I turned 21 recently. I woke up, looked in the mirror and stood before me was a 21-year-old. Bizarre. My whole life is flying by and I feel like if I blink, I might miss something.
“Oh, hello husband, hello children, hello mortgage and bills and lots of things that I can only dream of right now.”
I am currently in my third (and final) year at university and the pressure is officially on. Will I get a 2:1? Will I get a First? Do I have a job to go back to when I leave this place? Who will I live with? Where will we live? There is so much to think about in regards to the future but there is also so much going on in the present. Do I have time to think about those things in amongst essays and films I’m making and essays? Should I be making time? I’m not. I have updated my LinkedIn profile (though I still can’t find an appropriate picture for it; I really must get on that) but that’s the full extent of everything I have done recently to secure my future. I did try asking a friend about living together but she is conveniently ignoring every attempt I have made at communication. I am officially panicking about this adult thing.
My birthday was lovely. The Sunday before, my parents and brother came down to see me at uni and threw me a little shindig at my flat. A few friends came and there was a lot of cake and non-chocolatey foods (I gave it up for Lent) and it was fab. I felt very loved and spent the new few days feeling all light and jolly.
My actual birthday, the following Tuesday, was equally lovely. I had five hours of uni but, in between lectures and workshops, two friends took me to high tea which was well worth the £12 I paid for it because I was full for the rest of the day! I was surprised with thoughtful gifts and a balloon and my friends wrote nice things about me on the internet. It was perfect.
I didn’t feel like turning 21 was that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. After all, there is nothing I could legally do that I couldn’t before, what with the legal drinking age being 18 here in England. I think I can hire a car now but I don’t have a license so that’s not overly helpful. I did have a few expectations though and, since turning 21, I’ve realised that it is definitely not what I expected.
Growing up, you look at 21-year-olds and think they have their lives together. They have just left education, they are getting jobs, most of them are in relationships that look like they’re pointing towards marriage and they seem like the perfect people. Your parents and grandparents and every adult you know says that they wish they were 21 again so you expect it to be magical. You expect to know what you’re doing and to have fun 24/7 and to have no worries or stresses in life.
Don’t get me wrong: that happens a bit. I go out and drink and dance and play pool (badly) from time to time. Sometimes, I even think “meh, that can wait” about things I’m stressed about. Other times, I know exactly what I’m doing; I know how to reference essays and how to pay my bills and how to pretend you’re doing things really well even though you’re definitely not (aka blagging).
What I don’t have going on, however, is the confidence you expect to have at 21. I thought I should know who I am at 21. I expected to feel free and happy in myself at 21. I assumed that I would have everything figured out at 21. I don’t. I know that, slowly but surely, it’s coming. I have also realised, through growing up and observing other people, that most people are never 100% confident and that’s okay, that’s normal. I’m gradually beginning to realise the things about myself that are kind of alright and the things that aren’t, the things I like and the things I don’t.
At 21, you don’t have to have your life together. At 30, you don’t have to have your life together. You don’t even need to have your life together at 60. I guess I’ve realised, since turning 21, that as long as you’re a good person, as long as you don’t hurt yourself or others, you can take whatever time you need to figure out what you want to do. If you want to change career a few times, go for it. If you decide to stay in education your whole life, I won’t stop you. If you move from place to place, safe journey.
Not to be too cliche (though when I am not), age is just a number. Do what you want, when you want. Be happy, be responsible and, most importantly, be kind. The rest will work itself out.
Oh, and for anybody wondering, the title is a Gilmore Girls reference. Duh.