"Oh you're turning 21! Are you ready to become an official adult?"
This statement has been uttered to me numerous times in my countdown to 21 years old (on October 12th) and I silently laugh to myself every time I hear it. For most, turning 21 is a huge mental advancement where they completely feel like an adult but for me, it's just the age where I can purchase alcohol legally.
For many of us, we had to grow up before most kids had to; whether it was extenuating circumstances, by choice or something in between, the context we were raised in made us mature beyond our peers' level. All of these "adulting" things that people our age talk about, we have been doing for years by ourselves.
While in high school kids my age were eating out frequently, going to the movies, and generally wasting money as soon as it hit their hands. Finances weren't exactly flexible for me growing up, and I learned from a young age that budgeting is essential so that you're not going hungry a week from now. Making a budget and sticking to it was one of the first "adult" life lessons I learned well as a teenager.
On the topic of finances, many people I know are stressing over student loans. Now, some people can't help that they have student loans: their parents make too much money, their scholarships didn't cover everything, or they did not qualify for grants. Stepping up and applying for every scholarship I could, making connections with people hundreds of miles away, and stepping outside of my comfort zone to ensure I could obtain a college education was part of the early maturity I was forced into.
Even today as a college kid, I still have friends to this day that ask me questions about doing their laundry. These are things I learned as a 14 year old kid, when we were frequently moving between houses and we couldn't afford to buy a washer or dryer. It's funny what you remember from sitting at the local laundromat for 4 hours a week.
To stay on the college kid ranting, it's scary how many students my age don't know how to cook for themselves. Instead of learning, they either choose to eat very little or eat out 2-3 times per day, which is definitely not in the budget of a real adult. Since I was 6 years old, I was at my dad's legs watching him make biscuits, at my grandmother's side watching her cook Sunday dinner, and to this day by my mom's side cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
I was blessed to have good cooks on both sides of my family, and not only do i know how to cook just about anything, but I cook on a budget. Anyone who comes from my kind of family knows how to buy whole foods on a budget and definitely appreciate the value of leftovers.
I don't say all of this to brag about myself: I have my faults and I am by no means the most mature person I know. However, the mind state that kids don't become adults until they are 21 is entirely false. Some us didn't have the choice to grow up, to behave like an adult, to have self-discipline and respect, to be accountable for our actions, to be self-aware, etc. Keep putting in the work.
For those of us who did have a choice, I commend you for waking your ass up every morning to get a job done without having to be told. I respect you for taking others into consideration before yourself. I admire your ability to speak authoritatively for what you believe and have well-thought out reasons for you life choices. Know that you are not alone out here in what the adults older than 21 have called the "real world" of adulthood.
Here's to 21 years of my life, thank you all who have helped shape me into the adult I am today.