I always wanted to be older. It started when I was 4 or 5, living across the street from two kindhearted grandparents, “Meme” and “Pepe,” and being in awe with their youngest grandson, Roger. Whenever Roger would visit during the summer and wherever he roamed on a given day, I could be found following close behind. He was so agile and fast at 10-years-old that I often resorted to pursuing him from my Big Wheel. Someday, I thought, I’d be able to keep up with Roger. I would climb trees like him, laugh loudly at my own jokes, and be allowed to cross the street without supervision.
Nowadays, I regularly cross the street without supervision, but for the first time, I’m not so keen on getting older.
Even after college, I can recall feeling the perceived burden of being too young. My earliest career pursuits included teaching high school English to at-risk youth. Some of my students started school late, moved from foreign countries and thus needed time for their English to catch up before settling in the appropriate grade, or were held back one or more times. One of my students was 19; I was only 23. I never came clean when my students asked me how old I was. I feared it would immediately undermine my authority.
Once while on a field trip at Massachusetts Maritime Academy (the alma mater of Captain Richard Phillips, who recently escaped the Somali pirates), my students received a private tour of the school’s massive training vessel by Captain Tom Bushy, followed by a question and answer period. They were permitted to ask him anything—about the school, the ship, his world travels, navigation and more. Surely, this would be a moment for them to shine as inquisitive teenagers, eager to broaden their horizons. Do you know what they asked him first?
“How old are you?”
“I’m 52 years old,” answered the bemused and forthright captain.
“Finally!” the student responded, “Someone who’s HONEST about their age.” The admittedly humorous slight was then punctuated by a sidelong stare in my direction.
In my other role as a yoga teacher, too, I was wary of being viewed as inexperienced or unworldly when I first began teaching in the early 2000s. While I had more experience than many of my contemporaries in Boston (I started practicing yoga at 16 and teaching at 20) and I’d traveled the world; including a visit to India, the birthplace of yoga; I was often still judged by my appearance alone. Could someone so young impart wisdom on students who were often much older was the implied question. I believed so but guarded any references to my age nonetheless (and I definitely kept my affinity for bubblegum pop music by the likes of Britney Spears and J-Lo under wraps).
My, how times have changed! Britney’s once galactic career seems like a lifetime ago, and J-Lo of the P. Diddy days when she performed countless duets with Ja Rule (yup, I owned the CD, and, speaking of which, where the heck did Ja Rule go?) is now the glowing mother of twins—and a triathlete to boot!
What happened between “Oops, I Did It Again” and Oops, Britney forgot her underwear again? Simple. Time passed. Recently, I realized as much and decided that maybe it was time for Mother Nature to slow down a wee bit, particularly between now and August, when, without supervision, I’ll cross the street of my 20s to the unknown territory of my 30s.
Alas, Mother Nature rebuffs any attempts at manipulation, from any of us (except, perhaps, Madonna), so I’m marching closer to 30 each day. Most of the time, I’m cool with it. “Your 30s are for kicking ass,” my friend, Pedro, has been known to say. (He turned 40 last year and sufficiently kicked ass last decade). My mom, who delighted at turning 50 so that she could jump into the next age group in road races, ensuring that she would place higher in the standings, adored her 30s. She still raves about them. With role models like these, I should be thrilled, right?
On the other hand, I recently attended the birthday party of a friend’s younger sibling who turned 25 (which was a terrible year for me, in case anyone is wondering) and he shared the following insight, “I’m just thankful I still have four years until my life is over.” [Insert your own personal level of ire, here].
So there it is. When I was four, I wanted to be 10. When I was 23, I wanted to be 29. Now, I’m 29, and I’m content to hunker down and stay for a while. I can't help feeling like my accomplishments aren't up to the standards of turning 30. Shouldn't I run another marathon, write a book, launch a business, or work on my handstands? At the very least, I could learn to whistle using my fingers. (I've always wanted to know how to do that).
I know it’s perfectly safe, but I’m just not ready to cross this street yet.
What’s your favorite age? If you could remain any age, which one would it be and why? To which birthday did/do you look forward most? Which caused the most anxiety?