Why Turning 23 Is Both Terrifying And Exciting

I feel the winter wind rolling in. It’s colder than I thought it would be, like a stranger seeking an embrace. It evicts the newly-fallen snow, scattering it on beds of last autumn’s dead grass. I hear it whistling a symphonic tune that reminds me that, in spite of the graveyard in which I reside, I am alive. I stand, frozen for a second, propelled nonconsensually into a future unknown.

Throughout my life, I have discovered that aging is much like time.

Even as I remain motionless, the days propel me forward. Even as I remain the same, I am constantly changing. In this moment, I am as old as I have ever been and as young as I will ever be again. However, I don’t see any changes until I look back and see how different my life is now.

As the days bleed into weeks, and the weeks warp into months, I turn back long enough to see that the year is over, that the world has died and sprung to life again, that the events I had anticipated for so long have already come to pass. It is as though I simply watch the world fly by, remaining completely helpless to change its path. I cannot stop time or aging; I am forever at the mercy of its inevitability and my inability to interrupt its wrath.

And it is this terrifying realization that I am learning to accept as I turn 23.

If my twenties were a house, 21 would be the doormat, the soft welcome into an entire world I have yet to meet. 22 would be the door. I would hold my hand against it, forever knocking on the wood and hoping for a response. On the eve of 23, the door would open. The house would be dark, with only a candle or two lit to guide the way. This home, this castle of adulthood, is lonely. The floorboards creak, dust litters the lamps and linens, and there are no other people. Is this crippling unknowability my future?

But I pick up a candle and make my way into the home. I brush off the dust and turn on the lights. I embrace the old creaky floors because even though they are worn, they are wise enough to hold me up. There is someone waiting for me, and he helps to tidy up the home. And soon enough, we make our way out the back door together, and enter a new home with the same layout.

I know I don’t know everything.

I know I have a lot to learn, and I no longer reside in my bubble of early-twenties comfort. With 23, I am taking a bigger leap into independence, learning, failing, and growing. I am closer to finishing school, marrying the love of my life, and seeing the world.

As I turn 23, I am discovering that it’s OK to fear the future, but it’s also OK to feel excited about all it brings.

23 isn’t here to hurt or hinder me, but rather to help me. I need to trust that aging isn’t an enemy of progress, but instead a gateway to imagination and curiosity.

23 is a friend.

As I enter into this new stage of adulthood, I hold onto the words of A.A. Milne: “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 23 is terrifying, but I know I am courageous enough to embrace it.

So long, 22. Thanks for being good to me and helping me become who I am today. I have to let you go now. It’s time to move on and embrace the great perhaps – the world of 23.

Featured image via Nine Köpfer on Unsplash


  1. I turn 23 in a matter of hours, and if you’re seeing this in 2020 then you know the last couple of months have been hellish. I’m scared of what comes next, what challenges I’ll face and what people will expect of me. I think you’re right, the early 20s have been comfortable, so I know that there’s a lot of hard work ahead of me. But if there’s someone in that house to lend a hand and guide me, then even as I am a bear of very little brain, I will make do with what I’ve got! Thank you.


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