it’s 9:30pm on a thursday. do you know where your child is? if you’re my mother, the answer is probably yes. she’s in bed. at 9:30pm. oh, and she’s 23 years old.
a good friend of mine is going to nurse practitioner school. the majority of things she learns makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears and yell “lalalalalalala-la.” it’s icky. occasionally it’s humorous, like when she was has to answer questions about menopause. normally it’s all just so…science-y. but she recently told me something i can’t stop thinking about:
“fun fact: our baby making eggs are created when we are born. when we have kids, they are made out of an egg preserved for as many years as we are old. so half of us (the mom side) is as old as our mom. the guy side is much younger.”
now baby making talk is something i usually avoid for a variety of reasons. one being that i am nowhere near ready to mother anything including a baby, puppy, or pet rock. i’m lucky if i wear matching socks every day (i don’t). another being i find pregnancy and labor to be absolutely horrifying. i’m going to have what come out of my what? no thank you. the only labor room i want to be in is the one where all of the huxtable men give birth (by far one of my favorite moments in television history. sexist, but hilarious, as most good jokes are. who cares about feminism, anyway?)
for as long as i can remember, i’ve been ahead of my age. i moved off to college when i was 17. i started my first real job (office and all) when i was 19. i started contributing to my 401k when i was 21. i spent my high school years partying like a college student and my undergrad studying like a grad student. by the time i made it to the “real world” i was 19 going on 25 which means i’m now 23 going on 30?
i’m younger than all of my co-workers by at least eight years. i spend my lunch breaks chatting with my 40-something year old friend about life and loss and love and really good podcasts. sometimes we’ll all be chatting and someone will start complaining about their ex-husband’s new girlfriend, “and she’s a 22 year old disney-on-ice princess. she’s not even old enough to rent a car. oh, no offense, angela.”
none taken. i’m proud of all that i’ve done and seen and lived through. i feel accomplished, capable, and strong. the reality is, i just don’t feel 23.
but i often wonder, am i doing it right? shouldn’t i be staying out until 4am on weeknights smoking cigarettes on street corners and drinking PBR tall boys discussing song lyrics and ironically placed graffiti? shouldn’t i be traveling and vagabonding and working in places that pay with life experiences instead of money? shouldn’t i be making bad decisions simply because it’s acceptable only during a certain time frame of one’s life? for example, living at your parents house when you’re 23 means you’re just trying to get on your feet, find a job, get a good start. living at your parents house when you’re 30 means you’ve failed. i fear that i’m missing out on opportunities that exist only now, right now.
i think your early twenties bring a lot of those questions to the surface, regardless of your 401k status. for most, it probably just feels like adolescence is slipping away. for me, maybe it feels like it’s already gone.
they say that at some point age stops mattering. dating a 16 year old when you’re 26 is a big deal. dating a 26 year old when you’re 36 seems pretty normal. dating a 36 year old when you’re 46 is like, what’s the difference?
i’d like to say that i think that’s true, but when i go out for drinks with my co-workers, i’m the only one who still gets carded. i’m really not allowed to rent a car alone. i avoid telling people how old i am because they are almost always shocked, and then find ways to age themselves by counting back to how old they were when i was born (think paula abdul, george bush sr., the year of the game boy, and back to the future part II).
so i’m never as old as i feel, but i always worry that i should be younger.
i was born the youngest of four kids. my parents used to tell us that we were each a surprise, but i was the biggest. that was their nice way of saying we didn’t want you, but we love you anyway (which i’m cool with since i obviously turned out to be the favorite). my mom had me at age 39. you do the math.
maybe i’m an old soul thanks to my mom’s lucky last egg. maybe i would have still turned out this way had i come out a tasty hoagie when my mom (and her eggs) were just 16. i’m still not sure why we become who we are in the match of old soul vs. spring chicken (in fact, i’d like to just stick to the stork story. there’s less placenta). what i do know is that instead of worrying about what i’m missing or avoiding taking on what i don’t think i’m ready for yet, i want to just be here now.
i want to be a 4 year old who plays in the mud after it rains. i want to be a 70 year old who falls asleep in movie theaters. i want to be a 21 year old who dances barefoot with random strangers. i want to be a 29 year old who works hard for that big promotion. i want to be a 55 year old who goes to casinos and plays the penny machines. i want to be a 33 year old who plans wedding parties for her sister. i want to be a 6 year old who makes forts in the living room. i want to be a 26 year old who takes weekend trips just because she can. i want to be a 9 year old who adheres to a bedtime. i want to be a 23 year old who follows her dreams.
so, i’m going to do just that. i’m going to act my age. this must be exactly how peter pan felt.
“to live would be an awfully big adventure.”