Saturday, 30 January 2016

Is Age Just a Number?

ADULT: "A person who is fully grown or developed" (Oxford English Dictionary)

On the 18th January 2016 I turned 20. By definition I was no longer a teenager, I was an adult, and according to the dictionary that meant someone who was just fully grown. So why, when we talk of adults do we talk of maturity, of people who are married, have kids and a professional career? Are we adults all the time? Why does one day make a difference to how I define myself, and what I should be doing with my life?

Before turning twenty, I had had all sorts of thoughts vying for attention in my mind. The fact my parents got married when they were 24. The fact that my Grandmother had gotten engaged at 20 and then proceeded to have two kids whilst still in her "twenties". The fact that I was now in the decade where I would be graduating, finding a job, and moving away from home. But the funny thing is, that on the 17th January 2016, I was still going to graduate within a year and a half. I was still going to have to figure out what I actually wanted to do for a career, and how to get it. Somehow though, I felt as if I could hide behind my categorisation as a teenage, when really, I'd been an adult, and for that matter a women, for some time now. I'd achieved things, reached certain milestones, and behaved in a certain way that would have defined me as an adult, so why was I so apprehensive about turning 20?

In todays society we are often defined by our age, or at least the decades we are living our lives in. There's the "thirty" age bracket, supposedly the prime of your life where you are finally realising and getting everything you ever wanted. Then there's the "sixty" age bracket, where in todays society that means you'll be starting to wind down, you'll have a list of achievements and moments, and an extended family to share with it. Your "teens" are defined as a period of discovery, raging hormones, and mistakes. But for me, all this is starting not to matter anymore.

My mother (whose age shall remain secret just incase she's reading this) still has her teenage, or somewhat childish moments. One time, when I was around 15, she'd done a food shop and bought all the food she'd been craving: tomato soup and ready salted crisps. She will still sometimes stuff her face with chocolate and Magnum ice creams until she feels sick. Yet, these are only small moments. She's still the professional career women and mum that her decade says she's supposed to be. She's the mature adult who keeps me level-headed and provides for us, the wife, and the lady who can give a killer stare when you're in trouble. Sometimes, though, just sometimes she's not just an adult, she's a teenager eating what she wants, a child eating too many sweet things, a girl in her twenties singing and dancing, and binge watching TV series. Then there's my Dad, business owner, provider, father and husband, everything his decade defines him as. Then there's the Dad I see flying his toy helicopter at your head, trying to throw peas in your drink, and hiding behind the door when you're coming down stairs, so when you open it, he'll pretend you've smacked it into him. Again, just like my Mum, a child, a teenager, and the decade which is supposed to define him.

I've come to realise, from my own experiences, and from watching people like my parents, that age is just a number. There are no defined categories. No milestones to reach by a certain age, no goals to achieve. I know people who are well into their twenties but by no means mature or adults. I know children and teenagers mature, wise, driven beyond there years, who seem to have been born 40 years old. Then there are people like my parents, mature and responsible and "adult" 90% of the time, until they let that 10% out. And, the thing is, I want to be just like them. I don't want to live by my age bracket, or feel pressured to. If I don't achieve everything I'm "supposed" to in my twenties, then I'll just do it in my thirties, or forties even. If I don't figure out my dream job till I'm 55 then at least I will have by then. Life is about living, about discovering. Sure, its great to have goals, ambitions and passion, but I don't want societies time schedule to dictate them. That's not to say that I'm planning on having a child now and finding true love and my dream job when I'm 45, nor does it mean I'm going to continue my hormonal teenage clubbing phase well into my sixties (hopefully). I just don't want to feel the anxiety I felt about "leaving" my teenage years, when really, I'd left them years ago, and I'm still in them.

I want to be a child, a teenager, in my twenties, thirties, and "adult" years now. Life is whatever you want to be, and it might sound greedy, but I want it all at once, and I'm not going to let my age stop, nor define me.

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