01/31/2015 12:50 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2015

Why Your Twenties Don't Immediately Make You an Adult

On the morning of my 13th birthday, I expected to wake up and be transformed into a teenager. I thought I'd be cooler, I thought my parents would back off; I thought everything would be different.

It wasn't.

The only thing that changed was my response to "how old are you?" I'd proudly say "Thirteen," as if my sudden acceptance into the teenage world earned me some form of respect.

It didn't.

So why did I think things would be different at age 20? I was subconsciously convinced that I'd suddenly be an adult with my life together. I devoured online lists of things other people wished they had known in their twenties, confident I wouldn't make the same mistakes. I'd leave my teenage years behind and with that, my problems with procrastination and flair for the dramatic. As if adults never have these issues. I'd suddenly know more about taxes and how to properly take care of a car and do a better job at saving money.

But my 20th birthday only showed me just how far away I was from being a grown up. On our way to downtown San Diego for a day of shopping, my "adult" friends and I were in a car accident. No one was hurt, but the car we were in was totaled. We stood on the side of the freeway for 20 minutes because none of us knew what to do. Call a tow truck? Talk to the other drivers? Four licensed adults in the car and we had to call our parents to figure it out. Dealing with insurance after the accident was even worse. It was clear I was not the grown up I'd imagined I would be.

The only thing I learned when I turned twenty was that I still have basically no idea what I'm doing.

As kids we're taught that adults know best. They're portrayed as put-together and authoritative. We pretend adults aren't flawed because they're our parents, our teachers, and our role models. We're supposed to look up to them. And now I'm in my twenties, waiting for this shining moment to show itself so I can get my "life" together and stop eating microwaveable food for dinner and start doing my laundry and watching the news more often. That's what adults do, right?

The problem with this is my life is still going on whether or not it's "together". My room might not be clean and I definitely didn't go to the gym today like I probably should have, I've got it ingrained in my mind that this means my life is a hot mess and it isn't.

I'm 20 years old. I'm a college sophomore with two jobs and a passion for writing. Leaving my teenage years may not have made me an adult overnight, but when I look back at 17-year-old me I'm still amazed at how far I've come since then.

I'll probably never take myself completely seriously if I'm being honest, but that's okay. Even though it's little by little, I'm certainly starting to figure this "grown up" business out.