Two Decades


Today is my twentieth birthday.

I remember when my brother turned twenty. In the days leading up to the two-oh, he expressed a sense of depression. When I asked why, he responded something along the lines of, “I’m not a teenager any more.”

At the time, I believe I made fun of him for being depressed about growing up. Since I turned thirteen a few days after he turned twenty, I didn’t exactly have a grasp of what he meant. I was still all stoked about growing up.

Then when my sister turned twenty, she expressed a similar despondency. By then I was sixteen and thoroughly over teenagers and their shenanigans.

For the next two years I counted down to eighteen, sure that I would feel like an adult then, and it didn’t. Then nineteen happened, and I felt grown up but still spent a good amount of time counting down to the moment when I would stop being a teenager.

But suddenly, I’m not a teenager any more, and my brother and sister were right.

Twenty is depressing.

I’ve spent the last few days trying to wrap my brain around exactly why twenty is such a bummer birthday– nothing at all like ten. When I reached ten it was a big celebration that I finally had reached double digits, and I was, (as Ramona Quimby would say,) zero-teen.

But I feel no such sense of pride and accomplishment at the milestone of the second decade since I journeyed from my mother’s womb to planet Earth.

It has something to do with twenty seeming like the final nail in the coffin of being allowed to act like a kid. As soon as you’re not a teen any more, you’re supposed to start acting like an adult and thinking about your future and stuff.

Maybe twenty is depressing because the nineties, when I grew up,  are starting to sound like a long time ago.

Maybe it’s because legal drinking age is twenty-one in Oregon. (Just kidding sort of.)

Mostly it’s the picture I carry around in my head of what the social norms for twenty looks like. Twenty is when nice Christian girls start itching for a husband. Twenty is when you’ve chosen your career path, and maybe even know where you want to live.

Twenty is grown up.

And now I’m twenty, and twenty-year-old-Bethany is none of the above.

I want to see the world, learn things, meet people, try food, hear stories, see sights, experience things I would never expect, reflect love to everyone, and above all write about everything. Because Life is Always Interesting.

I want to be a deep thinker, good listener, interesting conversationalist, and straight-faced teller of really bad jokes.

Pretty much, twenty-year-old Bethany doesn’t want to look like the picture of a socially normal/acceptable twenty-year-old that I carry around in my head. I think I gave up the chance at that the moment I decided not to continue going to college.

Twenty is depressing because I feel like somehow, with life, maybe I’m doing it wrong.

If childhood is like a bunch of balloons, it’s like the last one is slipping out of my grasp, drifting away into the blue sky, and there’s nothing I can do but wistfully watch it float away, and then carry on with my life. I’ll probably keep scanning the sky for a while.

Happy birthday to me.

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  1. Don’t worry, there is still hope for feeling young… Just the other day I told myself I’m not a kid anymore, and it was probably the first time I started to believe myself. You’ve got at least 3 years…

    • I think I’ll feel young until I can come get beers with you. Then I’ll continue to feel young until I stop getting carded. I’ll figure something else out after that.

  2. I felt the EXACT same way on my 20th birthday! I had somehow convinced myself that by the time I was 20 I’d be wearing purple pant-suits and talking angrily on cellphones to my employees (I guess four years of university somehow failed to get factored in to this vision), and when I turned twenty a few months ago I just remember feeling, ‘I do not feel like a woman yet’. And it’s got nothing to do with what you’ve done with your life, the experiences you’ve had, the food you’ve eaten: I turned 20 during the semester I spent volunteering in Costa Rica, and I celebrated it by visiting a waterfall and hiking through the rainforest. You’d think that’d make you feel accomplished, but the truth is that experience has nothing to do with it!

    It’s not just you: 20 is not grown up. You shouldn’t feel sorted out yet, and if you did, THAT would be something to worry about. You’re doing fine! :)

    • I think that it’s a great mercy that you were spared purple pant-suits! But that sounds like a beautiful way to spend your 20th birthday.
      I’m just really glad you sympathize with my sentiments. For some reason I was here thinking it was just me. Silly.
      Thanks for your encouraging comment! It’s taken me days to respond but you actually made my birthday much better.

      • No way, I love making things better! :P I forgot to say happy birthday, but here it is: enjoy being 20 :)

    • Pat Schmidt
    • April 30th, 2012

    You’re supposed to know what you want to do with your life at 20?! Dang! I’m WAY late on that one!

  3. There was a time when i thought that one day i would be ‘done’ with growing up. Now that i’m a few months from 50 i know better. Life is a constant process. Enjoy the ride. Hapy birthday, too!!!!

    • Wow, can I add that to my book of Wise Words from Robin? Thank you! I wish you a happy early birthday as well.

  1. December 31st, 2012

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