Being 20 and confused

By Nhi

The United States of America elects its President once every four years. The last time that Obama was chosen as the Commander-in-chief, I was here. That is to remind myself of how long I have been living in New York.

Four years — the amount of time required for someone to get an undergraduate degree, one fifth of how long I have lived and the unforgettable length of a vague process that somehow transforms a 17-year-old sentimentalist into a young adult who is lost at 21, because for sure, I cannot define adulthood, rather than saying nonchalantly, “It is weird. Weird and painful.”

I bet you that many people have no idea what being an adult means either, and they simplify the definition by embracing whatever the society dictates on them. Inside, some lie to themselves that they are adults, some think they are actually adults, and most feel like children who are doing a good job at masking themselves.

“Nobody feels like an adult. It is the world’s dirty secret,” Josh Radnor.

Being the older sibling, I felt like an adult from an early age. I was protective of my little brother and did a lot of things on my own. I embraced my own sense of little independence and never consciously thought, “I am doing all of these, so that people will consider me an adult.” It was easy. Very naturally, I acted according to what I think was comfortable. For adults witnessing me grow up, maybe. But for me, there were no clear questions of how to act like my age. I didn’t think that I was supposed to like candies and ice creams, because adults said, “That’s what children do”. I just liked candies and ice creams (I still do, by the way).

But now, being 20 is very different. I know what is expected of my age, so it is conflicting and scary to do things that a young adult is not supposed to do. Now, you are not supposed to scream when you see ice creams, look too happy when having candies for free or say to a new friend, “Please, please, can we go get food together? Please please!” For a while, I was rebelling against all of those underlying expectations of me. For one reason, I think that being an adult means being able to define myself. For another reason, the set of rules that are out there vary from culture to culture, from century to century, which makes me feel mediocre to go with the flow and fit in with only one.

Putting on make-up is weird, because I don’t see the meaning of it. Dating someone is also painstaking work that never fails to make me question gender roles in the society. Following a religion, or believing in something supernatural is an option somewhere in the long run that terrifies me. The changing dynamics of relationships with certain friends throw me into pits of sad thoughts.

Sometimes I wonder, “Does becoming an adult involve accepting certain rules in the society and forget about fundamental questions that I used to grabble with?”

I feel sad about parting with people who I used love so dearly. But that doesn’t make me feel as sad as the fact that I am willing to let people go. I let them out of my life. I say, “It is okay. I can deal with it.”

 Because I don’t want to feel hurt, I have been indifferent for a while. I don’t want to tell people that I like them very much, or that I feel sad because they say certain things to me anymore, because there seems to be no point to it. If someone drifts away from me, instead of feeling vehemently sad, crying and acting dramatic and telling that person, I am now hiding under my blanket, feeling hollow and telling myself that I will forget about it tomorrow. I am tired of gathering myself to try and confront.

It is weird. I think I was a very good kid, good teenager because I dared to love, but now a very bad young adult.

I like being lost. What better things can happen to a person who is 20?



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