The transition from the teenage years to “adulthood” is a big one—or, at least, it feels big when it’s happening. Being a teenager is a long and mostly painful experience that ends when you turn 20.
I celebrated my 20th in December. The birthday resembled many I’ve had in the recent past. My roommate, Meghan, came to visit me in Millburn, and we went out to dinner with my family. When we got home, I had a few of my good friends over for cake. Whereas other milestone birthdays—such as 13 for myself and 16 for many of my friends—consisted of elaborate parties with official invitations, this one was pretty unremarkable. Not only that: It instilled in me a sort of anxiety.
This generation shrouds the 20-to-29 age bracket in dread. We’re always hearing about how terrible the job market is, and the closer we get to graduation and the “real world,” the more tangible the threat of unemployment becomes.
At the same time as we’re trying to figure out what we want to do, we’re also supposed to be figuring out who we are. You might think the self-discovery chapter of your life will be over when you graduate high school. You might think it’s already over. But I promise you: It’s not.
However, we young adults, the innovators we are, are finding ways to rise against. I’ve met people my age who are CEOs of companies they’ve founded independently. I have some incredibly talented friends who will be interns this summer at companies where they might someday work. I know students who have received prestigious awards in their areas of study, students who are genuinely passionate about what they do.
My point is twofold. First, turning 20 may seem like a rite of passage, but you’re only an adult insofar as you act like one. That being said, a 17-year-old has the capacity to surpass a 22-year old in mental age. Just because you’re in high school doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start taking yourself seriously. There’s so much you can do. Why not start now?