Why I Still Feel Like A Teenager At 21

Why I Still Feel Like A Teenager At 21

The Extension of American Teenagerhood
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I sat across from an Australian while on a four-hour train ride from Switzerland to France. He was nice, but mostly talked to the woman in the section of seats on the other side of the train. However, when he did talk to my friend and me, I was struck by the way he treated me. When he asked about which university I attended, what my major was, and what my classes were like, I realized he was treating me like an adult. And it was weird, because I wasn’t used to it. Then he mentioned that he had a 16-year old son who was living and attending school by himself in Germany. My friend looked at him and said, “My mom would be messaging me non-stop.”

I nodded. “So would mine.”

The man was confused. “Really? I mean, my wife and I try not to worry about our son. He can take care of himself.”

This was when I realized that 16 is a different age in America. I believe that all 16-year-olds are young and still have a lot to learn. But then again, I’m 21, young, and still have a lot to learn. However, just because I’m young doesn’t mean I’m also a teenager. It also doesn’t mean I’m inexperienced.

18 is the legal age of adulthood for Americans. At 18, Americans can vote and join the military. The drinking age, however, has always been a debate in America. When my parents were in college in the ’80s, they could only drink beer and wine at 18. Hard liquor was off-limits until 21. When I was in England, I hadn’t turned 21, yet it wasn’t a big deal to order a cider. In the US, however, it’s such a big deal to turn 21 that the day is excessively celebrated. After watching a bunch of 18-year-olds get black-out drunk in the UK, I don’t think that giving them access to all alcohol at once is a good idea, especially since most families in the US don’t usually introduce a healthy amount of alcohol to their teenagers during meals like they do in Europe. Instead, some sort of a transition into alcohol would be beneficial.

I had a hard time transitioning from 17 to 18. I understood that I was legally an adult, but I didn’t feel like it. I was told, “You might think you’re an adult, but you’re still just a teenager.” The transition to college helped because it increased my independence. However, it was the summer breaks that threw me back in time. I was back in the house where I grew up, where society told me that I needed to do this, this, and this in order to have a productive summer and, therefore, a productive life. It didn’t help that for the longest time, I couldn’t get a summer job. When I did, I was told by several costumers that I didn’t look a day over 15.

I wonder why some people have the need to point this out. Telling me that I look like a teenager is the same as telling me that I look immature and inexperienced. Personally, I don’t think I look 15, even though I know I look young. On the other hand, I know it’s meant as a compliment, but a lot of people who have known me for years tell me, “Wow. I can’t believe how old you’ve gotten.” More commonly, they direct this at my parents. It’s strange. To me, it’s normal that I’ve gotten older. And it’s normal for time to pass quickly. That’s life.

In the US, your 20s are seen as an extension of your teens. It doesn’t help that in order to be truly independent, you need to have transportation, have your own income, and live on your own. This is hard to do in today’s society, since most young adults have to go to college. Since a student isn’t usually out of college until the age of 22, it’s difficult to be fully independent. And with the job market, it’s hard for students to make enough money to move out of their parents’ house during college.

In physiological terms, the period between teenagerhood and young adulthood is called emerging adulthood. In this phase, a person struggles to find his or her identity. However, I believe that people find their identity throughout their entire lives. While others think that age equates experience, I know that every person has had an experience that no one else has. The term “emerging adulthood” is a newer one, but one that America has embodied the further we go into the 21st century. It’s a term that has extended teenagerhood.

When I consider the Australian, I think that having full independence at 16 would be challenging. Parents should help ease the transition for their children by being there for them when they’re teens, but also preparing them to become adults the closer they get to 18. 16-year-olds should begin to take on responsibilities and experiences beyond crushing schoolwork in order to prepare them for adulthood. After all, young adulthood is not an extension of teenagerhood. It’s the next step in life.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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To The Nursing Major During The Hardest Week Of The Year

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.

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To the Nursing Major During Finals Week,

I know you're tired, I know you're stressed, and I know you feel like you can't go on. I know that no part of this seems fair, and I know you are by far the biggest critic of yourself. I know that you've thought about giving up. I know that you feel alone. I know that you wonder why in the world you chose one of the hardest college majors, especially on the days it leaves you feeling empty and broken.

But, I also know that you love nursing school. I know your eyes light up when you're with patients, and I know your heart races when you think of graduation. I know that you love the people that you're in school with, like truly, we're-all-in-this-together, family type of love. I know that you look at the older nurses with admiration, just hoping and praying that you will remain that calm and composed one day. I know that every time someone asks what your college major is that you beam with pride as you tell them it's nursing, and I know that your heart skips a beat knowing that you are making a difference.

I know that no grade can possibly prove what kind of nurse you will be. I know that no assignment will showcase your compassion. I know that a failed class doesn't mean you aren't meant to do this. I know that a 'C' on a test that you studied so. dang. hard. for does not mean that you are not intelligent. I know that no amount of bad days will ever take away the empathy inside of you that makes you an exceptional nurse.

I know that nursing school isn't fair. I know you wish it was easier. I know that some days you can't remember why it's worth it. I know you want to go out and have fun. I know that staying up until 1:00 A.M. doing paperwork, only to have to be up and at clinicals before the sun rises is not fair. I know that studying this much only to be failing the class is hard. I know you wish your friends and family understood. I know that this is difficult.

Nursing school isn't glamorous, with the white lab coat and stethoscope. Nursing school is crying, randomly and a lot. Nursing school is exhaustion. Nursing school is drinking so much coffee that you lose track. Nursing school is being so stressed that you can't eat. Nursing school is four cumulative finals jam-packed into one week that is enough to make you go insane.

But, nursing school is worth it. I know that when these assignments are turned in and finals are over, that you will find the motivation to keep going. I know that one good day of making a difference in a patient's life is worth a hundred bad days of nursing school.

Keep hanging in there, nursing majors. It'll all be worth it— this I know, for sure.

So, if you have a nursing major in your life, hug them and tell them that you're proud of them. Nursing school is tough, nursing school is scary, and nursing school is overwhelming; but a simple 'thank-you' from someone we love is all we need to keep going.

Sincerely,

A third-year nursing student who knows

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To The High School Graduating Seniors

I know you're ready, but be ready.

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Seniors,

I am not going to say anything about senioritis because I was ready to get out of there and I'm sure you are too; however, in your last months living at home you should take advantage of the luxuries you will not have in a college dorm. The part of college seen in movies is great, the rest of it is incredibly inconvenient. It is better to come to terms with this While you still have plenty of time to prepare and enjoy yourself.

Perhaps one of the most annoying examples is the shower. Enjoy your hot, barefoot showers now because soon enough you will have no water pressure and a drain clogged with other people's hair. Enjoy touching your feet to the floor in the shower and the bathroom because though it seems weird, it's a small thing taken away from you in college when you have to wear shoes everywhere.

Enjoy your last summer with your friends. After this summer, any free time you take is a sacrifice. For example, if you want to go home for the summer after your freshman year and be with your friends, you have to sacrifice an internship. If you sacrifice an internship, you risk falling behind on your resume, and so on. I'm not saying you can't do that, but it is not an easy choice anymore.

Get organized. If you're like me you probably got good grades in high school by relying on your own mind. You think I can remember what I have to do for tomorrow. In college, it is much more difficult to live by memory. There are classes that only meet once or twice a week and meeting and appointments in between that are impossible to mentally keep straight. If you do not yet have an organizational system that works for you, get one.

I do not mean to sound pessimistic about school. College is great and you will meet a lot of people and make a lot of memories that will stick with you for most of your life. I'm just saying be ready.

-A freshman drowning in work

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