I’m 21, but I still feel like a kid

Matt Grahn

By the time you are reading this, I will have just turned 21 years old. With being 21, that means that I can buy alcohol, but I don’t drink. With being 21, that means I can get into any concert or club I want, but I don’t go out for music that often anyway. With being 21, I can go gambling, but I feel like I’d just lose it all, so what’s the point?

I might be turning 21, but I still feel like a kid. I’ve only worked seasonal jobs so far, with the word “job” being a loose interpretation. I didn’t have a driver’s license until I was a sophomore in college. I haven’t been in a position where I’ve had to struggle to be able to pay for things I need because of my parents generously helping me out, be it  for food, my phone bill or staying on their insurance.

If turning 21 is supposed to be some big coming-of-age moment, then what does it really mean? If we’re talking about privileges, a lot of the things I “get” to do now don’t really mean jack. Most of us have had a drink before being of age. Some of us played in “poker nights” and have participated in betting pools before turning 21. Many of us have also already gone to concerts or partied at Toad’s Place, that hallowed ground of freshman year regrets (though Commons may beg to differ).

If my 21st birthday is such a big deal over any other birthday, then why can’t I rent a car until I’m 25? Why does being 21 matter when 18 is the age for legally being an adult, and the age of consent being as low as 16 in some states? Many of my friends have already been at least trying to be self-sustaining adults, and some of them are already married!

Perhaps it isn’t so much the literal fact of being 21 that’s important, but the passage of 21 years. It’s not unrealistic to live three or four times that long, but a lot can still happen in that time. I can remember being five or so, being at my mom’s family’s cottage. My uncle and my dad, being able to take time out of their jobs as being an electrician and a carpenter respectively, were fixing up the place. My mom comes from a large family, so she and a bunch of her siblings pitched in for the cottage. Even with the large group of people who contributed financially, the cottage they got together was still a fixer-upper. I can remember seeing my dad and uncle working on the kitchen while my paternal grandfather would roll on by in his red truck and idle out on the lawn while talking to me and watching the renovation going on.

Fast forward to now. The downstairs of the cottage is completely done (but not the upstairs. Go figure). The place where my dad worked, which he started out there as a teenager, has since closed. My grandfather and that particular uncle are now dead. Some things may be constant, like everyone coming around to the cottage during the summer, but in 21 years, a lot of change can happen.

The perception of self isn’t what’s important about being an age, but the fact that a lot of change has happened in your lifetime. In turn, the changes you’ve experienced make you who you are now. I may still feel like a kid, but in some sense, I guess I should cherish what immaturity I still have left. It won’t be long until I have to get off my butt and really live on my own. After all, you spend more time being old than you do being young.