I turned 20 years old in October of 2007, the beginning of my sophomore year of college at Boston University. I was happily ensconced in college life, surrounded by great friends and interesting classes in a city that I loved. I felt very little sadness at leaving my teenage years behind; I was ready to be an adult.
Through a mix of pop culture, my family, my peers, and society as a whole, I had created an idea of what the next decade of my life was “supposed” to look like. I was still young enough to think that growth had a predictable order to it, that you moved through life on a linear path, each accomplishment or milestone then followed by the next logical step. There may have been pockets of truth to that belief, but overall it left me significantly unprepared for what society had told me would be the best years of my life.
My 20’s taught me the lesson that almost everyone learns at some point: life is not linear, and things rarely turn out how you thought they would or how you were told they would. Those 10 years were defined by amazing highs and some terrible lows. I experienced what felt like both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, from tragic loss and struggles with mental health to incredible academic achievements and amazing new friends. I struggled to build the life society had told me was “right” with the financial realities of being young and living in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I often felt adrift and alone, unable to open up and be vulnerable (which would have allowed me to hear stories from people struggling just like I was). I put too much value in appearance and romance, believing that finding someone to date and then marry and then procreate with was the only real way for a woman to happy. I learned the hard way that living is not linear and even after I had learned that lesson, I felt completely unprepared to deal with it.
I am now 32 and only a few years from the end of my 20’s. I still have a lot to learn. But looking back, I can see how unprepared many of my peers and I really were for the transition from teen to adult. And I am a very privileged cis-gender white woman who comes from a stable and loving family. Some people face challenges and obstacles that I can’t even imagine. I can see now how much those my age would have benefited from something like Skill Set. Age 20 was also the last year I worked at Rowe as a camp counselor and I deeply regret not working harder to keep Rowe in my life through my 20’s. The combination of community and education that Skill Set provides is critical for youth trying to navigate this new phase in their life, especially in today’s incredibly volatile and scary world.
Your 20’s are always going to be tumultuous. It’s how you learn and grow. But a program like Skill Set can help you learn to ride that roller-coaster with a little more insight and stability, not to mention the support of a loving and accepting community. And I believe it will be a truly invaluable experience for all the young people who join us this year and in the future.
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started off as a YPC camper in 1998 and came to camp every summer up to her year at Senior High Camp in 2004. She also worked as Junior High staff from 2004-2008 and returned this past summer as JHC program staff after many years away. India lives in Boston and works at Oxfam America, a global NGO fighting poverty and inequality. She is passionate about human rights, gender justice, and creating social and political change alongside many other incredible activists. She is excited to bring her experiences to Skill Set and continue the work to empower youth and create change through the magic of Rowe.