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I guess this is growing up …

Assistant News Editor | Monday, March 28, 2011

April 23, 2011. A day that will live in infamy … as the day my teenage dream died, otherwise known as my 20th birthday.

At this point, I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about leaving the carefree realm of teenagedom in 26 days. On the bright side, I will claim imminent victory over teen pregnancy, and I’ll look back fondly on my teenage years with the perspective of a newly minted “young adult.” On the other hand, I’ll be almost two years removed from high school and one year closer to venturing out into the dreaded “real world,” and I won’t be able to blame my mistakes on teenage naivete.

Either way I look at it, the question remains: how can I make the most of my last month of being 19? I’ve been trying to think of things to do that only teenagers get away with, like driving my friends around town with only a learner’s permit, sneaking out late at night, or trying to get into rated R movies before you’re 17. Unfortunately, the novelty of these typical teenage shenanigans wore off once I turned 18 and became a “legal” adult who could do any of these things without fear of punishment by the police or my parents. I can’t really understand why being a teenager was so much fun, other than experiencing the thrill of breaking my parents’ rules, getting my driver’s license and having virtually no worries besides getting into college (ah, those were the days). But at the same time, I’m having trouble finding anything exciting to look forward to in turning 20.

Sure, I’ll be one year closer to celebrating the biggest birthday milestone of my life so far, and I can officially mark the end of my childhood (a bittersweet moment). I can also look forward to celebrating the big 2-0 with a Cubs game and an Arcade Fire concert over Easter break, both of which I’m pretty jazzed about. But turning 20 is like living in limbo between the worry-free days of adolescence and the daunting responsibilities of adulthood. Plus, you don’t get any special privileges when you hit 20. Hence my ambivalence about commemorating the first two decades of my life.

Honestly, I’m scared to turn 20. When I was younger, I always thought 20 sounded old, almost old enough to get married and have kids. Now, on the brink of that ripe old age, all I want is to freeze time. I don’t want to think about applying to medical school soon or living away from my parents in the real world. I also don’t want to consider the fact that my college experience is nearly halfway over. I just want to relive my carefree high school summers again.

As I look at the half-empty glass of my life, I realize I have a lot to look forward to after I turn 20. I’ll be spending my first full summer away from home while participating in an SSLP in Idaho. Best of all, in less than six months, I will be sipping sangria and tasting tapas while studying abroad in Toledo, Spain, and I can cavort around Europe for an entire semester.

In the meantime, I’ll spend the next month embracing my carefree, slightly reckless teenage side in any way possible while keeping a positive outlook for my 21st year of living … and the birthday celebration that will commemorate it.