Getting older doesn't have to be so scary

As my birthday draws closer, I realize I'm turning into my mother in a lot of ways. And that's not a bad thing. Come on 21, let's see what you got!

Two children sitting beside each other with party hats on their heads and party blowers in their mouths Photo:

Lately it feels like I’ve been waking up earlier and earlier every night. My mother does this too—wakes up in the middle of the night and can never go back to sleep. It used to annoy me to no end, how she would get out of bed and thunder by my bedroom door as though trying to rope me into her curse as well.

Obviously, that’s a harsh sentiment. My mother walks like a ghost and would never purposefully try to make me lose sleep—15-year-old me was just a monster. If I could, I’d go back as I am now—clinging to my last days of being 20 and trying to emulate my mother’s phantom footsteps as I slowly become her—and tell myself not to be so mean.

“Chill out, Hasana, show a little mercy,” I think I’d tell myself. “Soon enough you’ll understand.”

Fifteen-year-old me would roll her eyes at that, I’m sure, but would later come to find that I was right. She would see that, with her looming birthday approaching, she would be hit with that same, restless feeling that no doubt was what kept her mother awake for so many nights.

I now know why my mother would creep past my door on her way to the kitchen at 3am, not meaning to rouse me but doing so anyway. If perhaps a small part of her secretly wanted me to wake up with her, I now understand why and wouldn’t blame her. Lately when I creep past my brother’s door, I too hold my breath, hoping that maybe he’s awake and wants to join me. If I could go back, I’d join my mother for her twilight tea. There is truly nothing worse than being alone and painfully aware of the minutes ticking by in the middle of the night.


Happy (?) birthday to me

I should probably get to the point. See, I’m 20 and my birthday is in exactly two weeks. Doing the math, that means I’ll be turning 21. What’s more is that I’m turning 21 away from my home, without my mother and older brother, for the very first time. Then next year, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be turning 22 in Scotland—not only without my mother and older brother, but also without my twin. When I actually think about it, both are equally exciting and terrifying—however, right now it’s all just terrifying.

Everyone talks about a midlife crisis—you turn 50 and you start feeling that fear of aging—but not enough people address how scary it is to slowly age out of your twenties. We’re constantly told how important it is to not waste our youth, but what do we do now that the last two years of our lives have been washed away by the pandemic? Well, for starters, you look in the mirror and remind yourself that it’s perfectly normal and valid to be freaked out.

I won’t deny the importance of our twenties. These are the selfish years where we get to explore who we are and who we want to be (don’t get me started on how being selfish does not equate to being bad or evil—selfishness is a necessary quality at certain points in life). That being said, I think we need to bring ourselves back down to earth a little bit and remember that there is no schedule for life. We aren’t being timed—you cannot fail this test. Without you there is no life and so only you can decide the pace at which you approach and complete your goals.

It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to turn into your mother, wake up at 4am painfully aware of the time passing you by, and try to walk just loud enough that your twin wakes up and keeps you company. Most importantly, it’s OK to not want to feel alone in this weird transition period. Sometimes it’s all you can do to put Frozen on the TV and sit with yourself for a while. We’ve all got to do what we can to feel good in the madness.

However, even as I sit here thinking about how close I am to losing 20 to 21, I can confidently say that this feeling doesn’t last forever. Life is so wonderful, and the passing of time is a really huge part of what makes it wonderful. After all, with every loss there comes a space for the new, the unexpected, and the beautiful. I hope you take some comfort in this spiel or at least in knowing that you’re not the only person who feels this way. I know that I have.

Now, goodbye 20. I will miss you dearly, but hello 21. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for me.