Short random note before I return to Matsci:
I need to stop thinking about my age already. It really doesn't matter any more, except for certain legal things like consumption of alcohol and running for President and so on; back when I was in high school, it didn't matter so much either except for the math team (IMSA only has sophomore through junior years, so I was one of the few that could actually compete at the freshman level). Experience-wise, maturity-wise, knowledge-wise, or what-have-you, there's no reason there should be a difference between 19 and 21, and there wasn't much reason there should be a difference between 14 and 16 back in high school either, aside from not being able to drive.
Truth is, I like the attention. I hate that this is true. It's dumb, and I shouldn't, but the incredulous "you're how old?" and the feeling, as much as it shouldn't be there, that my doing well is somehow more impressive because I'm "young," and the feeling that I can in some small way ascribe some of my failures to being "just a kid" - I know I both use and enjoy these more than I should. In fact, I shouldn't at all. I'm not a kid, and even if I were, being younger is not an excuse or a mark of superiority in any way, and no excuse for immaturity. In fact, using it as an excuse is a mark of immaturity. Age doesn't matter; your capacity to handle things does.
It took a long time for me to internalize this, actually. I used to want to rush ahead and go as far as I could as fast as I could go. Not that that's a bad thing, but if I'd gotten my way in all my educational decisions from age 9 to age 15, I would have graduated from college long before now. And that would have been "impressive," and probably get an article in some local paper for being out of college at the same age as most people get into it, and the fact that I even thought about this makes me ashamed; I don't want to want the limelight (and that was a run-on sentence).
Academically, I probably would have done great. But I would have missed some years of elementary school, at least a year of middle school, a year of high school or more, and gone on the fast-track lots-o'-APs graduate-early course through a college with the sole objective of getting a degree ASAP. But there's value to be had in slowing down and living richly and learning from your life instead of only trying to put the maximum number of acronyms behind your last name. I know I'm getting more out of four years of Olin than I would have in the 2 years it would have taken me to graduate from a big state U with the AP credits I could probably have collected. Faster sounds more impressive, but getting more out of something is what actually makes it better.
What's the rush? Life's a big lesson (among other things). You learn as much as you can from where you are, and you move to where you can learn as much as you can, and sometimes this means staying in the same place. The age you are when you hit an environment doesn't matter; your capacity to handle and learn from that environment does.
Sometimes I feel like I ignored this. I often feel like I should actually be in the class of '08, or even '09, in terms of achievements, knowledge, ability to cope with academic and nonacademic things, and intellectual and emotional maturity in general. I know others here and elsewhere are younger and went through even faster; that's great - that's their choice, and maybe they were/are more ready than I am/was. I wasn't ready for the choices I made, I somehow knew this, and I went and made the choices I did anyhow. So in a sense, I was too young in that I hadn't reached the age at which I personally was mature enough to handle that part of life. But that's my individual maturity level which (hopefully) increases with age, not age as the deciding factor of how one's maturity level ought to be.
Mistakes are just another word for mildly painful lessons in retrospect, so it's not time wasted, and it's not a "could have been so much better" situation. I live, I learn, and so I do better in the future. Such is life.
So here we go for the last time.
I am 19 years old. I turn 20 in May. I am young, dammit. Young.
And it doesn't matter. I am mature as I am now, and I am as old as I am now, and only the first one is important.
And now I shall never use this a bragging point or an excuse again. And I shall return to Matsci.