The Age Myth

I remember it as though it were yesterday. I was in first grade, watching the sixth graders do their science homework. Going to a one-room school has its advantages. For me, I was able to see and know what it was like to interact with “the big kids”. I just knew they were all grown up, those sixth graders who now seem like babies to me.

It’s a queer thing, this concept called “age”. My perception of it is constantly changing. One minute I’m saying, “Wow! 2008! I’ll be 16!” and the next I’m saying, “Hey, mom. Why are you calling so early? Oh, yeah. I guess it is my birthday. Thanks.”

Back then, college kids were scary because they seemed so mature and so smart. I wonder where that went. Back then, I spent all my time wishing I could hurry and grow up. I just knew that by then I would have a car, a driver’s license, maybe even a boyfriend…18 seemed an eternity away, and I thought I’d have it all together by then. Now here I am, just barely finishing my teens and feeling like I’m living in a body that has taken an early holiday. Boyfriends are only figures of my imagination, something that exists only in the movies, and a car…sheesh, I’m doing well to stay in school.

Honestly, I didn’t realize how lucky I was back then. I spent all my time wishing I was older when I should have been appreciating the freedom that I had: freedom from the worry of paying school bills and the menace of cafeteria food every single day for every single meal. I didn’t have to scrounge for food on the weekends since I didn’t have to worry about meal plans and if I earned any money it was mostly for playing around and having fun. Sure there were a few rules: be in bed by 9, do your chores, eat your darned vegetables…if only. What I wouldn’t give to live like that again. And the funniest part is I’m saying this and I’m not even 20 yet.

Even though I complain about what I face now, I do realize that I’ll be laughing at myself ten years from now, just as I laugh at the way I used to be ten, and even five, years ago. Ten years from now I won’t be worrying about paying for school. Instead, I will be worrying about whether or not I can pay the rent, the electric bill, the water bill, the health insurance, the car insurance, the student loans from when I was worrying about paying for school, etc. I’ll be fixing my own food, assuming I have the money to get food, instead of complaining about the “horrible” cafeteria food that was cooked for me every day. And that’s assuming I will only have myself to worry about.

I used to complain about my parents, too. After all, they never understood how I felt and they were ridiculous most of the time. They obviously didn’t know anything when they said that the guy I had a major crush on wasn’t the one for me…until three years later I realized they had been right all along. Parents, even the ones that irritate you the most, are not always as bad as they appear looking at them through those all-grown-up 13, 14, 15, and 20-year-old glasses. And, if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself wasting precious time with them.

Never has this been more apparent to me than it was this summer. I had just gotten off the phone with my dad. I had called to tell him, “Happy Father’s Day,” even if my chipper tone was a bit forced. My dad and I don’t always get along. His personality and mine often clash, so I find myself angry at him more often than I am happy with him.

I set my phone down on the table, glad to have gotten that task out of the way. My great aunt, who I was living with, was sitting across from me and she got a wistful look in her eyes. Then she said simply, “I wish I could talk to my daddy.”

She’s 79 years old, that chance now long gone.

There comes a point when the mind stops aging and the body takes over. I watch my grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles joke around and I realize that they are no different than I am…joking around with my friends, pretending to shut them in closets, etc. The only difference is that their bodies are aging. That will be me some day.

And with that in mind, I can’t help but look at my friends as we’re laughing insanely for no apparent reason and think, “Life is good.” It’s very likely I will never have this exact same group of people around me in an environment free enough to laugh in.

I can’t help but look at my parents, troubled as they may be sometimes, and think, “Life is good.” I won’t always have them.

I can’t help but look at my school bill and the opportunities God has given me here at college and think, “Life is good.” I won’t always have the opportunity to play both the kid and the adult.

Five for Fighting knew what they were saying when they wrote the lyrics to “100 Years”.

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey 15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live


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