At 21

At 21, I wonder if I’m supposed to start thinking about advanced skincare. When do I start using wrinkle cream? Should I be concerned about taking vitamins? Are free-radicals ruining my later years of Facetime with the grandkids on our iPhone 7S 17G smartphones?

At 21, the fashion world and I are at a standstill. I want to still buy young clothes, but I’m supposed to be looking at professional attire as well, for the career that I am waiting to come true completely.  Where is the middle ground between my usual uniform of denim cutoffs, leopard print, and 1970s jewelry versus nice heels-and-blouse-and-skirt-that-have-actually-been-ironed-with-a-real-iron-and-not-just-a-hair-straightener for the working world? Am I too old for some trends? Do I shop at Forever21 or Chicos?

At 21, half of everyone I know tells me that I’m such a baby age-wise and I have so much time to figure my life out and the other half sees me as an old mature graduate and reminds me that their generation has access to technology and resources even faster than I did. This causes confusion and lots of nervous laughter.

At 21, I am finally beginning to accept myself and all my quirks. I’ve gone through the rough awkward years of middle school and the dazed years of high school and even the happy 24/7 years of college, and I think I know a few of my personal strengths by now. My waist size and body type don’t stress me out as much as they used to, I know, for the most part, what looks good on me, and I’ve embraced my big hair wholeheartedly. I don’t have a lisp anymore, I don’t rely on music as my only conversation topic anymore, and I can take a compliment and just say “Thank You” without freaking out about it or over-thinking. When I look in the mirror, I can actually calmly smile at my reflection.

At 21, I know how to do some important life-skill things. I know how to jump start a car battery, how to make at least 10 different edible dishes (most of them breakfast, but let’s be honest, breakfast is the best), how to actually use the internet to find answers to questions and not just funny cat pictures, how to write a cover letter, how to blow dry my hair and have it come out somewhat decent, how to make coffee, how to put together an outfit, how to be on time, and how to pack a suitcase.

At 21, I still need to work on being specific with my calendar and schedule, having a conversation that’s not completely all about my fears of being a post grad in this economy, changing a flat tire, painting my nails without smearing the polish everywhere, answering questions in a job interview without wanting every answer I give to be funny, locating things on a map and not just relying on a GPS to do it for me, and how to do something productive with my Saturdays instead of the usual routine of pretending my floor is lava and my bed is the only safe place that I won’t get burned.

At 21, I should have more sense. I should probably stand up straighter, tell the whole truth when I am asked, stop texting boys that are careless with my heart and don’t even appreciate my finely-worded puns, read more books, stop waiting so long to get my hair cut, trust Jesus more, wear sensible shoes, and floss every other day.

At 21, I listen to Jack White’s song “Freedom At 21” and pretend it is all about me and feel 300% cooler and more rockstar because of it. Judge me.

At 21, I actually carry a big-girl purse every day with a planner and Advil and chapstick and bobby pins in it. I am learning to be prepared. I wear a watch that’s not digital and I try and keep the dirt out from under my fingernails and my polish unchipped.

At 21, I need to be told that I’m doing okay. I need to be told that life isn’t a race towards success. I need approval from my peers, and it hurts sometimes when I don’t get it. I need to be needed but I have a tendency to flake out on plans. I need direction but I also need to feel like I’m making my own life decisions. I need a hug, and I need you to give one to me even if I don’t ask for it. I need to sleep more. I need to eat more vegetables. I need those really cute boots I saw in the magazine, but I am going to tell myself that I don’t need them…at least until they go on sale.

At 21, I am frustrated when people get down on my generation for being so connected to our phones, too apathetic, not interested in politics, careless, needy, spoiled, obnoxious, MTV-driven, lazy, obsessed with the Kardashians, and entitled, even if sometimes I know that it is absolutely true, and that I am all of those things at times.

At 21, I am adjusting to, well, my life. That is, at least until 22 comes along, then all of this falls to pieces again.

11 responses to “At 21

  1. As a fellow 21 year old, I agree with nearly everything in this post. Especially the part of what clothes I’m supposed to wear.

  2. I’m 21 too! Even as a guy I’m having struggles with what clothes to wear. Thankfully I work from home so sometimes I don’t have to change at all haha :D

  3. “stop texting boys that are careless with my heart and don’t even appreciate my finely-worded puns” true that sister, I say this as your 23 year old elder :)

  4. I enjoy these types of posts. I believe it’s good to be self-aware, not self-conscious, and is something that I tend to do naturally myself. The fact that you sorta-kinda know who you are, but are still working to figure things out, shows that you understand that life is constantly “in-progress” and there’s alway the aspect of things you will never get. This is what makes you a good writer/blogger, because you are able to point these things out that others can’t do as easily. It’s a strength, and I just want to encourage you in that.

    • thank you so much! this whole comment is such an encouragement, seriously. i always get a little nervous writing about myself and my ‘white-girl’ finding-myself struggles but it’s so nice to get honest feedback. let’s be self-aware together.

  5. Kelsey.
    I’m 43 and I still don’t know what to wear or where to shop! I do know that even *I* am not old enough for Chicos yet, though! I think the progression is something like: Gymboree/GapKids, Limited Too, Hollister and all those other cologne-soaked, dark stores, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, Anthropology/Banana Republic/AnnTaylorLoft, and then maybe Talbots/AnnTaylor/Nordstroms??? (that’s where I’m stuck?!), and there’s probably, hopefully someplace else that should go here and THEN Chicos. But I feel certain that Chicos is to be saved until retirement. Or at least until you’re late middle-aged and going on anniversary cruises. Anniversaries after like 30 years probably. (Guys just go straight to JosephABanks once they reach adulthood I think. A suit is a suit is a suit….whether you’re 24 or 64. The big, fun difference is the pattern of the tie!)
    And just so you know, pretty much whenever I need to iron my clothes, you can often find me IN the outfit attempting to do the job with my hair straightener. No lie. Irons are for people with time. Or better jobs? (People with better jobs probably use the drycleaners. My husband does…)
    Also – the sensible shoes? I don’t even understand that. Nordstroms has a fantastic shoe department with pretty much all the shoes I need for my life and there is NOT a “sensible” section there. (oh…maybe those Clarks brand, or whatever those are called. I look the other way and walk quickly past though)
    And about the trends – no, you are not too old! Like I tell my 15 yr old daughter, “a little trashy goes a long way” – same with the trendy I think. A little trend goes a long way. That big-girl purse you carry? Get it in leopard. Wear your 70s jewelry with your blouse and skirt. Be YOU, because YOU is who we all love! There are plenty of dreadfully boring people in this world – please don’t become one more of them!
    And lastly, Life is NOT a race towards success. Even if everybody acts like it is. Just stand up straight and trust Jesus. You’re going to be fine. I believe that 100% about you.
    PS – I STILL have never made a pot of coffee. Ever.

  6. oh man! i relate to so much of this! you had me laughing AND wanting to cry! ahhh! thanks for sharing!

  7. I fully appreciate your finely worded puns.

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