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Turning 22 gives perspective on journey from shy high schooler to confident adult


December 6, 2017

This past year was notable for a lot of reasons. I cried over the results of a presidential race for the first time. I planned my first surprise party. I began my last year of undergrad. I also turned 22.

When I was in grade school, middle school kids were too loud and, frankly, they terrified me. By middle school, teenagers seemed so sophisticated and impossibly tall to me. By my sophomore year of high school, I thought those twenty-year-olds in college had everything figured out and under control.

I’m not sure why turning 22 has given me pause, maybe because, if I’m honest, this most recent birthday took me by surprise. I guess I had been so focused on turning 21. It was my golden birthday, and I spared no extra thoughts to what came after that momentous age.

The day of my 22nd birthday I said, in response to my mom wishing me a happy birthday, “You know, I still only feel 18.” And I did. It didn’t help that at 22, there is nothing now accessible to me that wasn’t when I turned 21. At 22, I still live at home in the same house and in the same town I have lived in since I was three years old.

I still cannot seem to fathom how I became one of those twenty-somethings in college who I always saw as being one of those “real adults,” who were self-assured and in control of their lives. The day I turned 22, my first feeling was not of being a real adult in control of my life; my only plan was getting to class on time and finding a way to not pay for parking.

I was in desperate need of some perspective. If there is one way to reveal to yourself just how much you have actually evolved from that tender high school version of you, it is to hang out with someone you went to high school with – someone who has not changed from that 18-year-old version of themselves. As I mentioned, I still live at home in the same town I grew up in and went to high school in, so I have a plethora of options to choose from when I need a blast from the past. It was one of these recent encounters that allowed me to finally revel and celebrate in the fact that I am 22.

While I may tend to forget how much I have improved and what I have accomplished from being a nervous and quiet sophomore in all of the the repetitiousness and academic pursuits of college, I have actually made tremendous progress to becoming this current version of me. Not to mention how much better I have gotten at doing my makeup and that I have now become a cat person.

This past year I raised my hand more in class and committed myself to being a more attentive and caring friend. I’ve challenged myself to say “yes” more than “no” and I have really started to love what I look like. Over this past year, as I finished with being 21, I have really come into my own sense of self. The newly 22-year-old Lauren is a confident senior in college with future plans who knows her own mind and who has not stopped evolving yet.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.