Society has constructed a timeline that suggests what we should be doing at what points in our lives. In a way it can be helpful to have a guideline, but these constructions have surpassed guideline territory and completely altered not only the paths we take in life, but the way we see people. Age is a destructive concept. I’ve said it before but I believe that it needs more insight than just a passing statement in another idea.
As a child I always heard that I seemed old for my age. That I had an old soul, that I was wise. The difference then was usually no more than a couple of years, but now I get people who think I’m more than half a decade older than my actual age.
It’s not that I’m bothered by this because I think it’s a misconception. I think that maybe, in comparison, I do seem a lot older than people my age. But that’s exactly the point. Age is a basis for comparison – in ourselves and in others which is where my ill feelings lay. Why am I being compared to a different person with a different life path? What exactly makes me seem more 26 than 21, or better yet what makes me seem more 26 than Forest?
Partly because of the comments from people about my perceived wisdom and old-ness I have always fostered a sense of superiority to people my own age (the rest is because of my ego). Regardless of these circumstances I feel I always would have harboured an intimate feeling of not belonging amongst my peers – which is okay because I don’t believe that belonging is the most important thing or has helped me grow in a significant way. A feeling of belonging has grounded me enough to understand what I have learned more than put me in a place where I need to learn. Mostly though, it’s not that I feel superior to my age-group peers, I just don’t agree with what a lot of them are doing.
This isn’t because I have a timeline in my head of what everyone’s life path should be. I don’t believe in being to young to get married, being to old to go to college, or that there’s ever a good age to start living on your own. I do believe though, that no one truly feels like they know what they’re doing, and that a incredibly rare few even know what they want to do. In light of that information, I don’t agree that there are hundreds of thousands of young adults putting themselves into excruciating debt to get a degree that they’re half interested in and have half a percent of an idea what they’re going to do with it when they could be taking that time and energy to experience life and learn about themselves.
It’s not that I don’t think college isn’t a constructive experience. Learning to live with other people, work hard, find balance, manage yourself and your time are all important skills – but they’re not learned exclusively in a dorm room. And you definitely don’t have to be as stressed and worried in learning these things either.
“What the fuck does this have to do with age being destructive?” is something you’re probably thinking, but it’s obvious.
Do you ever think someone is too old to start learning? Do you think there is a time in your life when you will be more equipped to start experiencing? Do you think that dreams have a deadline? Maybe you do. And if that’s the case then I’m sorry for you, because half of your life is going to be significantly less fulfilling than one. But I presume that most of you don’t think those things.
So now I ask why are you doing what you’re doing? Are you happy? Do you think you what you’re doing is helping you learn about yourself in the most beneficial way? Do you think you could be doing something that you enjoy more (and I don’t mean a program at school)? Why aren’t you doing something that makes you feel inexplicably alive?
If you know whole heartedly what you want to do, then I commend you. I’m not trying to put down future doctors and lawyers and business owners. But for a lot of you I wonder what you’re going to do with your expensive english degree or bachelor of arts? Sure you’re gaining knowledge but at what price and for what stressors? Is it worth it? And again, I will ask, are you happy? The best question I have though, is why now?
Why do people choose to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives before they have lived life? I hypothesize that there’s strong societal pressure to do certain things at a certain time, and that there is a “cut off” in a lot of people’s minds for when their dreams and goals start becoming redundant or less successful because they didn’t achieve it in a timely manner.
If you let the idea that you should already achieving your dreams colour your choices, then you render everything between when you “should” have and now obsolete. All of the experiences, goals, lessons, and memories don’t account for anything if you don’t believe that in some way they have helped you. That you have not learned anything worthy, that this has been time wasted, and the future holds only more time to waste.
This version of you is still capable. This version of you deserves to have the chance to reach those goals – whether 25, 35, or 65.
All age is, is measured time. It is how long we have been on this earth, how long we have had to experience. It doesn’t measure our experiences. It doesn’t measure our worth or understanding or capabilities. Age is not a time line. Age is not a personality. Age should not hinder you. Age should not create gaps, but build bridges between them.
Do what makes you feel alive – even if you don’t know yet if it makes you happy. Don’t settle for societies timeline because it’s easier, because it seems to make sense, because it’s what everyone else is doing. You are not society. You are allowed to make changes, to be changed, to make room for change. Stop comparing and start living.
Written by Forest Greenwell