I have this weird obsession with being young and staying young and preserving childhood the way some people preserve peaches. Maybe you do too. In movies, which is where I got most of my ideas about how people are supposed to act and how life is supposed to be, teenage girls always seemed to be obsessed with getting older. In a heartbeat, they were willing and eager to cast everything around them aside for bigger and better things.
I was the exact opposite of that so naturally I thought something was wrong with me. I dread change. I dread getting older. I dread growing up. That’s why I’ve felt sad on every birthday I’ve ever had. I dread having to deal with adult problems and adult emotions and adult decisions and adult consequences. I dread a lot of things, apparently.
I also have a tendency to cling to things, especially the things I love, the things I give special meaning to. I hate anything that disrupts the world as I know it to be. If you know me even just a little bit, you probably know that I don’t welcome intruders. I reject change in the same way I reject spam callers, and defeat, and compliments.
As a result, I’ve wasted a lot of energy trying to resist change. Even now, after everything I’ve learned about the world and about myself, I have to continuously remind myself to stop fighting for how I think my life should be versus how it actually is. Again and again, I have to gently pry my fingers off the things I’m clutching to with all my strength.
I went to Lidl today with the only purpose being to buy a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne. The same employee, whom I see everytime I buy wine, asked me yet again if I was old enough. The very first time, he thought my driver’s license was a lie. Now he just laughs and waves me along. I didn’t even bring a bag so I walked home with both bottles tucked neatly under my arm. I thought that was the most adult thing I’ve ever done in a long time. Not the fact that I bought alcohol…but the fact that I did something for me, without asking for permission, or thinking about the rules, or the ‘supposed to do’s’.
Many times, I’ve looked at other people and felt incredibly young and inadequate and clueless compared to them. Now, I experience moments where I feel incredibly old. I look at other people and marvel at how incredibly young they seem. It’s like they haven’t done anything, or seen anything, or felt anything beyond the glossy, hopeful, wide-eyed sheen of youth. Sometimes, I look at myself, and think the same thoughts. Even eight months ago, I can’t believe how incredibly young I was. Probably, in one year when I re-read this, I won’t believe how incredibly young I was when I wrote this.When I eventually turn thirty, and thirty-five, and forty, and fifty, I probably won’t even remember what it was like to be in my twenties.
There is certainly an appeal to being forever young. There is a freshness, a rosiness, an innocence that I wish I never had to lose. But at the same time, there is a certain degree of acceptance, and peace, and wisdom that comes with growing older. Maybe you’ve noticed it in your own journey.
I remember eating hot dogs on the steps of art galleries, and believing in everything anyone told me, and drinking wine without caring about the consequences. I’m tempted to say those were the days. But were they, really? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know anything.
Maybe that’s the true difference between being young and being old. When you’re young, there’s a part of you that truly thinks you understand people, and the world, and how it works. And when you’re old, you realize, actually, that you don’t know anything. And that that’s perfectly okay.