The Scary Reality of Turning Twenty

 I never thought turning twenty would feel so scary. I’m becoming an adult and gaining more independence, what’s not to love about that? While turning twenty is often overshadowed by the more exciting eighteen and twenty-one, turning twenty is still a big deal. At eighteen you are still young and clueless, wondering what your debut into adulthood will look like. At twenty-one you have your first legal drink in a local bar toasting to the hopeful future to come. Both ages promise hope on the horizon. Both ages look to the future with the prospect of better things to come, but twenty does no such thing. Twenty tells the brutal truth- you aren’t getting any younger. 

I used to long for adulthood and independence- as any child does. I wanted to drive my own car, live in my own house, buy whatever groceries I wanted. I was excited for the future where I made all the decisions. Now that I’m turning twenty, I am realizing I don’t get to call the shots. My bills tell me what groceries I will buy this week, and my bank account makes sure I feel tremendous guilt when I “treat myself”. The people who tell you adulthood is freeing have never been to the dentist and looked at the bill. 

As I “level up” another year, I feel the pressure of adulthood waiting just around the corner. As I slowly inch into more and more responsibility, I feel the weight of my decisions pressing against me. While I will never be completely left to fend for my own (thank you Mom), it still feels suffocating to remember the long list of bills that have to be paid. Adulthood is beginning to feel like a tax I’m forced to pay. 

I’m stuck between two worlds. I want to exist in both the comfort of childhood and the independence of adulthood. I want to carve out my own path without paying for my health insurance. I want to buy my own groceries without seeing the bill. In all fairness, as children we glamorized adulthood. We forgot to take into consideration the cost of living independently. Our parents did a good job hiding their stress. They told us to follow our dreams without telling us what those dreams would cost. Granted, if the world had been honest about the reality of being an adult, we’d all be stuck in Neverland. I know I would still be sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows with the Lost Boys. 

And maybe that’s the beauty of growing up. We anticipate its arrival and take the reins from a generation ready to retire. We take care of them as they once cared for us. Life comes and goes in cycles, I suppose. 

I think about the future a lot. So much so that I often forget what it’s like to live in the present. I’m trying this next year, with my teenage years under my belt, to take time and smell the roses. To bask in the joy of being twenty. I know that one day when I am gray, I will wish back the chaotic, restless years of early adulthood. I will wish for an easy life. I will wish for a time when my joints didn’t ache.  

But just as I become cynical about my future, I remember the privilege it is to live another day. Not everyone gets the opportunity to grow old and experience life- even when it sucks. I understand feeling scared about turning another year older. But with one more year comes another chance to love the little things in life that make us happy. You still get to taste ice cream. You still get to watch your favorite comfort movie. You still get to hug and kiss your loved ones. Every age comes with its pros and cons. Make a list and think about what you’re grateful for as you achieve another year around the sun.

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