Note: Originally published on Medium on the Be Yourself publication.
I recently turned nineteen. I was living in China at the time. Because I was studying a foreign language, I was constantly meeting new people and going over the same information. E.g., name, country of origin, age, family members, reason for being in China, etc. I hadn’t thought about my age much before my twentieth birthday. It was just a number, just something else to tell people. I would get my share of oohs and ahs from the locals when I told them I was nineteen, and many people would tell me just how amazing it was that I was out living my life and having these wonderful experiences in a different country. I considered this to be normal, and I didn’t think much about it. However, after my twentieth birthday, I noticed a change in the questions and statements that were presented to me. The questions went from “What’s it like to be gone from your family?” and the statements from “Wow, you’re so young to be out here!”, to the questions being “So when will you get married?” and the statements being “Ah, you must have a job here!”. It was a very sudden and abrupt twist to the conversations that I was having, so much of a twist that initially I was thrown off by the questions and assumed that I had heard wrong. But sure enough, the questions and conversations had taken of a more serious note, a note that I didn’t like. A note that implied “What are you doing here, you can’t play around your whole life you know.”. I texted several of my friends in the states, and asked friends if they had experienced the same difference in questions and in the way that people treated them once they were in their twenties. Unsurprisingly, many of them felt the same way. They had experienced this change, and laughed about it when it was brought up. They felt that other adults wanted them to settle down, find a path, and follow it. The more they talked, the more we realized that the tones of our peers changed when we hit twenty years of age. The peers in our lives were pressuring us to follow what society deems as “the best way”, they wanted/want us to go to college, select a career, and to follow that until we retire. This sort of thinking I believe is what drags people down to begin with. In our teens and our younger years, everyone tells us we can be anything, do anything, become whoever we want to be. But, the catch is that once we’re at the age where we should be “responsible human beings”, we are no longer given the leniency that we had in our “young naive years”.
I’m not saying that I know how to fix this problem, and I’m not saying that it IS a problem. What I wanted to accomplish with this article, was to point out that many of our peers and those that are older than us, even if it is unconsciously, attempt to quench our fiery dreams with a bucketful of “reality”. I was completely happy being in China, studying Mandarin and just living my life, but my peers in America, Europe, China, and all over the world wanted to, on some level, pull that away from me. That is the threshold that is crossed between the ages of nineteen and twenty, a threshold between “adulthood” and “dreamerhood” where our fellow man has taken it upon themselves to mold us all into what they would deem “responsible adults”.