Hello. My name is Nicole, and I am 22 years old today. I have (technically) been running this blog since I graduated high school, documenting the bits of my life I feel are important or noteworthy. That is three-and-a-half-ish years worth of life condensed into one tiny corner of the internet. And you would think that the space between a 19-year-old college freshman and a 22-year-old senior would bring forth a new adult (along with a new perspective on life and wisdom)… But really, I just feel old. And not wise at all.
Which, on one hand, is cool—because I get to use this super fun, relevant gif from the movie An Education. And on the other hand, it’s disappointing. I feel like my collective wisdom is disproportionate to the weight of the age dripping from my body. The past few weeks I have been ticking the days off, waiting for the impending arrival of my birthday that signals the survival of yet another year of life. It used to be exciting, you know. I’d stay awake till midnight, watching as the clock flipped to the magic number that meant I was officially ___ years old. I would will myself to sleep despite my nervous fit of excitement, only to wake up and inspect my body more thoroughly under the light of day. What changed? Did I feel different? Wasn’t I supposed to feel different at 10? I had hit the double digits after all. Or maybe 13? I was a teenager! 18! Was I not an adult?
And throughout that time, I would be looking ahead with wonder. At 10 years old, I’d be gushing, “Oh my gosh, they’re 16?! I bet they can drive. High school must be so cool.” At 18, I’d repeat, “My cousin is 27 now. So old! He must have it all figured out.” And I think I was perceiving people as so old because their lives were—are—so foreign to me. The role models I would admire represented a life of things that I didn’t, or couldn’t have— or even imagine having. From drivers licenses to bills and jobs, I never believed I would ever hit the milestones that signaled the dawn of a new era in my life. And for whatever reason, I believed these points in life— these little rites of passage—would suddenly make me feel wiser and more mature.
People become so fixated on age because popular culture pressures us to feel a certain way at 14, at 22, at 27. So we make up these invisible deadlines for our accomplishments, careers, and love lives. I need to have my first kiss by 16 (I failed that one horribly). I’m going to learn to stop procrastinating when I make it to college (HA!). I’ve got to be a doctor, published author, and world-renowned chef at 26 (on track to lose this race too). And we guilt ourselves when we don’t reach these goals, when we make mistakes, or when we do not act the age we have assigned ourselves. Let’s be honest, thanks to Facebook, Youtube, my inability to say no, and my procrastinating soul, I calculate that I’m at least seven years off schedule from feeling 22. And I panic every time I realize how far behind I feel like I am. Am I not too old for all this?
It is only when I look at those younger than me that I feel like there has been any growth at all. I can look at my little brother and dismiss something as “so-very-19-year-old-of-him.” I can laugh at my little cousin on twitter because she can be so… young. And for whatever reason, I’d like to believe I wasn’t quite as immature as her at that age. But then I realize that—holy smackerolls—I was 14 once. I was 14, and as much as I’d like to deny it, I didn’t feel anything like I do now.
Yes, we grow. And it happens so subtly that we don’t even notice. People change constantly, minute to minute, day to day. The differences are so minuscule and so imperceptible that we fail to see that we are growing. We live our lives without tracking exact changes. We don’t sit down every night, peeling back every layer of the day that has made us different from who we were that morning. There is no one “ta-da” moment, as disappointing as that is, where we suddenly “feel” the age we have built up in our heads.
And if we focus too much on trying to feel a certain age, we lose precious time that we could use growing. Growth and change are necessary parts of life. And my lack of perceived wisdom is what pushes me to keep going, to seek new challenges, and to learn new things that would never occur to me if I was arrogant enough to believe I was wise enough for my age.
And as far as feeling old… Well.
Old is not a number. Old is when you give up. Old is when you refuse to change. Old is believing the world is stagnant. Old is when you forget that the world is beautiful and full of inspiration.
So I guess I recant my original statement.
I choose not to feel old. And I’m fine with not being wise.
Happy birthday to me (and my twin, Abe!). May this coming year prove to be the best yet.