In two days, I will turn 20. I will enter a second decade of life and become one of the many people I now know in their “twenties.” The thought makes me sick — people in their twenties go to cocktail bars and iron their shirts. They have real bosses and real jobs and real friends with real bosses and real jobs. Scariest of all, they think about marriage and children and settling down.
When I look in the mirror, all I see is the 13-year-old girl who felt so old when she first shaved her legs. Who thought that getting her learner’s permit meant unlimited freedom and who smiled filling out her first W-2. I know I’m not the first one to realize the naiveté of youth, but I feel much closer to that girl than whoever I’ll be seven years from now.
The reality is I have had many experiences that prove my maturity. I’ve traveled, worked and lived alone. I’ve watched a parent die, driven cross country, backpacked and skied and SCUBA dove. I spent my last summer working alone across an ocean, and then the summer before that in a national park out west. I’ve had more odd jobs than I can count, from farmer’s market vendor to barista to hired singer. I have causes I care about, friends I cherish and family that have seen me grow into a more evolved version of myself. Short of falling in love, becoming a parent and running a marathon, there isn’t that much more on my bucket list.
But college has a weird way of keeping you young. Despite the work and job search and theoretical self-improvement, college has always reminded me a bit of summer camp. You live with people your own age, with no parents or rules. Sure, you go to class, but you also take the weekends off to enjoy. Short of academic integrity or criminal offenses, there aren’t really consequences for most actions. No one is there to slap your wrist for a missed class or messy room. This perspective on college is certainly influenced by privilege, but the stereotypical hedonism of the “invincible” college student is not all myth.
So I beg the question: Are we too old for this? For hundreds of years, people our age were working, raising families and fighting wars. In many parts of the world, people our age still are. It is a huge privilege to act this young at this age. Will I enter my twenties still doodling in class, having a slight fear of the dark and using Snapchat as a communication method (arguably the most egregious and childlike behavior of them all)? Is it time to grow up, or time to stay young?
Perhaps I should lean into my quarter life crisis and buy a sports car or shave my head — I did recently get bangs. WikiHow says to reflect on the past, present and future but where’s the fun in that? I much prefer my current approach of feeling like a wolf in sheep’s business-casual clothing, like a child playing dress up in their mom’s closet.
Julia Poggi is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Outbox runs every other Sunday this semester.