea’s my best friend. Even the singer Lorde says in her 2017 hit, “Perfect Places,” “I’m nineteen and I’m on fire…” which perfectly describes what it feels like to have so much freedom yet feel so lost at the same time. And with the added climate crisis, the world is going up in flames, so when I turned nineteen, it was easy to feel like walking in a fire.
Turning nineteen during COVID-19 has inflicted a weird stifle of freedom. In the years where I would be leaving the nest, I am smothered with four more years of school and financial expectations. Some studies have even found that over past decades, millennials and generation Zers are less sexually active than the people before them. It would be assumed that the deemed term “nasty nineteen,” would entail an increase in sexual activity, especially with the commonality of going to college, but it seems we’re ONLY getting the worst part of “nasty.” Hopefully, placing more restrictions and more value in societal contributions onto younger ages will not lead to later mid-life crises.
But, turning nineteen is what you make of it. Things may be burying us right now, but a year is a long time with a lot to look forward to. Hopefully, using current experiences (the Pandemic, mental health issues,) and music to cope, we can look back on our nineteen-year-old selves and be glad we went through what we did.