Why I Still Feel Like A Teenager At 21
Start writing a post

Why I Still Feel Like A Teenager At 21

The Extension of American Teenagerhood

Why I Still Feel Like A Teenager At 21

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.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Rebecca Alvarez

Rebecca Alvarez is many things: founder, sexologist, CEO, mentor, and more — as a Latina businesswoman, each of her endeavors is grounded in the strong principles of inclusivity and diversity, especially in sexual health and wellness. Bloomi is the product of her all of her shared passions, and with it she has fostered a community of like-minded, passionate women.

Keep Reading... Show less

There is not a consistent standard for health education in the United States. There are a lot of variables that go into this — what state a student lives in, whether they go to a public or private school, and the district's funding and priorities. These variables can be argued for any subject, not just health class. But as we continue to grow as a society, hopefully bettering our education system along the way, it's crucial to consider this often-forgotten element of a child's schooling.

Keep Reading... Show less

In March, the whole country shut down. School was online, extra-curriculars were canceled, and I found myself laying in bed all day every day. One day, as I was laying in bed contemplating my laziness, I decided that I wanted to do something to make myself more healthy. I was feeling so down on myself and my laziness so I decided to make a change.

Keep Reading... Show less

10 Songs That Made It Onto My September Playlist

September is the month for Los Angeles natives and Australian music fans.


The Neighbourhood, Bad Suns and The Driver Era are three Los Angeles bands that released songs this month. Not only was it a month for Los Angeles bands, but many Australian bands released new music — San Cisco's fourth studio album, Surf Trash single, Skegss single, and High Tropics single. I made new discoveries this month and was pleased by the amount of new music.

Read the listicle below to learn what came out this month in alternative rock music:

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Staying Active While You're Stuck Inside IS Possible, It Just Takes Some Small Steps

I know the last thing you want to think about right now is exercising, but it's time to put down the controller and put on your workout clothes.


As someone who has also been living on a bed since March, I can guarantee you that working out has been the last thing on my priority list. It's pretty far down there, along with my motivation and brain cells I used to use for work. However, I have made an effort in the past couple of weeks to move up exercising to at least number three on my priorities list.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Got Clean At A Very Young Age, And It Honestly Saved My Life

At 18, the world looked so much different for me than it did for most other 18-year-olds that I knew.

Emmie Pombo

Going into rehab when I was 19 was hands down the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. My addiction started when I was around 17 and spiraled and spiraled out of control, as addictions always do. However, looking back, I'm so lucky my addiction started and ended when it did.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

7 Things Your Partner Can Do To Support You When You Have PCOS

Don't be afraid to ask for help or comfort if you need it.


Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may not be totally visible to the eye, which makes it a lot harder for your partner to understand what's going on with your body.

If you are in a relationship, it's important that you communicate your PCOS symptoms with your partner. I say "your" symptoms specifically because everyone's symptoms are different.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Watched 'The Social Dilemma' And YIKES, I'm Terrified For The Next Generation's Mental Health

Millennials can remember a time without online social affirmation, but we may be the last ones.

The Social Dilemma / Netflix

I've been in a media job for the entirety of my professional career. From part-time social media internships to full-time editorial work, I've continued to learn how to tell stories, write catchy headlines, and keep people interested. I believe working in media is a big responsibility, as well as a valuable way to advance our world.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

One Indictment, Three Charges, And No Justice For Breonna Taylor

We can't settle for this decision or a system that is fundamentally broken and unequal.


On March 13, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in her apartment by police who were executing a "no-knock" warrant. Since then, there have been rallying efforts both in the streets and on social media demanding justice for Taylor and keeping her name known.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments