Kaitlin’s Column: Four things I learned at 21


Kaitlin Ryan

This week, Kaitlin talks about her newfound love for spending time alone. Trying new things is just one part of this journey of self-love.

Kaitlin Ryan, Arts & Life Editor

I turned 22 on Oct. 10, and it’s factually correct and safe to say that this is the oldest I have ever been and felt, respectively.

Our perspectives change with age and I am no exception. At the beginning of college, I looked at seniors like they were old enough to be my parents. I thought I would definitely feel confident in my adult self and sure of where my life was headed by the time I turned 22. 

I feel so out of place as an adult, as if I am playing a character. It is similar to how I felt when I turned 18. 

Now, I laugh at the memory of me crying while listening to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” as midnight struck on my 18th birthday, because I no longer was “young and sweet, only 17.”

22 is not a joke. 22 is your 20’s version of 30. A slap in the face, but a necessary one at that.

I spent most of 21 very aware of the fact that it was more of a transitory year. A long-awaited party and then the crash of adrenaline that follows. The novelty of many things but one specific thing wearing off, that is 21. 

So as I sit back in my imaginary worn leather reclining chair and push back my circular spectacles, preaching of “the good old days” and “when I was your age” and complaining about my back, I will present to you four things I learned at 21. While it would have made for a more aesthetically pleasing title, I certainly did not learn 21 things. Forgive me. 

Grieve your old self and take time to build the new you.”

You need your own sense of style.

I spent so many years hating my closet and buying clothes because they were in style. What I came to realize was that fads fade fast. (Say that ten times). A relative of mine once told me that he used to get bullied for wearing Champion hoodies because they were “cheap.” Now, Champion is a multi-billion dollar company, according to macrotrends.com. Likewise, there are so many pieces of clothing I used to be embarrassed to wear that I now completely embrace as a part of my own aesthetic, like baggy jeans and t-shirts layered over long sleeves. The times that I took the biggest fashion risks were the same times that I received the most compliments. 

Kaitlin celebrates her 18th birthday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Kaitlin Ryan)

The more people around, the more alone you feel.

I waited over six months after my 21st birthday to stay out at a bar past midnight. With restaurants and any sort of nightlife shut down, I anticipated the day I could stand in a packed room and stand in line for 45 minutes for a drink. Then, I did it. I realized it was just as bad as it sounds with this new perspective. Spending time with a few people who genuinely care about you is much more fulfilling than temporarily losing your hearing just to say you were there. It is all about quality over quantity.

You are all you have

It is good and bad, but people do not care about what you do as much as you believe they do. You may be afraid to raise your hand in class because of what the person that sits behind you will think of your nervous voice. They are not listening to you. On the other hand, maybe you don’t feel fully confident in yourself because you are waiting for someone to give you their approval. They are not thinking about you. People are selfish by nature, but they do have good hearts. At the same time, while they do not care about what you do, they will not judge you for publicly having your own personality and passions. There is nothing wrong with taking time to look inward and self-reflect. It is not shameful to ask for help. You are the only constant in your life for the rest of it, so take care of yourself. 

Aging doesn’t have to be scary.

Kaitlin celebrating her 16th birthday. This week, she reflects on what she learned at 21 and reminds readers that aging doesn’t have to be scary.

My mom always reminds me that she feels perpetually 18. You don’t have to suddenly become the embodiment of the color beige just because you are getting older. Filing taxes doesn’t make you lifeless. Getting a full-time job doesn’t have to be so daunting. Grieve your old self and take time to build the new you. There is no guide to life that says you have to grow up. Keep watching the shows you loved when you were little. Call your parents and tell them you miss them. Don’t think too much about the number.

Getting older has always scared me. I remember on my sixth birthday, I cried about the fact that I was no longer five. The idea of a number defining my entire being then fleeing away never to be mine again terrified me. But it is just a year. Don’t put too much stress on it.