“How old are you?” people ask me. “Wow, you don’t look it,” they say once I’ve told them. Truth be told, I still think I’m twenty-five. I still get asked for ID when purchasing alcohol, and someone once (to my annoyance) told me I looked eighteen. Geez, I know I look like I haven’t hit puberty, but this is ridiculous.
But amongst the seemingly constant focus on my age, I do have a confession to make: I had to ask someone a month ago to calculate my age for me.
That’s how much I didn’t care. I actually forgot. Besides, other people seemed to care so I let them do the caring about age and I’ll go worry about other stuff (like, what am I having for dinner? Or, should I buy cake?). And I don’t care about age because I think it’s less about what number you are and more about how you feel.
Granted, you are “allowed” to do certain things when you reach a certain age such as drink, have sex, or make medical decisions on your own behalf. Once I hit eighteen I thought, ‘this is great, I’m an adult now.’ But I had no idea what being an adult was about. Nothing really changed anyway. I didn’t get a special parcel in the post with a bunch of cool stuff that eighteen year olds liked along with a manual titled “How to be a Grown-up and Other Secret Adult Things”. Life just went on. Then I was twenty-one. I thought how silly I was at eighteen to think I was an adult when I now had more life experience. Then I turned twenty-five and realised I’d never quite “get” how to be an adult and that I quite liked being a big kid anyway (I’m still waiting on someone to build me an adult-sized playground. Jumbo spiral slide, anyone?).
Admittedly, it’s been getting harder to forget about my age recently. My friends are talking about “getting old” (when in fact they’re just getting unhealthy because they’ve been lazy) and wanting to be married before a certain age. And it seems people expect me to be settling down and popping out kids soon because of my age.
When did life get like this? When did your age become a deadline for ticking things off a check-list? And where is that damned check-list? Mine must have gotten lost in the mail (along with that parcel). No worries. I wouldn’t be ticking things off anyway.
Which brings me to a minor pet-peeve of mine. Those “30 before 30” lists or “things you must do before society thinks you’re too old to accomplish anything else” lists. I understand that they can be motivational for people, but the concept that you can only ever achieve something fun or meaningful when you’re young is just… irksome. I’ve met a man in his mid-forties who was (as the saying goes) in the prime of his life. I’ve met fifty year olds who are still living life to their fullest. And I’ve met people in their seventies and beyond who still enjoy an active lifestyle.
And I guess what this really highlights here is ageism. Society is still full of really ageist attitudes about certain people based on what age group they fall into. There’s this belief that the best time of your life is when you’re young, because once you’re “old” (whatever age that is) you’re seen as frail and useless. The ideas of ‘active ageing’ or ‘active retirement’ intrigue us because as a society we’re taught that ageing is something to fear because we slow down and have to give up things.
Inevitably, our body ages but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to continue doing the things we love. Nor should it stop us from trying new things. Right? What’s that saying? We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing. I really believe there’s some truth in that.
I’ll be turning twenty-nine this year. That genuinely came as a surprise to me. I just don’t feel twenty-nine. Like I said earlier, I still think I’m in my mid-twenties. If someone told me that my golden years were behind me, I’d tell them to piss off. I feel like I’ve only become better with age. You can’t tell me that it’s all downhill from here.
[I have written this post as part of the Weekly Writing Challenge this week.]