Society: The Forgotten Age TWENTY Y.O.
13, 18, 21, 30, 50…they’re all milestone ages, marked by special cards in the Birthday aisle and new privileges. But between those numbers is a missing piece. It’s an uncelebrated milestone in everyone’s life: the end of the teen years. Turning 20 seems to be the age no one remembers, a marker that actually seems to serve mostly as the beginning to the countdown to age 21.
“When I turned 20, the weirdest thing was that I was no longer a teenager. That is how I and society had defined me for 6 years and in the span of one minute I wasn’t anymore,” said Camille Gray when reflecting on her experience.
At age 18 society grants responsibilities like the ability to sign for things without parental consent, the ability to vote, the right to buy cigarettes and enlist in the army. It’s an exciting age. Then comes 19, the last of the teen years, and finally all of a sudden big 2-0 hits, and then nothing.
“I’d say it’s more like the teasing age before turning 21,” said now 21-year-old Qiana Vincent. “You always say things like “just a few more months” or “I just wish I would turn 21 already.”
You can’t fully take the reigns of being an adult until 21. You can’t purchase alcohol or get into any of the trendy lounges with your friends who might already be 21.
Most of those surveyed said that they remember thinking that it was the start of really getting old. Many know this generation to be one of the most ambitious since the baby boomers. Young people today are jumping head first into their careers launching companies, clothing lines, and mini media hubs while still in their teens. Whether they admit it or not, part of the awe of what they do is embedded in how young they are. Thus when these ambitious young people start to grow out of their youth some serious self-reflection is forced upon them.
20-year-old Lawrence Nurse is in school and also working on his own line: Triple L Society. Turning 20 did not create anxiety for him but he did do some thinking about who he was, what he had done and where he wanted to go.
“I said to myself ‘I’m turning 20 and I have this business that I love, it kind of made me reflect on the journey that I went through and it just made me realize that I have a long road ahead of me and I’m still young.”
He didn’t feel any anxiety only a need for a shift in thinking. “I’m all about growth, so realizing that I was going to be on my own soon basically increased my drive and the passion for what I do.”
But he recalls having friends, not so sure about where they were going in life, who would express feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.
“My friend kept saying things like ‘we’re getting older and we’re about to leave college and about to be on our own…’,” Nurse recalls.
“She doesn’t really know what she wants to do and for her turning 20 basically told her it was time to settle down and find out what she wanted to do.”
Even as young as 20 can produce anxiety about what’s to come, and better yet, what hasn’t come yet. The time has officially come and gone of ever being a child star or prodigy. A different set of associations arise when the response to “how old are you?” becomes “twenty.”
“You start to think about the pressures of finding a career and being successful in life. It’s like when you have that teen attached, its like okay you’re young, once twenty comes you’re grown. So you have the feeling and responsibilities of thinking about your career and questions like what am I going to do and who do I want to be?” reflected 22 year old Rickina Brooks who mentioned that upon turning twenty her mom stopped paying her phone bill and she faced the reality of paying her own bills.
She looked forward to the privileges she would be granted at 21 but she admits that not everyone always waits until that age.
“Kids grow up fast. They’re already doing that stuff before 21, so when you turn 21 its not such a big deal, its just like okay I can do everything I was doing before …legally.”