The Coming of Age: Turning 21

January 02, 2017

I'm an adult now!

Mandatory blog post because I turn 21 today. No parties, no gatherings, just hanging out with a few people I love. That's not the 21st birthday celebration I imagined a year ago but 21 years is enough for me to learn that life hardly turns out the way we envision it to.

My 21st birthday planning had been a roller coaster ride. I started out wanting a typical big celebration like the rest of my friends, but decided against it after a dear friend left me. It was a tough and trying period as I was broken and shed tears over our lost friendship. Till today, her photos sit on my office desk because I can't bear the thought of removing them.

That incident alone caused me to rethink holding a birthday party despite my love for planning parties in general. The friends I invite to my birthday, if I held one, might not even be the people I turn to a month from now if something were to happen to me. I thought, the only thing worse than not celebrating my 21st birthday was celebrating my 21st birthday with a party attended by 50 people disinterested in my existence.

But a tiny voice protested (along with my mom who really wanted me to hold a party LOL), reminding me that I could always hold a small party and invite all of my closest friends who have been there all along, for several years now. So I had almost everything planned out, right down to securing sponsors for my dessert table, cake, food catering, hotel etc.

The last month of 2016 saw me being so overwhelmed by the countless things I had to settle before the year ended. It burnt me out, and the fact that I haven't even confirmed the date for my celebrations two weeks to my birthday added to my stress.

At the eleventh hour, I decided, heck it, I already have an upcoming work trip — why not clear my leave since I'm already travelling and do something I always wanted to do instead of conforming to society's standards of a huge 21st birthday bash. If I'm procrastinating the planning, I probably don't want a celebration that much. So I shelved my birthday plans and immediately booked my air tickets to Japan.

It's my first official solo travel (I've travelled solo for work before but it doesn't count as solo travel per se), and it's to Japan, a country I wanted to visit since I was 15. I think experiencing Japan will be better than any celebrations I hold because I waited way too long for this.

A yearly affair

As a kid, I thought turning 21 would be a crucial turning point in my life. I don't know what I expected — that maybe a fairy would descend upon me, sprinkle some sparkly magic powder and I'd suddenly turn pretty, grow taller, and have my life together? I'm 21 today and while that didn't happen, 21 years of living did change and mature me.

Being 20 made me scared. I was continuously pushed out of my comfort zone. I started contributing to the household and gave my mom money on a monthly basis. I was proud of myself yet at the same time, envious of my friends and their university lives. I detested the fact that I had to be an adult when in the eyes of the law, I was hardly an adult.

I made mistakes — some costly, some scarred me emotionally and some made me sobbed uncontrollably. At the end of the day, I learn. I learnt things the hard way, but I always learnt from my mistakes. A few mistakes even led me to beautiful people whom I eventually opened my heart to. I stopped being afraid of making mistakes. I stopped being afraid of the unforeseeable future. Most importantly, I stopped being a terrified girl who's unsure of herself.

I became confident of myself.

Leaving some of the most toxic people in my life allowed me to gain the confidence I always lacked. I used to cry if I had to meet new people, but now I go up to them and introduce myself. I shuddered at the thought of any social interaction (even with my close friends), but now I find myself turning strangers into friends, chatting and laughing with them within minutes.

Being a working almost-adult helped too, I was forced to improve my small talks skills and overcome my shyness. Because I stopped being socially anxious, I began mixing with people and actually enjoyed being around people. I laugh a lot more, and loudly too, because I was no longer restricted by people who told me you should do this, you should behave that way. I became my own person, and I started living for myself.

I might have went a little wild with the live-for-yourself and #noragrets attitude by clubbing three times a week but... #noragrets, right?

Being a late bloomer, I only started drinking at 19; the year I turned 20 was the peak of my drinking habits, with the break up I went through early 2016 and the sudden increase in spending power when I started my first full time job. Drinking quickly turned to clubbing when we didn't want the night to end. If everyone has a 'clubber siao' period in their lives, this would be mine.

Not all clubbers are bad influencers and clubbing isn't necessarily half as immoral as the general public makes it out to be. If it was, my traditional mom would have never allowed me to go clubbing thrice a week, even bringing me to the clubs she frequents in Malaysia #truestory.

Taking care of myself (and sometimes my friends), controlling the amount I drink so I don't get dead drunk, making sure I complete whatever I need to do if I want to spend the night out — these are some responsibilities I learnt that comes with clubbing. I even met some friends in the club I frequent, people who are just there to enjoy the music and have fun.

If you told me a year ago that this would be the person I am today, I wouldn't have believed you. Energetic, hopeful, outgoing, optimistic about the future and as a new friend called me, bubbly bunny. I've never been happier and more satisfied with my life. Looking back, if there's a truly defining year in my life, it's definitely between the time I grew from an unsure teeanger to self-sufficient young adult.

Happy 21st birthday to myself :)

May the rest of my adulthood be as fruitful and as exciting. I'm readyyyyyyy!

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