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Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Column: To be 20

“Do something stupid over the next few days so you can blame it on being a teen,” my friend, Slava, jokes days before I turn 20.

I’d never thought of the teenage years quite like that – you know, full of entertaining and enduring experiences you look back on and say, “Well, I was a teen.”

I wish I could say for the sake of an interesting column that I took Slava’s “advice” and did something wild, like … cow tipping by the Tercero dorms hours before I turned 20. Instead, I spent my last teen hours on a homebound Jet Blue plane.

Whether I did anything out of the ordinary or not, my teenage years are officially over. I’m now a “20-something.”

Twenty-something. Damn, that feels weird to say. I assume it’s a sign of aging. I mean, there’s no “teen-something,” but there’s “30-something, 40-something, 50-something …” and it just goes downhill from there.

Back when I was nine and on the verge of my 10th birthday, being 10 sounded really old. It was those double digits that did it for me. After all, the next time you can celebrate another digit added onto your age is, well, when you’re 100.

When I was 10, the idea of turning 20 somehow seemed boring, dull and ages away – like how far away my “40-somethings” currently seem. (But that’s probably roughly the age of our parents, so I’m sure our random college antics are enough to keep their lives … interesting.)

Although 20 seemed old back then, 21 was my age limit for being REALLY old. Other than the obvious fact of legally being an adult (which apparently just equates to being allowed to drink alcohol), my reasoning was mostly because of the clothing store Forever 21. That store epitomized youth.

As a sixth grader, I stood wide-eyed in front of that store and vowed I would no longer shop there after my 22nd birthday. (Fearing the shame of ending up as one of the many middle-aged women hoping to be 21 forever.) For now, I rest in peace knowing that I still have two years before I’ll have to make the decision of whether or not to push my self-established 22-year-old age limit to 25.

I also imagined that you’re supposed to be super accomplished by the time you hit 20 – or at least when you’re in your 20s. A high school friend once said she felt the same way as I did because in the movies you watch, the lead character is typically an ambitious overachiever working her way up the corporate ladder.

It turns out none of that is really true. We’re not boring, old or dull (for the most part). While the saying “20 is halfway to 40” is often teased, I like to think 20 is only one-fifth of 100. We might not be very accomplished yet, but that’s okay because we’re stuck in college so there isn’t much of a corporate ladder to climb anyway. ASUCD elections and club officer positions count as a step up the ladder in my book.

Now that I’m actually 20, I like to imagine the next decade of life to be like the Roaring 20s, filled with spontaneity, freedom and a bit of self-indulgence. This may just be wishful thinking, but so far so good. (Although I’ll admit it’s only been a few days, and that I don’t feel any different from before.)

Hopefully, the 20s are also a time for “growing up” – whatever the definition may be.

As a child, it meant growing taller. During the teenage years it meant growing acne (although I still haven’t gone through that blessing in disguise). Maybe now it means growing guts – growing the guts to take more responsibility and initiative in life and making mistakes despite knowing you can no longer blame them on “being a teen.”

Or it could just mean growing the guts to attempt the cruel act of cow tipping.

TIFFANY LEW thinks it’s funny when people say “40 is the new 30, and 30 is the new 20.” Does that mean 20 is the new … 10? E-mail her at tjlew@ucdavis.edu to help answer this question.


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