I was sitting in an Orgo lecture, trying my best to pay attention to my professor's explanation on regioselectivity, when I realized that 2020 was coming in less than three months and I was still such a child.
If you were born in 2000 like me, chances are you remember what age you are by looking at the last two digits of the calendar year. We've been in the teens for the past decade, which means I've been a teen for the past decade. What that also means is that the start of this next decade corresponds to the start of my 20s and the end of my tenure as a teenager.
It's not like my teen years have been the best of my life.
My teenage years are defined by academic stress, an increasingly strained relationship with my parents, and a deep self-consciousness that resulted in an anxiety disorder. They are also defined by an immense gain in knowledge, an understanding of my parents' humanity, and a greater awareness of my mental health. I have grown so much over the course of this past decade, due in large part to my dedicated mentors, but it feels like I have so much more to learn.
I'm not talking about things like budgeting for groceries or doing my taxes or scheduling my own doctor's appointments.
Those are all skills that I can learn within a couple of hours -- just give me a laptop and I'll Google how to do them. But what about the things that I can't Google? I want to get married in this next decade, but I how will I find the right person? I don't want to drift apart from my friends, but how will I keep them close when our paths diverge? How will my relationships with my family change and how much of that change will be because I've changed? What about life after college? Where do I fit into this society? What am I meant to contribute?
It comes down to a question of identity.
I've devoted my teen years to figuring out who I am, but I'm entering my 20s next year and I still don't know the answer.
I know that leaving my teens doesn't mean I should have my whole life figured out. Plenty of adults, even years down the line, diverge from the path they originally chose. Plenty of adults don't know who they are and live meaningful lives anyway. But I also know that it's so much harder to address these identity questions when people expect you to face reality and grow up because "you're not a kid anymore."
I'm terrified of what comes after this year. There's no turning back the clock if I make a life-altering mistake, no using my age as an excuse for my lack of life experience. All I can do is carry with me everything I've learned over this past decade and hope it's enough.