Since graduating high school, age has played a much less relevant part in my life. I guess when you’re in high school, and even middle and elementary, age has a strong correlation to your grade, and as we all know your current grade was, like, the biggest deal ever back then. In college, though, when you start finding people from different walks of life and different ages in your class, how old you are doesn’t seem to matter so much.
But when I turned 26 last year, something sort of… I dunno. Rattled me, I guess. Granted, there was a lot of shitty stuff that happened around my birthday last year, and even for the rest of the year, that I don’t want to go into. So there’s some outside factors contributing to my unease of being 26. Still, I’ve had so many thoughts cross my mind since then like, “you’re in the second half of your twenties now,” or “you’re closer to 30 than 20,” and it’s really bugging me.
Adults (at least to me) always seemed like older, taller people who had the answers to everything. They owned homes, they were married (or divorced), had kids, drove mini-vans, etc. It didn’t matter if you turned 18 or 21 or whatever number you want to assign for officially becoming an adult. Being an adult, to me, was like this far-off state of being that always seemed to remain in the future.
So when I turned 20 and could no longer call myself a teenager, I used the term “adolescent” to describe what kind of age group I belonged in. Not the best one, since “adolescent” can cover a wide span of ages depending on context. Eventually I started saying “20-something,” as many people have, and I feel that’s appropriate both for me and my generation. But for people outside my generation, the actual people I view as “adults,” I can’t escape the fact that to the rest of the world, I too am an adult.
And it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
And for whatever reason, being 26 is really driving that point home for me. One of my co-workers just got married; she’s 25. We’re practically the same age, and a few years ago I would have said she was marrying pretty young. And it’s not like I know a lot of people rushing to get married right now, but the reality is I’m at the age where it’s not weird for my peers to get married. Same goes for having kids; someone else I used to work with just had a baby (she’s also a year or two younger than me). A few years ago I would have said we’re too young to be having kids. (In fact, I still say we are, and I’d even argue no one is ever mature enough to raise a child in the first place, but that’s a topic for another day). But, well… being 26 makes me feel it’s not that weird.
I feel like part of the reason why this makes me feel so uneasy is because I’m comparing myself to other people and I’m disappointed I’m not where I am in life. And part of that is definitely true, but I also know a lot of people in a similar position as me. Other people that still live with their parents, other people that can still only find part-time work, other people that still don’t really know how to be a proper adult. And I know it’s okay, but I guess my overall point is that this doesn’t really feel like what being an adult seemed like it would be. Maybe us 20-somethings grew up with TV shows and movies and music that gave us this idea of what adulthood would be like, but then the world changed and it’s not what we imagined. Or maybe this is what it always felt like at this age. Who knows.
I know there’s a lot of reasons/excuses of why my generation is still stuck in this awkward transition between traditional adulthood and adolescence; our economy still sucks, we’ve grown up with too many ideals and not enough actions, the Internet exploded within the past 10 years and now there’s all sorts of ways to waste time that wasn’t available before (and the rest of the world does it too, so now it’s normal to waste time with social media and streaming videos and checking e-mails). But still, being 26 has really bummed me out.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed I still like the things I like and do the things I do. I find myself immature, but not for what I haven’t accomplished yet. It’s just being an adult isn’t nearly as… well, I guess it’s just not what I expected it to feel like. I could say the same thing for any age I’ve been, I guess. But, and not to sound like an old person feeling sorry for himself, I’ve been realizing I’m not as young as I used to be and I still don’t have a lot of shit figured out yet.
Although to be fair, if there’s anything I’ve learned about “real” adults at all in recent years, it’s that most of them don’t have their shit figured out yet either. 🙂