Turning 21: Thoughts on Growing Up

A typical college student’s 21st birthday involves a full weekend celebration, partying with friends and enjoying the newfound freedoms of adulthood — the only thing I still can’t do yet is rent a car. For me however, when I turned 21 on Monday, I had a very different experience.

Every birthday since high school has felt dull, if not completely disappointing. I know that birthdays are supposed to be a big day of jubilee, celebrating another year around the sun, but for my nihilistic self, birthdays have just been a manifestation of growing closer and closer to old age.

I’ve never been excited about growing up, it’s always seemed like life gets more and more stressful. As kids, we spend our time preparing for the world, learning colors, figuring out how to socialize with people and discovering who we are. Yet, as we grow older and older, we’re more expected to have everything “figured out”.

I’ll be the first one to say, when you turn 21, you still don’t have anything figured out. I’m still just going day-by-day, hoping that it’ll eventually all make sense. I envy my future self who hopefully has a job, a house and a spouse, but until that becomes reality, I’ll still be terrified of what is to come.

Aside from the anxiety of the unknown, I’m more afraid of just being old. I’m eternally grateful that I’m still in my youth right now, and that I’m not considered an “older” person. I believe that fear is mainly physical. I’m not looking forward to seeing a doctor constantly or having unforeseen medical issues that come with getting older.

I like being young now, understanding the trends, deciphering Gen Z memes and being the ambitious voice of change in political society, but I know that I cannot prolong the inevitability of my own aging.

Fortunately, however, I do know that it’s not all bad. There are plenty of things that I’m excited about later in life. I look forward to being at the peak of my career, learning all that I can about the political machine, getting married, having kids and watching them grow up. I just think that I’ll have trouble confronting my own ailing body.

So for any college kids reading this, whether you’re excited for the future or terrified of it, just know that it’s coming no matter what you do, so it might help to be ready for it. Just don’t be too hard on yourself.