The Birthday That Comes After 21
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Health and Wellness

The Birthday That Comes After 21

Sorry T-Swift, I'm not feeling it.

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The Birthday That Comes After 21

The night before my first day of 4th grade, I ran into my mom's room crying. It suddenly hit 8-year-old me that I was going to grow up some day. I was well aware that after 4th grade I will be in 5th grade and then I'll be in middle school, which means I'll only have 3 years until high school, and then at that point, I'll practically be moved out.

But I was in a bind because as much as I did not want to grow up, I still loved my birthday. Maybe it was the chocolate icing or the stacks of presents that skewed my reality, but young me did not associate birthdays with aging. I never understood why women didn't celebrate their birthdays past 30 or how they magically never seemed to age. At 8 years old, it was strange to me that people wouldn't want presents and cake and everyone celebrating their existence. You have a party just for being alive!

Ten years later and I finally became an adult by Constitution standards. But 18 and the years in between were just drunken purgatory until the 21-timer went off. And when that timer hit 00:00, 21 went off.

Looking back on it, 21 was an awesomely perfect year. I saw the world, made new friends, and my grades didn't suffer too bad. Overall it was a well-rounded year.

Now re-read the first part of that last paragraph. "Looking back on it" has become my new self-inflicted torture. I'm no longer living for my birthday, in fact, I'm dreading it. Eight-year-old me finally met "on the cusp of 22-year-old" me and realized not only am I old but, there are no more fun birthdays. I'm no longer waiting for that one day I can legally quench my thirst. When I turned 21, I knew I still had limited responsibilities and for the next few months would be legally abusing my freedom. But 22 means I am a step closer to 23, which means I am a year closer to 24, which means then I'll be 25 and now it's time for a quarter-life crisis. Aside from getting to post song lyrics by T-Swift, what more is there to celebrate?

It feels like I have finally climbed the mountain of birthdays, and now I am staring over the edge looking at my drowning youth. Twenty-one was the climax of age and now I am on the downhill slope. It's not 22 itself, but more the fear of "unknown" that comes with it. It is the first time in many of our lives where we finally have to figure things out. Most of us have a fork to face: take a right for grad school, go left for a job.

After continuously talking about how much I don't want to be an adult, my sage 25-year-old mentor told me that, "Yes, 22 is confusing and horrible but suck it up because if you keep complaining you'll never escape it." She's right, I was suffocating myself with my cloud of depression and everyone hated me for it.

The first way to deal with this fork in life: stop being a self-deprecating jerk. Your 20s are like that book Going on a Bear Hunt. "We're going through our 20s, we're going to be OK. I am scared (I am scared) but today's a beautiful day!" The fear is going to happen one way or another. "We can't go over it, we can't go under it, we've got to go through it!"

The second way to deal with it: live each day like you are 8-year-old me. She didn't understand birthdays meant a year older, but she knew her birth and life was a reason to celebrate. My advice isn't anything new and we've all been told a million times to "live the life you love, love the life you live." Gross, but it's true.

So I'm taking my own advice and starting to proudly celebrate my birthdays again and owning my future. And then I'm going to go own that fork and stick it in a piece of cake because why not? After tirelessly stressing about growing up, I can't be bothered with not eating dessert.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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