Thoughts on Turning 20

My birthday is right at the very end of the year, and as such, I turn a new age just before the new year starts, so it’s almost as if I’m hit twice as hard by the “it’s a new year” thing.  So, not only is it now 2014 but I’m also another year older.  For some reason, turning 20 is hitting me hard.  I always thought that 18 and 21 were the big birthdays around this time in my life, but I think 20 is a big year too, partly because it is overlooked and confusing.

In one of my psychology courses, we discussed how our culture doesn’t have a  defined moment when we become adults.  In some other cultures, turning “of age” is a big deal and is very specific.  But in western cultures, and especially in the United States, becoming an adult isn’t so clear-cut.  Some people claim that 18 year-olds are adults, others say you aren’t truly an adult until you turn 21.  And even then, it really just seems like just another birthday.  And yet, turning 18 didn’t seem like that big of a deal for me.  I mean, I realized that legally, I had more rights (and that there were greater consequences for some things), but I didn’t feel like I was an adult.  Nor do I truly feel like an adult even now that I’m 20.  But for some reason, it felt as if I was truly leaving childhood behind when I turned 20.  I think it is because I have completely left my teen years behind.  I’m now two decades old instead of a random number of years.  I’m in my 20s instead of my teens.  And that has rather unnerved me.

I realized over my vacation, partially because I turned 20 and partially because of things around me, that I am resisting growing up.  I don’t want to have to make decisions.  I don’t want to have to be 100% independent, although I have always valued my independence and previously couldn’t wait until I was truly free.  In many ways, I am still dependent on my parents.  They are paying for my undergraduate college and still take care of many things for me.  I don’t have a car, so when I’m home, I still rely on the cars that they own for transportation.  They still influence my decisions although when it comes down to it, it really is my decision.  But they certainly still steer me in the right direction.

In the past two months or so, a number of my friends have gotten engaged.  I think this is what has really influenced my resistance to growing up.  Here are people my age, some younger, some a year or two older than me, getting engaged, planning their futures with their future spouse.  I can’t imagine wanting that at my age, although I completely respect their decision to do so.  But each engagement reminds me (not so subtly) that I’m no longer a child or teen.

I know that growing up isn’t a bad thing and that there are wonderful things ahead of me.  I truly do believe that.  And I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that these changes are for the good and that, while there will probably be growing pains, I will someday look back on this time in my life and wonder where it went.  I know that for all of the wonderful things ahead, there will also be difficult moments, hard decisions, and tough times.  I’m sure that I will again feel these sorts of growing pains when I turn 21 and we enter 2015.  And as much as I’m resisting growing up, I’m also very excited for the future.  I can’t wait to have my own place.  I know that I want to have kids and be a mom.  I can’t wait to be financially independent, even though it also scares me half to death.  So I’m trying to live in the moment, to appreciate the coming year and to move forward without fear or resistance.