By Kristine Pascaul, Nov. 22, 2022

My half birthday recently passed, and each day I think about how close I am to my 20s. I am 19 now, but I feel like I have been the same age for years. Nothing has changed, but at the same time everything has changed. In front of me is a brand-new decade that will be filled with a lot of decisions to make, lessons to learn, mistakes to make and a lot of tears in between.

I spent most of my teenage years with the support of my female peers in high school. As an alumna of an all-girls high school, I feel as if I was shaped to be a young woman of confidence, someone who is not afraid to speak out about my thoughts and opinions. I am outspoken and outgoing; I will forever be grateful for going to an all-girls school during what I think are some of the most formative years of my life.

Although I feel scared to turn 20, I am simultaneously excited and nervous to see what I will encounter. Based on the adults I have spoken with, movies I have seen and music I have heard, your 20’s really are supposed to be the most experimental decade of your life. I am certain that I will feel lost, but that is the beauty of it. It is a time for self-discovery. Knowing myself, I will be more lost than ever, but the fun of it is learning about yourself and your tendencies, as well as your likes and dislikes.

I have learned so many things from my teenage years, which is insane because I still have so much more of my life to experience. I feel like I have lived in my own little bubble for so long and college has been my first few steps into the “real world.”

With billions of people in this world, everyone is bound to have a different idea of what the “real world” is. I understand that when people say, “real world,” they refer to the harsh realities and consequences that you will face once you are done being coddled by professors and parents. But it is just a thought that I have had.

Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

The teenage years are a great period to try new things and experiment with what you do or do not like. Looking back at my time in high school, I almost wish that I had tried more things and been more involved with more than just the arts. I knew I wanted to become a writer, but I think that I could have gained valuable experiences through sports as well.

It is super important to stick to your own values and morals rather than attempting to conform to peer pressure. Oftentimes, I found myself changing opinions because I felt that people would like me better, but it just made me feel as if I were losing myself.

You will more than likely outgrow people, and that is okay. College and distance have the power to change people, and losing touch with your close high school friends certainly is not the end of the world. The important thing is to be grateful and cherish the memories that you were able to make with these people. Reflect on how they affected you as a person and take those lessons with you, moving forward into college and on. Life has so many years to it and so much more to offer, way more than we will ever know.

Despite the importance of teenage struggles, it is overly romanticized. There are so many movies that made high school seem like a dream, ranging from Disney Channel original movies, like “High School Musical,” to classics like “Grease.” As a little girl, I used to dream about being a teenager. I thought that they were the coolest age group out there.

They seemed fierce and confident, like nothing could stop them. They always knew how to stand their ground, but being a teenager means you are stuck between being a kid and an adult. You are told that you are too old to act a certain way, or too young to be dressed provocatively. Puberty is not fun either. It is stressful and a lot to go through for a young brain. Presumably like your 20s, teenage years are quite experimental as well, but the rough part about experimenting is that you barely know yourself and here you are simultaneously trying new things.

Every year, I write myself a letter and “send it to the future” via a website my teacher introduced me to in high school. I have been doing this for the last five years, and every year that I read the letter from my past self, I feel that time has gone by so fast. I always feel like a completely different person from the year before. So, if I can change that much within a year, I wonder how much I will change in a decade. I expect myself to be different by then.

I will turn 20 in less than six months from now. All I can think about is how unready I am for everything that my young adult life is going to throw at me. Not only will I age, but so will my friends. There is a possibility that we could all become a completely different version of our current selves, and that is overwhelming to me. To think that I could be a whole new person in a new decade is unfathomable, and truthfully, a little bit jarring.

Feature image by Lauren Wong

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