I’m in my 20s, and I’m dreading it. But can I get over my anxiety?

By Caitlin Dewey

I have finally left university, and I’m starting to try to process the realization that I’m in my 20s and won’t be in college forever.

It’s been a turbulent, exciting, sobering and a bit depressing time, with big ups and downs. The first few months of my mid-life crisis felt like some kind of nightmare.

The jocks I knew from high school picked up new sports and stopped coming to my parties; I haven’t wanted to go to social events since college, and sometimes social media has felt like an awful, forever betrayal, even if it’s only over Twitter.

But after a while, I realized that I hadn’t changed at all from when I was a freshman and am thankful for that. The thoughts about what I’m going to do next make me uncomfortable, but I can’t help but wonder: Will I change? I still think I’ll graduate and get a job and continue working my way through life, and although my social circle is much smaller than it was in college, I’m able to spend my time exploring and working in the arts.

I get that some people can’t separate adolescence from adulthood at all, and they feel screwed up when they hit the “back door” of old age. Others struggle with the same transition as I have. I spent my third birthday sulking because I was too young to understand what the “birthday girl” party was, and others are still scurrying about trying to figure out how to have the dignity to age in the world, while still keeping up with younger people.

Every time they forget that me should start having children by this age and have to justify that as silly, and every time the “21 year old” joke gets retorted because that’s absurd. It’s all so bittersweet.

And no matter how some may want to tell you I’m growing up at an awfully rapid pace, there is something very weird about moving into my 20s in a world where I still feel like I’m a child. It’s more than scary. It’s bittersweet.

But I do think there are some upsides to living this fast-growing phase in my life.

First of all, I’m less prepared for heartbreak and failure — I’d never be able to stay quiet when that happened, which I think makes it easier to move on and accept that this is the wrong person for me.

Second, it is a blessing to have so much independence, but I could also see myself having to grow up faster than some people. For example, as someone who is still unemployed (despite three really interesting, invaluable experiences), not being able to purchase a car would be a huge problem.

If I were a dad, I think my social life would suffer because I’d be too busy working out and volunteering to hit bars and dinner parties. I don’t know what kind of job that would make me, but it would be really hard to step out on an area of your life you care about the most when you don’t even have a job yet.

Last, but definitely not least, I get to see this period in a different way than the people who may take for granted that I’m not exactly jumping for joy at the idea of entering into adulthood.

It will be amazing to witness my friends’ (and, I imagine, my parents’) family planning years from now, and when those questions are finally asked of you, just know that the world isn’t so different from how you imagined it all along.

It’s exciting and terrifying and something I didn’t even really think I’d get to experience until I was in my 30s. Until that day comes, I just want to enjoy every day I can, with the friends I have — making new connections and continuing to discover and study and just enjoying the simpler side of life that has been cut so short.

This column is written by Caitlin Dewey, who graduated from Rutgers University in 2013. She’s currently living in Denver, Colorado, where she’s studying design and fashion.

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