So what? “Twenty-six is young!” I’m told by everyone older than me. Which it undoubtedly is, say, in comparison with ages sixty or eighty. But it’s no longer “young” to the teen set, who look forward to rebelling it up for a while. Of course, age is relative.
But twenty-six somehow feels so much older than twenty-five, especially to people awaiting their twenty-sixth birthdays this year (or at least to me). Why is this?
Twenty-five marks the last year of the “youth” years, those twenty-five years in which one is formed from a crying red infant all the way up through adolescence, and into adulthood. Hopefully we twenty-somethings manage to work out all of the glitches and adolescent impulses by the ripe age of twenty-five, and then by twenty-six...well, twenty-six is just one year closer to thirty.
And at thirty one is older, no matter how you want to sugarcoat it. How old is older? Too old, say, to reasonably still be living with one’s parents, for example. And we can all remember the thirty-something-year-old hanging out too much with our posses when we were college freshmen: (a) our professor, (b) creepy, or (c) both. But despite all of my dismal ranting about aging, I am actually truly looking forward to it, in a curious sort of way.
On my tentative self-drawn life map I always sketched it out like this: Early twenties – school and start career, mid twenties – marriage, early thirties – kids. But now that I’m actually walking that path, I realize there is plenty of room in there for the fun stuff - stuff like travel, cooking, learning new things and heading in possible future career directions, spending time with friends and family, acting plenty childish and continuing to develop into the person one will be.
I do think the year of turning twenty-six for me is a unique year, though, because all of that adolescent stuff is still pretty fresh in my mind, but I’ve also got my head chock-full of plans for the future. It’s also unique for me because unlike in my younger twenties when I was always thinking of “my” future, this year it really hit me that I almost always think now in terms of “our” future – the future of my family, including members who may not yet exist!
I look forward to so many things in a different way than I used to in my adolescence and early twenties. Instead of wondering what I’m doing with my life, I actually do the doing that is life – each and every day. That’s part of being an adult. I revel in the independence that it is my decision as to what I do and when. And though I can still look to my parents for guidance, I no longer have to look anywhere for permission.
We all put up some resistance to aging, whether it be dreading a birthday, lying about our age or wearing anti-wrinkle night cream before we ever develop any wrinkles. But maybe the best way to not only age gracefully but to age healthfully is to quit worrying about it and enjoy the moment we are in, each day. Realizing that each moment is different from the last, we can appreciate how far we’ve come, and dream about how far we still have to go.
So whatever age you are today, take a moment to enjoy yourself, just as you are right now. Stop and smell the tulips. Notice the blooming of the trees. Drop plans for the future and judgments of the past, and for a moment, just be.