Today is my last day as a Teenager
It’s a weird time to be going into your twenties
I can both proudly and terrified-ly announced that tomorrow is my 20th birthday. To mark the occasion I’ll be having 4 friends sit in my garden, 2m away from one another. It’s not how I’d imagined starting my twenties, but few things go as we expect them to. I’ve made the best of it, and planned a kid’s princess themed party, complete with tiaras, party bags, and a Colin the caterpillar cake (or whatever the Tesco knockoff is called).
No longer being a teenager feels weird to me from both directions. On the one hand, I feel like way too much of a baby to be going into my twenties. I still cry at almost every movie I watch, would wear a tutu skirt every day if I could, and sleep with a teddy bear when I’m home alone. I don’t feel prepared to move into the ‘adult’ phase of my life; even though your twenties aren’t ‘real’ adulthood anyway. It’s a milestone that reminds me how quickly things are changing, that soon I’ll be done with my degree and out into the world.
On the other hand, I feel as though I haven’t ever really ‘fit’ as a teenager. Having mental health problems, and supporting family members with the same issues, I never got took the chance to be young and stupid. Part of me wishes I’d made more bad choices; had more drunken nights out and kisses with strangers. It’s hard to differentiate whether I genuinely wasn’t interested in these things, or whether my anxiety held me back from just living, instead of over-analysing every risk. On every night out I seem to be the most sober one, who piles people into their taxis or looks after the drunk stranger vomiting in the loos. I wish I could understand how people let go, completely, how to act first and worry later. I’ve always been the ‘responsible’ one, who never had a curfew because my mum always knew I wouldn’t be getting myself into any trouble. I feel a kind of sadness that I didn’t embrace everything that being a teenager has to offer, from the fake IDs to the regrettable piercings. Yes, your twenties are also an ideal breeding ground for bad choices, but I wish I’d been less ‘sensible’ and just a bit more stupid. The most important thing I’ve learned as a teenager is to remember to live a little. Once the day is over, there’s no getting it back, so it’s better to take the risks and seize the opportunities rather than regretting it later.
None of that is to say that I didn’t enjoy this phase of my life. Looking at the immense changes, not only in my circumstances but within myself from the start of my teenage years to their end is astounding. I’ve gone from being anxiety-riddled and self-hating to bold and confident. I’ve learned to push myself, and that I’m capable of almost anything I set my mind to. I’ve given up on apologising for who I am or justifying my choices to other people. I genuinely like, respect, and appreciate myself — and that confidence is reflected in all things I do. It’s not a surface level ‘self-love’, the kind where you convince yourself you’re beautiful and call it a day. It’s a deeper understanding that I’m deeply flawed, but I’m enough anyway. It doesn’t matter whether I’m pretty, or skinny, or whether people laugh at my jokes — because I like myself regardless, with no terms or conditions. On my best days or my worst. Instead of worrying over every single decision, I can just do whatever I want. That’s the greatest joy of getting older, independence and self-provision also means freedom. You may have to buy your own groceries, but you can eat ice cream for breakfast and no-one will stop you. I can dye my hair pink on a Tuesday afternoon, or make serious choices about my future career path, and no-one can make those decisions for me.
If you’re reading this wondering whether I’m ever going to reach some kind of point, I’m sorry. This is mostly just a sentimental effort to capture this last moment of being a teenager, to hold onto it and trap it on a page before it floats away forever. I’m excited, but I’m also afraid. It’s scary feeling as though you’re being shoved into the deep end, pushed into a new stage of your life that you’re not quite cut out for yet. Realistically will things be any different at 20 compared to 19? No, of course they won’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow morning I’ll probably have a little nervous cry, before putting on my big girl knickers and making the most of my twenties.