I don’t, in any way, feel my age. At all.
I am about to turn 39. I feel about 16.
I also feel a bit like I’m pretending to be an adult, or playing house, and still thinking about growing up at some vague point in the future. It takes me by surprise when, every now and then, I realize that I’m already grown up. That I’m not playing house; I actually have one. That I’m capable of things like organizing a household, budgeting, being responsible.
When I hear about the various medical tests one needs to start considering at a certain age, I barely listen, immediately assuming that age is far into my future.
When I see other parents at my son’s school, I think how parent-y they look. Like the parents did when I was a kid. But I don’t feel that I look parent-y like them. I think I look like a kid, older than my son and his friends, but a kid nonetheless.
I’ve been blessed with great genes, the genes of my mother and her lineage of gentle-faced, unwrinkled, strong-haired female predecessors. This means that not only do I not feel my age, I’ve never actually looked my age either.
You’d think I’d be happy – thrilled – with that but, actually, I’ve spent much of my life trying to be older.
Because I have always felt that I’m not taken seriously, that I’m overlooked for being (or seeming to be) younger than I am. That at some magical point in the future, a point I keep trying to reach, people will realize that I am mature, experienced and know what I’m talking about.
The problem, though, may be that I don’t feel any of those things. Maybe that’s what I’m putting out there.
A neighbour recently mentioned that she thought I was about 24 and that I “had a lot of living yet to do, a lot of experience yet to gain.”
Right there. That’s the reason I’ve always strived to be older. I was offended that she was surprised when I explained, as patiently as I could, that I am almost 40 and have quite a lot of living and experience under my belt, thank you very much. I’ve lived abroad, I’ve got a BA and a Masters, I’ve worked in the Federal Government for 11 years…
I’m always justifying myself.
Now that I am almost 40, I’m not quite as eager to age as I once was. I am still eager to be taken seriously, though, and weary of not being treated as though I have some measure of wisdom, some right to the respect that comes with age.
Does wisdom come with age?
It depends on the person and on the life they have lived. I find it hard to believe that the elder Kardashians, for example, are particularly wise. Then again, they’re famous for doing nothing, so maybe they’re wiser than I think.
For the most part, though, I think wisdom does come with age. Until very recently, humans revered their Elders, the Wise Ones, looking to them with respect, admiration and deference. I’d rather follow these ancient cultures than our modern one which tends to look down on its older generation and dismiss its members as fools and a burden.
I look at and I look up to my grandmother, my great aunt, my mother. All wise, wise women. Wise doesn’t mean you’re always right, but it does mean that you have lived enough years on this earth to have had enough experiences that you know something about something. I used to turn to my grandmother and great aunt for their advice on everything from boys to cooking.
Now, I look to my mother.
And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
I find it hard to fathom that my mother is now at the age that my grandmother and great aunt were when I turned to them. And that I am at the age I remember my Mom being. I still think of her as 40, and here I am, a year away from that milestone myself.
Having my son has made me more responsible, or rather, has imbued me with a sense of responsibility, of being responsible for a whole other life outside my own. And that makes me feel a bit older than 16. But, still, not much older.
That I had him when I was 30 remains incomprehensible to me because 30 seems so far away – in the future. So him turning 9 and me turning 39 this year is something my little brain just can’t quite wrap itself around.
But then I’ve always had difficulty with numbers.
In the end, I don’t think the number that corresponds to our age is important. That really just is a number. Age is more about how you feel and what you have lived through. It is about experience and wisdom more than it is about the simple number of years you’ve been on this planet.