Taylor Swift once sang, “It’s supposed to be fun turning 21” and I’m happy to tell you all that I’m finally able to relate to a Taylor Swift lyric :D

Birthday season is back and so am I! (a week late cause of exams)

Birthdays might be fun for some people, and sad for others, but for me, birthday season equals time for introspection. I absolutely love looking back at how I’ve grown over the past year and analysing what changed both internally and externally. This year, in particular, has been an actual rollercoaster ride. There have been some major breakdowns but there have also been some major laughing-till-I-pee moments.

When I actually sat and thought about it, I realised that this year, the transition from 20 to 21 might just have been the biggest transition yet. With the last of my teen years lost because of the pandemic, it was time for me to make the most of my 20s and looking back that’s exactly what I did. Although my 20’s aren’t over yet, in fact, they’ve just begun, here are twenty firsts (in no particular order) that I did before I turned 21 (and after I turned 20).

  1. Got rejected from my dream college
  2. Met up irl with a discord friend I had known for over a year
  3. Got my heart broken
  4. Moved out and into a new city
  5. Started living by myself
  6. Learnt to make tea and cook my own breakfast (finally)
  7. Messed up the one exam that I studied for all of 2021 for
  8. Got my hair chopped the shortest they’ve been in years
  9. Witnessed my friend’s iPhone being snatched from an auto
  10. Went to the police station (to register a complaint, relax)
  11. Accidentally swore while talking to my mom
  12. Set my hair on fire (accidentally)
  13. Got placed at my dream company
  14. Read the most books than I have in the last few years (yup, I read 3 books in total)
  15. Took care of my sick self, twice
  16. Lost my voice for a week
  17. Roamed the streets of Mumbai at 3 am
  18. Graduated from college (with a decent cgpa flips hair)
  19. Went on a solo lunch date
  20. Travelled alone across cities

Here are 4 pictures depicting the 4 phases of my 20th year:

Phase 1: The world went offline and I made sure I made the most of the last few months in the city I've lived in for over 14 years with some of the people closest to my heart
Phase 2: The pressure of exams, the fear of moving out and the pain of heartbreak all fell onto me at once. I started feeling as if the world around me was moving at 10 times the speed that I was
Phase 3: Walking on the beach and looking at the sunset after 5 months of being in the city made me realise that after all the stress and hurt, I have finally settled in
Phase 4: Swinging on the swing with my brother and talking about life at 11 PM on Diwali was the one moment everything started making sense. The world came back to its usual pace and I was able to walk with it

So, what is it that I’ve learnt after all those firsts? Well, quite a lot:

Age is an illusion

While I was old enough to live by myself, I was young enough for my opinions to be dismissed in conversations. Maturity is one concept that I’ve talked about more than ever this year and I’ve come to realise that maturity does not come with age, it comes with experiences. These experiences differ from individual to individual and there’s absolutely no way of comparing them.

Confidence is key going forward in life

I have pulled off presentations where I’ve presented the wrong information, I got away with it because I was confident. I feel more confident in myself and the things I do than I did previously. I trust myself more and I always stop thoughts that make me undermine myself.

Contentment is greater than happiness

In my opinion, happiness is generally derived from situations or people but you can only feel content if you’re satisfied and at peace with yourself. It’s a stage where you’re not looking for external factors to make you happy and that is probably the best feeling to ever exist.

Independence is often looked at through rose-coloured glasses

Being independent does not only mean that you get to live your life on your own terms. It also means looking after yourself, making sure you’re eating the right things, taking the right medicines when sick and most importantly, taking care of your mental health.

The Final Goodbye

The start of the hyped-up 20’s era came with a lot of lessons for me. While I will miss being teased for my age, I won’t miss feeling hurt and sad about it. This year, I genuinely feel like I have aged up. When I look back at the 20-year-old me (saying it as if it’s been ages when it’s just been a week), it feels like I’m watching my younger sister make mistakes almost every other day.

A message for my younger self: you’ll grow up in due time, there’s no reason for you to think you’re too young. Don’t rush into being old, let time do its thing.

Until next time!

PS: Always write a future email to yourself on your birthday, this way you’ll be able to look at how far you’ve come on your next birthday.