Thursday, April 20, 2017

Being 29

[Note: I originally wrote this piece as the intro to my (still in process!) list of reasons why I will never grow up. I've decided to put this in a separate blog post because I would rather that the Never Growing Up post remain pure, something that's just a list on its own rather than being specifically tied to my last birthday, or to age 29.]

When I turned 29 this year, there was something I wanted for my birthday. Something extra-special. Something that would have been a challenge for anyone to attempt to give to me. I wanted a list of 29 reasons that being 29 was awesome. Awesome as in, better than being younger than 29. When you’re a kid, there’s so much excitement about what you get to do when you get older, but once you’re over 21, everything that everyone says about your age is just so depressing. Every “You know you’re over 25 when…” list you find online is full of negative, no-fun things. What I desperately wanted was a list of reasons why I would actually want to be 29, as opposed to any other age.

But when I discussed this desire with my friend Eli, I quickly realized that the list was never going to work. First of all (most importantly), almost everything I would put on a list of reasons why it’s great to be an adult would support the oppression of children. Okay, there are a few things that I really couldn’t have done safely when I was child, such as driving a car, living on my own, and being able to go places on my own. Those freedoms are great things about being an adult, and those are freedoms that I really couldn’t have when I was younger. But other freedoms – like being able to eat what I want and go to bed when I want and see friends whenever I want and swearing without getting in trouble and not having to do homework or chores or forced socializing – those are freedoms that I should have had when I was a child. To list those freedoms as reasons that it’s great to be an adult would normalize the idea that it is acceptable to deny those freedoms to children. Not a day goes by that I’m not genuinely thrilled that I never have to go to school again, but I never should have had to go to school in the first place. Most things that are positive about being an adult are basic freedoms that are denied to children, and it’s a problem that adults deny those freedoms to children, rather than it being a celebration to get those freedoms as an adult.

So if we eliminate all of the things I’m “allowed” to do now, that I should have be able to do as a child, what are we left with? Not much. There are skills, of course. But skills don’t correspond precisely to a person’s age. There are people younger than me who can write better than I can, and there are people older than me who cannot write as well as I can. Yes, I can write much better now than I could when I was younger, but that is more about the time I’ve spent practicing than it is about my age. I have not done gymnastics since I was 10, and I am actually less skilled at gymnastics now because I have gone such a long time without practicing. Yes, I love having skills that I didn’t have when I was younger, but those skills are not inherent to my age. You don’t just get to be a good writer by becoming 29, the same way that you get to see an R-rated movie when you’re 17.

And the things that come easier to me now are more about life experience than about age. In my first job, I was walking on eggshells. I was terrified that if I made one tiny mistake, I’d get fired. I was freaked out the first time I had to miss work for a doctor’s appointment (for something serious) because I thought my boss would judge me harshly for not making it outside of work hours. In fact, I was scared of my boss simply because she was my boss. I never talked to her or asked how her weekend was or anything because I was just so nervous. (And my boss was very nice and not intimidating at all – this was just me being worried and walking on eggshells). I can say that at my current job, I am way past that anxiety that I felt when I first started, and being comfortable at work has greatly improved my quality of life. But again, this is about experience rather than age. If I had started working at an earlier age, I would have moved past that job-anxiety much earlier as well. It’s not something magical that happens because you turn 29.

So I reached the conclusion that I could never really have that list of 29 reasons why it’s great to be 29. Not in the sense that I was thinking. So I decided instead to make a list of reasons that I will never grow up.

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