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Almost 20: Reflections on Childhood and Adulthood

Leaving childhood behind is a hard thing to do. Join Liana Naidu as she talks through the highs and lows of approaching her twenties.

Recently, I found myself pursuing one of my favourite forms of procrastination, exploring Google Maps. I don’t remember exactly why I opened Google Maps, but after some exploring, I eventually found myself staring at photos of the house and neighbourhood I lived in until the age of nine.

In the time since we moved out, the trees have grown and objects on the front porch have changed, but I can still flick back through the years on Google Maps and look at photos of the house as I knew it.

But back to the present. 

At the time of writing this article, I am a few weeks away from my 20th birthday. Can someone please explain to me why I’m completely okay with the idea of turning 20, but cannot reconcile the idea that I’ll be ‘in my twenties?’ 

Now, I know that this should be a lot less dramatic than I’m making it sound. After all, 19 and 20 are not that different. But they sound distinctly different.

When I reflect on my first couple of years of adulthood, I immediately notice how different I feel from the version of myself that graduated high school. I learnt, changed, and grew a significant amount between the ages of 16 and 18, and I can say the same thing for the ages of 18 and 20. To me, these early formative years of adulthood have been a powerful time of exploration, discovery and growth. At times I have struggled to find my feet, but I’ve also made new friends, found hobbies I really enjoy and gotten better at navigating life. 

Leaving high school forced me to reevaluate some of my goals, habits and attitudes. I’ve restructured how I use my time in an attempt to have more time for the things that I enjoy. And similarly, as I begin another decade of my life, I feel ready to reevaluate some of my goals again. I’m asking questions about what I want to contribute to the world and what I want my adult life to look like. I have friends who are roughly my age getting engaged and married, as well as friends who are making significant steps towards their career goals; while I am definitely not ready to make those kinds of decisions yet, it’s difficult not to compare the trajectory that my life is on to that of my friends. Obviously, it’s not a particularly useful comparison to make, but the fact that I can’t even see myself approaching the milestones that my friends are already at is strange.

That said, I still frequently find myself forgetting that I am an adult. I find myself switching between thinking of myself as an adult and as a child. Sometimes I enjoy the process of trying to coordinate a busy schedule, but sometimes I fail to cook basic meals. I find myself remembering to consider budgeting when I make purchases but forgetting that I don’t need to ask for parental permission to go out with friends. And I rarely feel like a ‘proper adult,’ whatever that is. Even when I go back and look at the photos of the house as I knew it, it doesn’t look like the house as I remember it. Looking at childhood memories from a new perspective feels almost inevitably bittersweet.

It usually feels as though childhood and adulthood are two mutually exclusive states. But the more I observe the adults around me, I wonder if this is really the case. Maybe adulthood is less of a clear-cut state and more of a spectrum. Perhaps the reason I view myself as an adult on some days and a child on others is that most days I feel somewhere in the middle. At any given moment, I might be somewhere between taking pride in my responsibilities and feeling childlike joy and wonder.


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