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  • Writer's pictureKelly Lai

Coming of age: no one told me it'd be this tough

(warning: the following article contains some form of quarter-life existential crisis)

In 3 months, I’ll be turning 21. And quite honestly, I don’t know if I’m excited or scared.

That number used to feel so far away, back when I was in secondary school, or JC even. So did the responsibilities and worries of adulting. It is true when people say to cherish your schooling days while you can before life throws you curveballs. Although I was unwillingly forced into a strict, rigid Singapore education system, those were the days when I made some of the best memories.

Made the fondest memories back when I was an OGL

The anxiety truly kicked in when university started. Which got me thinking: am I the only one feeling this way? On the one hand, the newfound freedom was exciting. As someone who was only used to strict timetables and standard classroom teaching, getting to plan my timetable and having pockets of free time throughout the week was the thing I appreciated the most. On the other, because I was so used to individual work, having multiple group projects and the idea of class participation took some time to get used to.

The one thing that stressed me out the most about becoming an adult is the finances. One goal I tried gradually achieving was to be more independent with my money, which included working independently and relying less on my parents for my daily expenses. I have been working part-time jobs throughout university and do have a monthly income of my own. What I didn’t realise was how easy it is to spend the money made. Even simple expenses like meals and transport cost more than I thought. If I am unable to properly plan my savings now, how much harder will it get in the future? It won’t be just lunches and bus fares I have to worry about then.

After having gone through 2 years of university, I still do not have a concrete plan for my future. A 9-5 job is not for me, and I realised this after working a part-time office job during my holidays. For me, passion is a more critical factor than the salary, and I’m afraid I’ll end up with a job that has no appeal to my liking.

Okay, enough with the cons; let’s talk about some things I look forward to the most in this next chapter of life.

21 is still a young age. There is still so much to explore, and years upon years of life experiences await me. I love travelling (and I believe so do many others), and this May will be my first overseas trip with my friends to Korea! As someone who grew up with strict Asian parents, their agreeing to a two-week trip away from home took me by surprise. Being able to embark on new adventures like this is something I’m most excited about.

Next, stepping out of my comfort zone. Turning 21 made me realise just how quickly time flies. I used to fear trying new things, especially if I thought I couldn’t do as well as others in said activities. My social anxiety peaks when I’m a newbie thrown into an environment where everyone is already good at what they are doing. Through time, I have realised that people are more preoccupied with their own progress than mine, and getting judged was just my irrational fear. Also, this is the peak age when I get to explore many things! We’re in the healthiest, most active and social period of our lives, so why restrict ourselves to what we are comfortable with? This change in mindset also led to an increase in confidence in myself. I genuinely believe that with age comes confidence. I figure out my likes and dislikes. I set boundaries for myself. And most importantly, putting myself first.

It is a constant reminder that I am not alone in this! All my friends are also celebrating their coming of age, and I have been to more birthday parties this year than I have my whole life. It is a special occasion indeed, seeing the bright grins on their faces as they blow out the candles on the cake. At this phase of life, everyone has their fair share of problems, which is normal.

a close friend's birthday party

I live life with no regrets. Sure, I have made many mistakes, but I don’t think I would be the person I am today without them. Life does not have to be picture-perfect. I think it only gets fun when life gets a little messy. It is all part of the human experience.

I recently saw on TikTok that at 21, you are technically a one-year-old adult. When you turn 23, you are a three-year-old adult. It is completely okay not to have life figured out right now.

So, let yourself breathe!

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