My Uncle Joe, a former high school principal, claims that people leap from childhood to adulthood, moving from age twelve to age twenty, with nothing in between. He insists that this skip helps avoid the “unpleasantness of being a teenager,” or, more importantly for him, dealing with teenager-dom. Considering his past career, it’s obvious he’s joking, but when he mentions skipping thirteen through nineteen, it just seems like such a long time.
I suppose my Uncle Joe can welcome me back into the family, because it finally happened. I knew the date was coming up, but, somewhere in the back of my mind, I don’t think I really believed it would arrive (too much wibbly-wobbly from Doctor Who or something along those lines). But, as time tends to do, it passed, and on July 26th, I finally turned 20.
The day of my birthday itself was great. I slept in, had an iced coffee delivery from my mom, went out to dinner with two of my very good friends (thanks, Greca and Jay!), and, for the most part, just relaxed. I’m even still awaiting a mysterious birthday present from my little sister. Overall, my family and friends made the day wonderful. It wasn’t until the day after the fact that it hit me. I am no longer a teenager.
As it happened, I was working my summer job at the Staples in my hometown the day after my birthday, and, amid the customers flooding in that weekend for back to school madness, my mind was racing. I’m twenty, and I’m still working the same job I’d started when I was sixteen. True, this summer has been the one of my internship at Cambridge University Press (see my last post for some details on that!), but that moment’s realisation made me feel like I’d gone stagnant before I’d even started.
In part, this is probably due to the rapid and random arrival of articles about twenty-somethings (or twenty-nothings, if you’re me) I’ve been reading lately. Almost on cue, they began to spring up on my Facebook timeline: things twenty-year-olds don’t know, things twenty-year-olds should be doing, things twenty-year-olds should remember, etc. Standing behind the counter at my retail summer job, thinking of this flood of instruction and advice, it was easy for me to panic. And panic I did. But just a little.
Because despite what the articles say, twenty is still young. I still have time, and while I don’t plan on wasting it, I don’t plan on spending it stressing and fretting, either. I still want to write and publish a novel (or two, or three…), I still want to teach, and I still want to be happy. There are a number of different paths I could take to get there, and twenty is the start of the road.