Recently I turned 26. It’s not a social milestone like turning 18, 21 or the beginning of a new decade like 30, but turning 26 is a big deal for me.

According to YACVic, a young person is defined by someone aged 12 to 25. Turning 26 means that an individual loses that status. It’s a social construct that defines how human services, organisations and care professionals approach young people and what they can offer them. It can be a dramatic change in life.

Up until they turn 26, young people might find themselves still relying on things like their local youth services for referrals and programs, youth mental health organisations like headspace or Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS), advocacy peak bodies like the Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS), Kildara Youth Services (KYS) and the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY). These organisations have a duty of care to make sure that the young people ageing out of their service can have as much independence as possible post young personhood. Yet finding independence for many young people seems out of reach because of factors like a precarious entry-level job market, reports of mental health issues increasing, cuts to education, and the cost of living increasing.

Young people can be prepared and proactive about the change. Here are are some pointers to help you transition:

1. Tell the face-to-face services that you will be turning 26 soon. Find the people in the services that you trust to talk about it and be honest about the matter. They should be able to talk to you about ideas on how to wean off the service, find an adult service or program for your needs.

2. Find out about the services for adults available in your area. It is worth knowing about the adult services that do mental health, physical health, disability, migrant support, accommodation, LGBTIQ+ and legal advice. You might not be needing all or any of the services at this stage, but having some familiarity of them can be useful for you or for a friend in need.

3. If you like going to youth services that offer drop in sessions for social reasons and community participation, start venturing off to other places that offer community social spaces. Neighbourhood houses, local council recreation groups, and even volunteering in a highly sociable role can open new opportunities for yourself to find new friends. You may also stumble across information on self improvement, finding work, and social events. Bring a friend along if you can to an organised event so it won’t feel so daunting to enter these spaces alone.

Turning 26 is not scary doom and gloom. I have outgrown things because of changing needs and maturity. I see this as another step forward in my personal development.

–Maria Matthews

I know many young people who find themselves in a ‘quarter-life crisis’. Finding yourself in that situation just means that something needs to be re-evaluated. You could reflect on how some expectations are unrealistic, how much you’ve matured and changed since you left high school, or what your priorities are now. Everyone’s experience is different but finding time to be reflective, explore options, and taking deliberate and appropriate actions can be the golden rule to navigating a transition in your life.

I am grateful for the youth services that I’ve accessed over the time of being a young person. I don’t know where I would be without them; their help has shaped who I am today. I am currently studying youth work because my local council youth service inspired me to pursue further studies. I never thought I was capable to do an undergraduate degree because I barely got through year 12. Now I am doing placement at a startup youth service called Innovation Youth Centre and I have started postgraduate degree this year.

At 26 I won’t stop learning and I won’t stop feeling young. To anyone turning 26 I would say keep having fun and passionate about the things that you care about. You will never grow out of wanting to be the best person you can be.

About our guest blogger

Maria is a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater who is an activist against that this bio has got your attention, she's actually a human, she’s studying a Masters in Social Policy and is an active campaigner for Innovation Youth Centre. You can follow her twitter on (@MariaMatthewsYW), there is also a possibility she'll be uploading videos of her playing rock and roll music through her horn.

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