Everything I know at 21

Turning 21 is thought to be a momentous occasion in your life. I can’t think of a single reason why. At 21, I’m much the same as I was at 20. Yes, there are signs of ageing in the past year – I’ve started to groan when getting out of chairs, waking up without my full 8 hours of sleep leaves me feeling hungover and cranky, actual hangovers have started to attack with full force. But emotionally and mentally, I still feel like the same child I was when I was turned 18. 

The key word here is ‘child’. I can’t picture myself as an adult, but by the standards of every country on earth, I am one now. I can now legally drink in the USA. I can vote. I can legally buy a house. Before I’m 22, I should have a full-time job and will have left education behind for good. By all accounts, I am an adult. I should know things. Important things, like how to pay taxes. Unimportant things, like whether or not I want a tumble dryer or if I can make do with a clothes horse. But what do I know? What can I confidently say “I know this” about at the ripe old age of 21? I feel like I know very little about the real world or anything that matters.  

But, in the interest of trying to make sure no one else feels as clueless as me, here is everything I know at 21: 

  1. You don’t need to be good at something to enjoy doing it. If you enjoy trying to sing and learning to play the guitar, go for it! But maybe don’t go for it in the middle of the living room while other people are trying to eat. Or at 1am. Your flatmates will not thank you for that.
  1. Spending a little more money in order to have good toilet paper is worth it.  
  1. Full stops in text messages do not mean someone is angry with you but they also do mean someone is angry with you. Some people just text with full stops but others use them to indicate their inner fury. It’s very difficult to navigate so often it’s easier to call someone. 
  1. Dating apps are a game. By this I mean they have replaced Candy Crush in my life. They’re a little swiping game I can play on the loo or when I’m bored. 
  1. Very little is more annoying than a friend who only talks about their partner. Having been the only single person in a group, I have been at a meal out where the first hour was spent listening to everyone else discuss their boyfriends one by one. It sucked.  
  1. Making a tit of yourself is one of the best things you can do while at university. Doing something mortifying on a night out makes for a great story. In turn, great stories can make you feel like you’ve made the most of your life. So don’t be too down if you chunder at the worst time possible or find yourself coming last in a twerking competition. You’ll be able to laugh about it later.  
  1. Your weight and appearance have very little impact on if you are an ‘attractive’ person – if you are confident, that is always attractive – but this is one of the worst things you can say to someone who feels unattractive. To those of us who feel too fat and ugly to be liked by anyone, telling us that these factors have nothing to do with beauty or that personality is more important, etcetera, sounds like you’re saying “yes, you are fat and ugly”. It sounds like you agree with us but are just saying what you’re supposed to for us to feel better. It sounds like a lie. We never believe you.  
  1. Air fryers are your friend! They’re cheaper to run than an oven and often quicker. 
  1. If you skip a period, you are always going to wonder if you’re pregnant until you get your period again. The test can come back negative, no other symptoms will appear, it could even be impossible to be pregnant, but until your period comes, you’re always going to wonder.   
  1. Finally, at 21, I know that nobody knows what they’re doing. Yes, we all have that friend who has their life figured out, all formatted into short-term goals and long-term dreams. But even they can’t know everything. No matter what age you are, it is everyone’s first time on earth. Mistakes get made and that’s okay because none of us have done this before. There isn’t a cheat sheet on how to be alive. There isn’t a specific way to play the game of life and get maximum points, no scoreboard for being the ultimate human. Everyone, even the rare few who know exactly who they are and what they want, is just muddling through life, figuring it out as we go.    

Latest from Lifestyle