Graduation, prom, dating and Christmas all come along in 21st birthdays. But the day the clock strikes midnight seems particularly hard for a cluster of college seniors at the University of Central Florida who have now faced 22 years of their classmates going off to college or entering the workforce.
As Jennie Rino wrote in USA Today, the 23-year-old graduates now say the daunting day is an unwelcome reminder that “they’ll be growing apart once they’re no longer part of a family unit that’s never too busy to care for them.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported on the phenomenon this week, citing an informal survey of three U.C.F. seniors by The News Service of Florida.
Some of the respondents “have actually given up their futures to focus on getting through their 22nd birthdays,” the Sentinel reported. The students weren’t identified and their professions were not specified.
Many students experienced a period of profound sadness and grief leading up to the milestone. Lizzie Rubino, 26, told the Sentinel she was devastated when she realized she’d never have children. “I made a decision to put myself out there for, like, 15 years,” she said. “The loss that I feel is I’ll never have kids.”
U.C.F. seniors Bethany Hughes, 26, and Shannon Rodriguez, 26, told the Sentinel they’re already in their early 30s and have settled into a quiet seclusion.
“My friends have found a new way to avoid me and I’ve found a new way to avoid their dogs,” Hughes told the Sentinel. “What happens is, we’ll see in 20 years, but I can guarantee that neither one of us will be picking up the phone or texting each other.”
The Sentinel also reported that some students who are going to Washington University in St. Louis are anxious about the milestone they’ll be required to pass during orientation.
“I am so excited,” senior Ashutosh Phogat, 24, told the Sentinel. “I have had so many people come up to me and say, ‘The day will be easier for you now.’”
According to the newspaper, Phogat and his twin brother, Bhujel, 27, have both graduated from Washington University and are now working in the District as lobbyists. They have both avoided contact with friends and acquaintances on the anniversary of their 21st birthdays.