#2. You'll be Balancing the Heaviest Workload of Your Life -- Or At Least it Feels Like It
So you've been out of high school for two years. You're now in college, halfway to your bachelor's degree in male pole dancing. You spend the day attending class and your nights working a local taco joint because you realized one month into your first semester that you couldn't survive on student loans and financial aid alone.
You have four major tests and three research papers due at the end of the week, and you haven't done a single second's worth of studying because you planned to do that on downtime at work -- and it turns out that drunk people love tacos at 2:30 a.m. after the bars close.
And they are a fucking pleasure to be around.
Meanwhile, your mom has been nagging you to come home for a visit next weekend, and you can't really get out of it because the last time you were home was during summer break. But you still haven't taken your girlfriend out, and she's getting restless around five thousand other college males with working genitalia and an infinite supply of box wine.
You manage to pull off two of your research papers on four hours of sleep, but the other one just plain isn't going to get finished in time. So you beg your professor for an extension, which he denies because he couldn't give less of a shit about your problems. His is the only class that exists in the entire school as far as he's concerned, and you should have spent more time writing and less time taco-ing. He wants it in his hands by tomorrow morning. So you resign yourself to another four hours of sleep and bust out a half-assed paper that will pull a C at best. But since the paper accounts for a quarter of your total grade, it'll have to do because the F from not turning it in would wreck your GPA.
Meanwhile, your boss at work catches you nodding off during your shift and tells you that your school schedule isn't his concern. He hired you to make tacos, and if you can't do that he'll find someone who can. He has a business to run.
"Now, you get in there and stir 6,000 gallons of meat chunks!"
Now, a lot of the older readers are thinking, "Ha! I run my own roofing business and on top of working 80-hour weeks, I have seven kids, and four of them are in wheelchairs! Try living my life, college kid!" but you worked your way up to that. You got acclimated to going without sleep and having no down time.
When you're 20 or 21, the sudden change in life's difficulty curve is an absolute shock. The amount of free time in your life is slashed down to nothing, all at once, and the number of responsibilities suddenly explode. Your body needs sleep more than any time of your life other than infancy, and you're not allowed to get it.
There is probably at least one war veteran out there eager to point out that at 20 they were in Iraq trying to defuse homemade bombs, but the military is actually a good example -- the entire process of basic training is built to shock the recruit into understanding how radically the world's expectations have changed. Maybe that's what we all need, some guy to yell it into our face on the first day. Instead, nobody tells you, and all of these new, conflicting expectations just start slowly pulling your limbs off.
"Man, I really need to have my own kids to take this out on."
#1. You're Uncertain About Your Adult Status
Twenty is the age where you most likely have a couple of straggler friends who are still in high school. Like say in high school you were a senior and they were a sophomore, but now you're out. When you were both teenagers, there was nothing strange about it -- teenagers hang out together. But when you're 20 or 21 and you stop by to pick up your friend for lunch, you're now the weird old guy from Dazed and Confused who refuses to let his high school years die. And you figure, yeah, but even at 18 Steve is cool and mature. But now Steve has a sophomore friend, Matt, who's only 16. And he's brought his 14-year-old girlfriend along. And all at once, you realize that some of the people in this car live on a different planet than you.
"So ... uh ... menstruating yet?"
But even with the Steves of the world, you have these little reminders -- they still can't legally buy alcohol or be caught with it, they're legally bound to local curfew ordinances, they can't go into the clubs that you can. And all of that teenager stuff you used to get away with -- sneaking beers behind the backs of your parents, etc. -- the kind of stuff that would get you grounded back then? If you get caught doing that shit now, your ass goes straight to jail for corruption of a minor. In a hundred different ways the world is telling you, "Move on, dude, this is getting creepy."
But there's another side to that coin. When you get into conversations with people just a few years older than you, they're still fucking treating you like a teenager.
You're not taken seriously on any adult subject because you have virtually no life experience yet. Your political opinions? "Yeah, that's what I'd expect from someone your age. You'll think differently when you're older." Opinions on raising children? "Yeah, you'll laugh at what you just said when you're 30 and have kids of your own. Hell, you're still a kid yourself." And don't think you can just earn your way out of it -- if you are successful in your career right out of school, that just makes people resent you more. They'll look at you and your advanced work position and say, "I wonder who he's related to?"
If you want a vivid example of what I mean, try walking onto a car dealership at 20. The salesman won't come out and try to talk you into a car. He'll look at you like you're about to vandalize something. In that setting, you might as well be 13. At a party with teenagers, you might as well be 30.
"I totally fit in here!"
So all the movies that make those years of your life look like a romantic, vibrant sex-o-coaster? Fuck 'em. I know better.