When I was four years old, I couldn’t wait to be five.
I remember telling my mom this, about a week before my birthday. I was so ready to be done with age four, because five seemed so much older. Five is the number of fingers on my hand. It is the next biggest denomination of coin (in the US) after the 1-cent penny.
This continued throughout my childhood, as I am sure it did for everyone else. When I was 11 I couldn’t wait to be 13, to be a teenager. When I was 14 I wanted to be 16, so I could drive, and so on.
It makes sense, especially when privileges are involved, like your driver’s license or the drinking age. I think it’s normal when you consider age-based events, because previously you weren’t allowed and all of the sudden you’re part of the club. I remember this feeling distinctly at 21, because one minute it was illegal for me to possess or consume alcohol, an industry which is extensively marketed and was responsible for over $400 billion in 2010. It seemed absurd, and I still can’t help but feel that way.
Nearing the age of 24, there aren’t a lot of landmark birthdays left available to me. At 25 I can rent a car, and at 26 I need to make sure I have my own insurance again. Not incredibly exciting prospects for me, in all honesty.
However, despite a lack of systemic rewards, age still seems attractive to me and my peers. In my time working at the health care center it was frequently remarked upon that I was “so young,” or “a baby,” despite the fact that we had coworkers who were younger than me. People commonly used their age as a point of validity, of pride, saying, “I’m XX years old, they can’t treat me like that,” as if their age mattered more than the way they handled themselves.
Being “so young” what I have yet to understand is when the tables turn, and people start wishing they weren’t getting older. Some of this is easy to understand, as health issues and financial responsibilities have a tendency to pile up on a person. And yet there seems to be more, as if people seem to be nostalgically wishing they had had more time as a young person. As if by getting older they’ve missed opportunities to have a life more along the lines of what they wanted. I can’t say they are entirely wrong; even I, the baby, know that windows of opportunity close.
However, I do think they are mistaken.
I will not admit that life goes downhill. I will not accept that age is something that can hold you back, that it is the defining factor of our existence. I will not allow health problems and insecurities to weigh me down as I get older.
I will treat my body and mind well. I will live and laugh and do the things I want to do, only at the time that I want to do them. In the few years I have been lucky to have so far, I have met people younger and yet wiser, older and somehow more free.
In the next sixty to eighty years I am hoping to prove my theory is correct, and that the recipe for a happy life is as follows: Work hard, travel far, eat well, and smile freely.
And I hope you join me.