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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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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I Wonder If You'd Be Proud of Me

Or if you even think of me at all.

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I wonder if you'd be proud of me.

My first thought when I wake up in the morning is whether or not you still think of me. I think about if I am wearing the right outfit if I were to see you that day. I think about if I am saying the right thing for you to want to want me again.

Throughout my day, I think about whether or not you're happy. I wonder if the feeling in my heart of missing who I thought you were is making its way to you. Sometimes I think about what I did to make you hate me as much as you do.

Sometimes when things get really hard, I think about picking up the phone to call you. Time keeps passing from the last time I saw you and during that time I've painted a picture of you that would probably only disappoint me in the end. Your phone number still sits in my phone and I go to your contact, wanting to call, but knowing that at the other end is not the person I used to know.

I wonder if you watch me. I wonder if the posts I make, pictures I post, and articles I write are viewed by you and whether or not you care to even search my name. I wonder if you ask people about me or if you care to know the person I am today.

Without you, I have changed. It has been two years and though time will only continue moving on without you, I wonder what would have happened if I didn't make the choices I made to make you react in the way you have.

When the sun shines bright on the flowers blooming around campus, I think of your jokes and sarcastic wit. When the rain pours from the sky and keeps me imprisoned within the walls of a building, I think of ways I felt imprisoned by you. When clouds form shapes in the sky that I can make stories out of, I think of the way life could've been.

Sometimes I write to you. They are the letters I can never send because I have to remind myself that though we knew each other once, you do not know me anymore. The picture in my mind of who you are now is someone who'd love me with open arms, but I know that there's no truth in that. It's only my wishful thinking out to break my heart once more.

I wonder if you hear me when I try talking to you. I wonder if the words I tell God are making their way to you as you go on living the life we always talked about when times get tough. I wonder if you're talking to God about me.

As I watch the sunset, I think about the last moment I was with you. As that chapter ended, I was only wishfully thinking that walking away would save me from further pain. In the end, I don't know about how life would've been different had it not happened.

When my picture of you gets too bright and I share it with others, I am reminded of reality. The screaming, crying, pushing, shoving, and hitting touches my skin once more in the form of flashbacks that push me further down into the depths of a depression. I am reminded of the hundreds of suicidal thoughts and letters that I've written once before.

No matter what, my heart still yearns for a hug. A hug where I can bury myself into your body and feel safe. A hug where I forget every worry in my mind and focus solely on the love.

I wonder if you'd still love me if I changed myself to be the person you've always wanted me to be. I wonder if you'd forgive me for walking away, even if it was for me to change to be a better person. I wonder if you'll ever even read this.

Days like today, I want to go back in time. I sit on the benches around campus and look up at the sky, down at the cars passing by, and listen to life move on all around me as I remain stuck. I hear people talking, see them laughing, and wonder if there's any way I could one day feel as alive as they do.

The truth is that I was never enough for you. No matter how much I changed, kept notes of what you liked so I could be like that, or just kept my head down and moved silently, nothing was ever enough.

No matter what, though, I still yearn to be loved in the way that I picture you should've loved me. Closure does not exist. You were the ones who were supposed to hold me down. But now I am nothing to you...I was always nothing to you.

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