Birthdays often don’t mean much to me. Usually, when asked how differently you feel on the big day the answer more often than not is, “I feel the same.”
I turned 18 only a few weeks ago but this birthday, however, was different although as an individual I did not feel an enormous change, the right of passage to becoming an official adult was beyond comprehensible.
The way I look at it, when you turn 18, two life-changing gifts are given to you by society: freedom and responsibility. The freedom given when you turn 18 is unfamiliar and somewhat unrestricted. On the other hand, the amount of responsibility given is astonishing and somewhat too heavy to bear.
There’s no class that prepares you for the day you turn 18. Instead, 18-year-olds are thrown out into the world, vulnerable, afraid, and expected to be more than they know.
For 18 years my everyday tasks and thoughts revolved around school and doing as I was told.
For the first time in my life, I’m having to think past my everyday responsibilities, such as what colleges are right for me, what major I want to study, what kind of life I want to have and how I can attain such life. I’ve never been so uncertain about myself than the day I turned 18.
For example, as I turn 18, I officially am allowed to exercise my right to vote, officially having the privilege to vote as granted by the 15th amendment, giving me the ability to actually make somewhat of a difference.
Political ideology can be derived from all personal backgrounds of religion, social class, self-worth and individual desire. I have always believed that knowledge of the past gives you unexplainable power to make a difference for the future. Compared to thinking about high school drama, my range of thinking has done a complete 180-degree turn.
The world often feels uncontrollable, chaotic and suffocating; taking action and being able to have your own personal beliefs and ideas heard because in the social standing you are considered a grown adult is invigorating. What’s surprising me more and more everyday is how people expect teenagers all around the world to all of a sudden become mature and leave immature habits behind, all because they turn eighteen.
Politics are one aspect of adulthood that can be truly overwhelming and somewhat toxic. Ever since I became interested in politics, I’ve anxiously anticipated ‘til the day I can go to the polls and vote. Understanding politics ranges farther than governmental issue and becomes a platform to understanding how the world functions and operates. As I dive deeper into political articles, news podcasts, presidential hearings, political scandals, the more afraid I become of the world.
When someone’s an adolescent they are often sheltered and taken care of, but slowly as I adapt to my new reality the more I feel unsafe. I feel this sense of urgency, to be heard when I see injustices and now I truly understand how impactful words can be.
Voting as an eighteen-year-old is crucial to creating a well-rounded and knowledgeable teen, because voting allows the planning of one’s future to become more attainable. This year in AP Government, much of our focus has been on voting and understanding how over the years there has been a significant decline in younger voter turnouts. The decline in younger voter turnouts, has somewhat been impacted because of the lack of education in our teens.
People around the world fight for the right to attain education, because at the end of the day education equals power. Understanding governmental issues in my opinion, is just as important as taking mathematics, english, science and history in school. If teenagers were given the chance to understand governmental issues in their high school education, the intimidation of political issues would disappear and that would lead to rapid and impactful changes in our government.
For more information on voting and the 2018 Midterm elections, check out these resources:
VoteSure: California Secretary of State’s official list of nonpartisan election resources
Ballotpedia: Nonprofit and nonpartisan encyclopedia containing information on candidates on the ballot
Voter’s Edge California: Nonprofit and nonpartisan project between Maplight and the League of Women Voters of California with in-depth information on what’s on your ballot
This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on Oct. 17, 2018.