Last Thursday, I turned 20. It was a fairly mundane, ordinary day. I slept late, so I had to skip breakfast, but I made it to work on time. I didn’t have class, but I had to prepare for my upcoming exams, so I spent the day studying. The night before, just as the clock struck midnight, my friends handed me my gift: an SD card for my poor, storage-less computer. (Thanks guys, I needed it!) A few minutes later, as I lay in bed listening to a terribly written audio book, Justin’s mom and sisters called to sing Happy Birthday to me. I thanked them and fell asleep after I hung up. The next day, I went to work, stopped by my other job, and went to a review session for stats. Then I returned home to study and to freak out about my Clinical Disorders in Animal Models exam.
But when I spoke to Linda on the phone and she asked me how it felt to be 20, I didn’t feel like it was a regular day. I didn’t feel 20, either, necessarily. I felt something like the magnitude of my age. 20 isn’t a big birthday. You already can drive and but lottery tickets. You’re already a legal adult. By most definitions, 20 means nothing. But suddenly, in one day, I was no longer a teenager, officially. Not that I’ve truly felt like a teenager in a long time, but it still felt like a big deal to me. And I felt–I feel–like I’ve lost some sort of crutch, the last crutch I had. 20 may not mean much, and nothing will change as a result of this birthday. As evidenced by the normalcy of the day, my birthday meant little. I still had to take my exams, I still had to come home and figure out how to divide my time between all of my families. I will return to Yale in January and take classes as usual, and I will continue to live my life in much the same way for the next two years.
And that’s fine. But now more than ever, I’m realizing that this is it. In two and a half years, my life will not be cut and dry, planned out, and normal. I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do then. I don’t know who I’ll be, or where. I barely know what I want now, or if I’ll still want it. This is all coming very soon. And I can’t stop it, just like I couldn’t stop my 20th birthday. I feel confused, and lost, and completely uncertain. Afraid. I’m not a teenager anymore, and I have to start making decisions about the rest of my life. The rest of my life. Isn’t that terrifying? I have to accept the fact that I am a grown up: an actual adult who must make actual decisions that take into account the (not so) far off future and not just the right now future. And I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if I’m doing anything right and it feels as if I’m stumbling through the dark, hoping for the best.
Needless to say, somewhere in the middle of my mundane birthday, my quarter-life crisis hit me hard. I always thought I’d age with grace, but now I realize that I want nothing more than to go backwards and stop this whole process altogether. I’m still not sure how to deal with it, or how to deal with anything. I just know that my 20th birthday came and went. And although nothing really changed, it is going to all too soon. I cannot stop that, as much as I wish otherwise.
Until then, I have my 21st birthday to look forward to; another mundane day of studying, I’m sure.