Cherish your youth, before it’s too late

Ashley Pelletier, Arts & Life Editor

Illustration by (Connor Lawless)

I turned 21 years old on Feb. 25. By all accounts, I am an adult now.

I spent my weekend with two of the people I am closest to — my mom and my best friend. For the first time in years, I genuinely enjoyed my birthday without worrying about whatever was happening outside of the celebration of my making it another year around the sun. However, I feelconflicted with the life I’ve lived as a young person.

It is taking me a long time to come to grips with the end of my childhood. Most of the time, I still feel like the awkward 16-year-old I was five years ago.

I imagine many people from my generation feel the same. On top of general nostalgia for our childhoods, we’ve missed out on two years where we should have been able to cause trouble, be with our friends and fully enjoy our youth while we have it.

I may have gotten some time in college before COVID-19 changed our lives, but I still haven’t been able to get the most out of my college years. I have never been able to see Wake the Giant, one of Quinnipiac University’s biggest events of the year. I haven’t gone out with my friends as much as I’d hoped, and I will not be able to travel abroad or to Los Angeles for a semester like I had planned.

Missing out on these experiences made turning 21 far more difficult to accept. I often find myself upset that I was robbed of these opportunities, but I’ve learned that I have to move on. There’s no point in wallowing over these lost moments, and while I still struggle with that, it’s becoming easier. I can like my friend’s social media posts from Berlin leaving me only a little jealous.

On top of COVID-19, I spent my teenage years focusing on mental health issues, bad relationships and my parents’ divorce. Rather than spending time doing “teenager” things and enjoying my time in high school, I would be working at my part-time job or spending all of my time on the internet to distract myself from what was going on with my life.

I felt really low. I spent a lot of my time in bed crying if I wasn’t working at my local grocery store, which also put physical stress on me. What made things worse was that I knew I was wasting my time in high school feeling bad for myself, I just couldn’t help it.

Only in the past few years have I allowed myself to move on from my problems and live my life. I’m at the point where I’m finally content with the good, bad and ugly of my life.

Everybody has struggles like mine. I know that. However, I warn others not to let their issues take over their lives. Enjoy yourself while you can. Even if you can’t go out and go to restaurants, parks and crowded places, find activities that make you feel joy. Play games with your friends, get takeout and take advantage of the life you’ve been given.

Going forward, I’m making the most of my 20s. I’ve already missed out on so much, it’s time to make up for all of that.