Ode to 19ish-year-olds

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By Kaydee Donohoo
Staff Writer

My 20th birthday is almost here, leaving me contemplative. To be honest, being 19 actually sucks. The trouble with admitting that? Age groups don’t take too well to other age groups complaining about their aspects of life, especially when the complainers are younger.

Apparently anyone younger “doesn’t know how good they have it.” In a way this can be true. Have you ever heard an elementary school student complain about “how much homework” they have? It makes you want to stomp your foot and list all the tests and essays you have due per week. Yet remember that when you were in elementary school you felt the same way. Don’t forget that elementary school students also have daily problems you no longer face. They might be afraid of the dark.

Anyone older in our society has probably felt exactly like this. Sure, we may look back on this time with nostalgia, but that is because we aren’t living in it anymore.

I know I’m going to have nostalgia for this time in my life, but that fact isn’t changing how I view my life now. I’ve tried. Being 19, or close to it, is very difficult, and not getting to talk about it every once in a while doesn’t make it any easier. So if you are around 19, please read the cathartic complaining ahead. If you are older, this may help you understand the struggles our age group is likely facing. There are a lot.

First of all, being college-aged is all one giant transition. We have gone from being taking care of completely, to being taken care of less. Yes, college students aren’t “out in the world” completely yet, which means we should appreciate what we still have, right? Sure, okay, but that is a bit difficult when we are missing what we’ve already lost and are terrified of what is up ahead. We know we’re going to have to take care of ourselves even more in the future. This is scary, and we hope a little that it never comes.

Being 19ish is a crisis on understanding how the future works. As a kid and a high school student, I never fully grasped the concept that one day I wouldn’t be. I knew I was going to grow up, but I hadn’t really accepted it as true in my heart. It was just something that seemed too far away and would thus be a different version of me dealing with it. Imagining life after my high school graduation was an abstract idea. Now that I’m here it’s a giant wakeup call to the fact that time does go forward, and that it’s going to go fast. I now know that I’m going to graduate from college, need a sustainable job, turn 30, turn 55, see the end of my childhood bedroom, and see friends get married and have kids even when I might not. It’s a wakeup call on mortality.

These facts on the timeline are no longer ignorable or in the abstract. We can no longer put them in a mental box for “later” and not truly think that they’ll happen. We graduated high school when we weren’t supposed to, so now we know these things are coming too.

We’ve lost our childhoods, even though as teenagers we thought they were already gone. We’ve lost a world we’ve put a giant investment into. We’ve spent years doing tons of extracurriculars and studying for standardized tests in order to get into college. Now that we’re here virtually none of that matters.

Our resumes are pretty much blank again, until we build them back up. This can prove difficult as now we need experience for the sort of jobs we want. It also appears to take experience to get experience, and we are all trying to break through this cycle. We’re hoping that the only job we could find as a fast food restaurant cashier, won’t have to be for the rest of our lives.

Not to mention that we are expected to make a lot of major life decisions at this point. We pick majors, internships, careers, where to live, and it’s all basically happening now. Everything has large consequences, and some paths seem just as good as other paths. Sometimes you don’t like any paths. There is a lot of pressure.

It’s all a lot to balance with working (and being relatively new to working), and college course loads aren’t exactly easy. We’re having to figure out how to live without parents while worrying about debt, not finding jobs, and not being able to support ourselves in the instance of all of those things occurring at once.

And yet we are told by adults older than us to enjoy this time in our life as essentially the “golden years.” That it’s “magical,” not knowing how everything is going to turn out and having the effects of decisions ahead of us. Well sure, older adults are going to think that. They can look back at being 19ish and know how everything did turn out.

But to all the 19ish-year-old people reading this, one day you will look back on this time like that too. Because even if it’s hard to see, everything will work out. Even if you can’t see how, and aren’t guaranteed it’ll be exactly how you want it, it will. Ironically you too will forget how stressful it actually was.

So cling onto that thought on your insomnia-filled nights, your moments of realizing you’re alone, and your existential crises. One day, for some reason, you’ll miss this time in your life. So even though it’s hella difficult, try to enjoy it when you can. If you’re lucky, maybe even as much as the adults ahead of you wish they did.