I recently turned 21, an exciting turning point in anyone's life. To mark the monumental occasion I got all dressed up and headed down to the DMV to get a new license. I should've known better than to expect everything to go smoothly. 4 years ago when I got my drivers license I failed my driving test and had to head home with my hair and makeup done very nicely, and no new ID. Now, as a 21 year old, I showed up to the DMV to see that appointments were required, despite the fact that my city had not required DMV appointments a month ago, and the earliest appointment I could get was March 11th. Covid restrictions aside, (because I don't want to spend a whole post going back and forth about the social implications of covid because I am so over thinking about it) I was really disappointed and frustrated. I had been so excited to get a new ID. It was such a big deal to me.
But why? Why do I need a new ID so badly? Why did I feel the same crushing disappointment I did when I was 16 and getting my new license was delayed by a few days?
I'm very into symbolic change. I like getting new haircuts, new clothes, cleaning my room, or getting a new ID to symbolize my stepping into a new phase of life. My aunt and uncle sent me a birthday card that got way too deep and hit way too close to home. It read, '21 is the time where you decide who you are, and who you want to be, and if you like the person you are now.' The quote has been haunting me ever since.
Do I like myself? Am I where I want to be in life?
For the past year I've been sucked into an endless hole of negativity. Nothing is positive and every memory is tainted with cynicism. It sucks, because its gotten to the point where I answer questions like that with a definitive 'No', not because I actually don't like myself, but because I've gotten to the point where it's difficult to see the good things, and so I hyperfixate on the negative things.
I wanted a new ID because I wanted to start over. I wanted to start living the life I want. But I didn't realize I already had everything I need, and that I truly am happy.
The one area I want to work on moving forward is not only to have a more positive outlook, but to disregard the opinions of others. I've let other people and their opinions have too much control over my life. I've let comparison and insecurity run my whole view of myself, to the point where my own feelings about my own life are lost in a sea of comments and input from other people. This pandemic taught me a lot about being alone, but now that I'm not alone anymore I feel like I've lost my footing.
I'm set to get a new ID on March 11th. I am once again going to get dressed up and go to the DMV to get a new picture and a new ID. Hopefully this time it'll work out, and hopefully it can be the start of something positive. Hopefully it can be the start of living for myself, and looking for the positive, and putting my needs and my opinion of myself first.
this question has been weighing heavily on my mind, especially since there seems to be mixed messages coming from everywhere. from some sources the only thing worth having in your early 20s is a serious relationships. other people say the exact opposite, that dating in your early 20s is pointless because those relationships will never go anywhere. as a straight woman in a serious relationship, who is also trying and failing to ignore the opinions of others, these mixed messages have been making me reconsider my life and my investment in my current relationship. so i'm here to get my thoughts out and maybe provide some helpful insight on this difficult question: is a serious relationship worth it in your early 20s?
i will be speaking from the perspective of a female 20-year-old in a 1 year relationship with a man. my discussion will mostly be analyzing the pressure put on straight women to find boyfriends/husbands, and the complexities that come with that. relationships are complicated and unique, and i don't want to discriminate, place blame, or isolate any particular group or person. if you have a different opinion or experience with relationships i would love to hear it! consider sending in your own response to this question on the community. diverse perspectives are absolutely welcomed!
one of my favorite shows is Sex and the City, and needless to say there is a lot of mixed messages about women and relationships. the characters spend equal time complaining about women who settle down and complaining about being single. it seems that from every angle women are criticized. we are shut down for settling down to early, as well as shamed for being single too long. we are looked down on for having serious relationships, and also looked down on for never having a serious relationship. women's value is cut short when we get into a relationship, and when we've never been in one. so what's a girl to do? and whats a girl to think?
these questions get even more complicated when they're specifically applied to women in their early 20s. for most young adults - regardless of gender - our early 20s are a time when we are exploring newfound freedom and independence. many of us are starting our careers or working full-time. we're living on our own, and meeting new friends and going on new adventures. its a great time where the only person you need to care about is yourself, and that means you can pretty much do whatever you want.
so when people find themselves in serious relationships in their early 20s they can often be criticized, mostly on the grounds that they are throwing away the prime of their life on a relationship that likely won't last. i saw a tik tok the other day in which a girl said just that. she made the statement that some girls 'throw their lives away on a husband at 20', and while a husband and a boyfriend are two different things the sentiment reigns true: being in a serious relationship in your 20s is a bad thing.
i agree with this on certain terms, and certain terms only. yes, going out to parties is not nearly as much fun when you're in a relationship. now when i attend house parties i spend most of my time fending off drunk boys who are trying to flirt with me and being the wing woman for my single friend. gone are the days when i could carelessly kiss 5 different boys in a single night and flirt my way into getting free drinks from every guy at the party. now i go home by midnight because my dear boyfriend is patiently waiting for me to come over and watch a movie with a him. but is this a bad thing? in my opinion house parties sucked to begin with, and its a loss i can most definitely take.
with that being said, balancing a social life can become difficult. there's a toxic way of thinking that in life you either have a boyfriend or a big group of friends. the world is under the impression that everyone is Bella Swan and once you get a boyfriend you disappear into a world of mysterious, isolated romance. this doesn't have to be true. you can most definitely have friends as well as a stable and serious relationship, you just need to be thoughtful and aware of your schedule and also keep your priorities in check. my single friends can stay out until 3am at a party, and i typically need to clock in early so i can also spend time with my boyfriend, but that doesn't mean i never see my friends. it also doesn't mean i have a less exciting or fulfilling social life.
then arises the question of value. regardless of all the other opinions - that a serious relationship will take you away from an exciting social life and that a relationship ruins the wonderful independence that comes with being young - there is still the common criticism that relationships in your early 20s won't work out, and therefore no time should be wasted on them. the same sentiment is also commonly applied to high schoolers who are head over heels for their new partner only to be met with cynical pessimism from the entire world about whether their relationship will last. it is true that many men in their early 20s do not want to be quickly tied down to a girlfriend. it is true that many women also don't want to be a girlfriend. but it is ALSO true that there are many men, women, and people of all genders who want relationships and will make wonderful devoted partners. and those are the type of people who are in relationships. and i say we should leave them alone.
the flipside to this argument is of course that at the end of the day for every person being criticized for being in a relationship there is someone being criticized for being single. lets refer back to Sex in the City. after watching an episode in which Carrie, Miranda and Samantha make fun of their old friends for getting married and moving to the suburbs, you will watch an episode in which Carrie spends the entire 30 minutes crying over being single and not having someone special to spend her life with. for women this double standard knows no end, and ultimately no matter what you do someone will have something negative to say about it.
so what is the answer to the elusive question of whether or not you should be in a relationship in your early 20s? i say to do whatever the hell you want and not consider too much what other people think. being single is fun and wonderful. you can stay out late and do whatever you want without having to consider the existence of another person. being in a relationship is also fun and wonderful because you have someone to rely on and can go on fun adventures with a person you love. in the end the relationships in your life should be focused on balance, and the way we view other's relationships should be rooted in respect. the world is tough for women, and in a sea of double standards where we get criticized for every choice we make, that criticism should never come from another woman. while i love watching Sex and the City i will admit that the way they put down married women is cruel and unkind. seek to love and support others, and if someone is happy, let them be. relationship or not, you have value as a person and your life is just as fun and exciting as anyone else's. don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
read time: 5 min
As a woman who is currently 20, I am beginning to realize things about adulthood that I never even realized were things adults had to do. One of those depressing realizations was that the books adults are expected to read are completely and totally terrible. They are either self-help books, depressing books about tragic things, or really boring books about ‘real people’ doing ‘real things’. So as I was placed in three back to back quarantines over the month of November, I decided that not only am I done with the depressing reality of life in a pandemic, but I am also done with reading about it. So I checked out some books from my library (in a safe and socially distanced way) that were all from the children’s section and were about middle schoolers doing middle schooler things, a boy who believed in aliens, a middle school ghost story, and a really bad book about a girl who tried to write a blog for her school.
It was glorious! These books were goofy and lighthearted, even when they dealt with some of the darker themes of life. I didn’t walk away from a single one feeling the crushing despair of existence, but rather I felt uplifted and inspired of how the simple things in life really can be the most exciting and important. Above all, they reminded me of middle school, which gave me a strange sense of comfort. I know for most of us our middle school years are hardly ones we ever want to relive, but as my quarantine carried on and on, I found myself returning to the things I enjoyed in middle school.
I played through the entire game of My Sims Kingdom on my Wii, a game I haven’t seriously considered since 2013. I also played on my 2DS, another game console that has been sentenced to the distant corners of my mind since I beat the Elite Four in Pokémon when I was an 8th grader. I downloaded Tik Tok and followed a bunch of pretty teenage girls that try on clothes and do their makeup. It’s a media form that is very reminiscent of the beauty bloggers I would watch do their makeup for hours on end when I was in the 7th grade. I’ve also spent an absurd amount of cash on a new wardrobe over these past 3 months, a shopping move that once again, I have not engaged in since the distant days of high school.
But why is this? Why am I finding so much joy in middle school hobbies?
Because quarantine is a lot like middle school.
During the pandemic we as individuals, as well as a society, were not allowed to see certain people, go certain places, and do certain things. For some of us, we were strictly isolated to our homes for weeks on end.
This sounds very familiar to my personal middle school experience. I couldn’t hang out with people unless I asked my Mom, and while she typically said yes there were times when we had familial obligations, or it was too late in the day, or she simply wanted me to stay home that afternoon. When I was allowed to hang out with a friend my Mom had to drive me over to their house, and from there my friend’s parents had to bring us everywhere. Naturally, there were places we couldn’t go, because we were being chaperoned and ultimately it was the adult driver that determined if we could stop at McDonalds on the way home or stay at the mall for an extra 2 hours. And of course, part of growing up is getting in trouble, and for me my big punishment was being grounded.
Horrifyingly, all of these things are once again happening to me. And I feel the same way as I did in middle school. As an 11 to 13-year-old I longed for independence and freedom that I simply could not have because I was too young to drive, and too young to do anything. I remember being particularly angsty about this; feeling like I want to change the world and live my life, and yet feeling trapped by being too young.
In quarantine I long for the freedom to do the things I once enjoyed without a feeling of guilt or anxiety. I want to see my friends and go to concerts and enjoy long hours of shopping at the mall, and yet I am stopped by the invisible, controlling hand of the CDC - an organization that day by day is starting to feel more like a strict parent.
So I return to these adolescent pleasures of playing Wii games, reading goofy books, and watching beautiful people on the internet because I have found myself feeling the same way I did in middle school. What all these pleasures have in common is that they provide a much needed escape from the dismal and boring reality I’ve found myself in. In middle school I was bored with being young and feeling controlled, and now in 2020, 8 years later, I find myself bored with a life that is lonely and predictable day after day.
Am I alone on this? I understand we’ve all had different middle school experiences, but is anyone returning to childhood nostalgia during quarantine? Are you also seeking out the escapist pleasures you once enjoyed in the past? Let me know.
written controversially by
grace and hannah