Photos: Julie Tan & Bobby Kiran Photography
Nothing best describes Julie Tan’s eventful year as a 21-year-old than this quote from In Memoriam A.H. H. by British Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “Tis better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved before.”
The newly-minted adult, who had fell in and out of love the very same year and experienced a breakup a few weeks before her birthday, shared that her biggest takeaway was learning that “nothing lasts forever,” during a phone interview with xinmsn.
Likening her recent heartbreak episode to a form of “enlightenment,” she spoke of it with no reservations, still wearing her heart proudly on her sleeve like she did before. “We’re still friends,” she said coolly, reassuring that she has recovered from it when we checked in with her. “I think it’s more like we are going through different stages of life, and it [a breakup] is part and parcel of life,” she quipped.
And a grand birthday bash was in order to mark and celebrate this new phase in her life. Wholly planned and organised by her good friends (blogger Xavier Ong and her girl gang), Julie laughed as she recalled, “It was like my wedding - they got all my contacts from me, ran through the guest list with me and we settled on the theme – En Blanc (all white) together. All I had to do was attend and have fun. I didn’t have to do any planning!”
While most teenagers prefer to celebrate the start of adulthood at 21 years old, Julie said the numbers “22” carry more significance for her – her birthday falls on September 22 and she’s turning 22 this year – so all the more reason to celebrate turning 22, she said.
Plus, it didn’t help that she had a slight identity crisis and was unsure about what she wanted in her life and career when she was 21. “The transition of a girl becoming a lady is not easy and it was like my awkward period. But I’ve passed that stage in life already and I feel comfortable in my own skin now,” she shared.
Read on as we take a trip down memory lane with Julie on her 21st year of existence on earth.
When I was 21, I... actually did whatever I wanted – I dared to love, dared to fall and took a leap of faith into the unknown. I did a lot of things and it helped me as a person, be it a painful, bad or good process. I've learned so much more and it helped me develop into a better person. Without all these I think the ‘Julie Tan’ today would be a very plain and boring person.
When I was 21, I looked like... a girl turning into a lady (laughs). It's a very awkward period! I think I looked like neither here nor there. You want to say I’m a girl – but I’m not a ‘girl,’ you want to say I’m a woman – but I’m not yet a woman. It was an awkward period in terms of presenting myself in the way I behave and the way I act. But one day it dawned on me that I’m just 21, so why am I trying to act like I’m 25?
The best thing about being 21 is... you'll feel like ‘I'm forever 21.’ You feel so damn young and think you can do whatever you want and yeah – ‘I'm legal man!’ I don’t need my parents’ consent now that I'm officially legal- but that’s not to say I can do illegal things – but whatever you do, you don't need your parents' consent since you’re an adult now.
The worst thing about being 21 is... that new identity brings more stress too ‘cos you're on your own and need to take responsibility of your life. But right now I’m enjoying that process because you're in-charge of your own life and responsible for yourself. No one is responsible for you.
My 21st birthday celebration was... I had chili crab at home with a few friends and my parents and it was cooked by my friend’s mum. It was a simple meal at home, we nua (relaxed) at home and had crabs. And one day before my birthday, I went to Zouk with my dad and mum to countdown to my birthday too. After I turned 21, we took a family trip to Florence and spent more time with each other.
The thing I remember most when I was 21 was... I fell really in love (laughs).
I'm looking forward to turning... 30 (laughs). I think by then, it'd be a very different phase of life. Either I’d have a family of my own or be doing well in my career. I think it's another stage of life and I’m quite looking forward. But even though I look forward to it, I want to enjoy the process now and live every day to the fullest.
If I could be 21 again, I would... still fall in love (laughs). I'd still dare to love, hate and dare to do what I want because you can only make mistakes when you're young. As you grow older it's harder for you to make mistakes, because it's harder to pick yourself back up.
The only age better than being 21 is… 16 because... I remember working so hard to get to where I am today. That period of my life was simple and all I knew was the determination to put in that much effort and hard work to be where I wanted to be. Back then I was more clueless about things and all I knew was that I needed to be very hardworking. I miss that kind of drive - not that I don't have it now, but that's a very nice feeling to have.
Actually I think I have found that feeling again recently and it makes me very focused about what I should work on.
When I was 21 with… Julie Tan
We check in with the lithe starlet, who just turned 22, on her past coming-of-age year
- Julie Tan