I turned 31 last week. To combat my existential dread and fear of aging, we spent the week in Spain and Morocco. I’m aware of how pretentious that sounds, so I’ll immediately follow up with a list of unglamorious things that probably occurred:
- Someone vomited all over me on the plane
- I died and Alex is a rich widower now
- We both died and Zola is a millionaire now
I’m not sure how much I’m actually afraid of aging. I think I’m more afraid of how quickly time passes. Every Monday morning Alex and I groan and are like “ugh, is it the weekend?” and then the TV screen through which I view the world flickers and S H A Z A M it IS the weekend! How did that happen! Who cares, let’s drink a bottle of wine apiece!
Much of my life has been defined by my identity as A-Person-Who-Is-Younger-Than-The-Other-Humans. I was always younger than my friends, the youthiest of the people in my office, and the golly gee “you want to see my ID?” one of my peers.
Something tells me those days are numbered. Now I’m seeing people get book deals and I look them up on Wikipedia and I’m like “You’re 26?! What sort of wunderkind genius are you?!” And then I realize that’s not that crazy and is actually kind of normal.
I’ll hear some amazing soul-baring song and go to Spotify and the artist is just barely old enough to have gained sentience and the ability to survive outside the womb.
Am I stunted, or is everyone else just gaining on me? I am my own Master and Commander of the Maturity and Life Accomplishment spectrum, and whatever my age is = the age at which one is just on the cusp of figuring things out but still needs to percolate a bit longer. I keep pushing that future age of having it all together just a bit further down the spectrum.
I felt this way at 19. At 24. At 28. And now at 31.
That’s not to say I haven’t accomplished anything: I’ve become incredibly snarky and trigger-happy with calling out bullshit. That’s a pleasant development– see, I’ve always been judging you and thinking you’re terrible, it’s only recently that I’ve stared calling you on it though.
So in some ways I guess getting older is a good thing.
If there was ever an argument in favor of having children, this would be it. I’m told time slows to a crawl those first few months. If I just pop out a baby per year then I can live in a suspended animation of wishing time would pass.
Tell me that’s a bad idea.
I wish I could shake this lurking fear of not having done enough or become enough. Comparison is the thief of joy, and all that.
To be clear, I wouldn’t go back to my 20s for anything. They were terrible. Magical at times, full of kick-ass stories, but wrought with anxiety and that out-of-control feeling of continuously ingesting life experiences that are clearly labeled as “Toxic. Not for consumption.”
I’m curious about people who find mega-success in their 20s. Were their families perfect? Do they have supportive parents? Did someone fund their dreams/self-esteem? If I’d had all they have, would I be just as successful?
First off, probably not. I don’t really like doing anything I’m supposed to do. I’m probably not ready for high levels of success. It looks like a lot of work. I’ve only just recently managed to start getting regular oil changes and wearing socks that match (most of the time). I think I would have imploded from the pressure of having anyone expect anything of me a decade ago.
Maybe that’s the secret to true success: take an entire decade of your life (doesn’t have to be your 20s, you can pick and choose) and sacrifice it on the altar of “life experience.” See how quickly you’re able to bounce back. Spend a couple years reflecting on the close-call that was your existence.
Then, maybe, start doing the things you’re supposed to be doing. Not the floss-daily, contribute 15% to your retirement account (though maybe that too) kind of things, but the marrow-sucking, rosebud gathering, Carpe Yolo of shirking off everyone else’s ideas of what your life is supposed to look like.
That’s what 31 feels like. It’s not that I have any clue what I’m supposed to be doing, or that I’m on the cusp of any such greatness, but that I’m less and less concerned with trying to fit into what someone else expects of me. All those other people, the ones who think I need to be anything other than what I am? They’re probably not what I’d want them to be either, so at least we’re on even ground.
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