“Don’t grow up too fast.” A phrase you hear all the time as a kid, especially around the time you might start to wear makeup or have your first crush. When you’re in the quintessentially awkward phase of being a teenager, instinct tells you to propel yourself out of it and into maturity, but that’s easier said than done. When you’re fifteen and trying to act eighteen, that’s all it can really be—an act.
Thankfully, those days are far behind me, but I’ve discovered a second quintessentially awkward phase of life: your twenties. It feels like you’re sailing a too-small raft on a too-big sea, and I’ve felt uncomfortable navigating it throughout the entire journey. Now that I’m closer to thirty than twenty, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, although I’m one of the few people I know that doesn’t have a fear of the big 3-0. I’m ready to turn thirty. Heck, I’m ready to turn forty.
Here’s the thing. Many of the things I enjoy are stereotypically enjoyed at a much later age. The only kind of concert you’ll find me at is one where I have a seat, with earplugs in my pocket. I spend hours on a Saturday working on jigsaw puzzles. I only drink decaf coffee these days, and I’ve become more of a wine snob than I ever thought possible. I can actually identify a cheese on a cheeseboard just by looking at it. I can’t watch scary movies, I don’t trust technology, and my idea of a perfect Sunday morning is reading the newspaper in my bathrobe before tending to my patio planters or starting my James Madison biography. Think you stumbled upon a blog for baby boomers? Surprise, you’re still reading truelane.
Of course, dozens of these activities can also identify with personality type, not just age. The fact that I would rather be at home with my books and movies than do anything else is classic introversion, something you realize more and more people identify with thanks to how tightly the Internet has woven our lives. These days, it’s becoming cool to say that you’d rather stay home than go out to a bar with your girlfriends. Saying you have an “old soul” has become a bit romantic. The “self-care” movement has turned what sounds like a boring evening—a face mask in the bath while reading your favorite book with a little too much wine—into something glamorous. Doing a puzzle is a brain exercise. Caring for plants is a stress reliever. Rather than being exclusively relaxing or even just lame, these activities serve an actual purpose for people in their teens, twenties, and beyond. You can embrace them at twenty-five or sixty-five.
Part of me wonders if I’m trying to find a reason to push myself into old age because my hobbies no longer make me different. Even just a couple of years ago, people would be surprised to find out that my favorite thing to do is make popcorn and watch Frasier, or that my maximum is two glasses of wine unless I want a raging hangover the next day, and think I was nothing more than a lightweight hermit. I went on a date once where the guy actually said to me, “Are you like, the most boring person ever?” But these days, people take pride in Instagramming their quiet weekends at home and their hours spent with adult coloring books. Interests that used to make me unique now make me part of the herd, and I guess it’s embarrassing to admit, but I kind of miss that. Of course, I know that there are thousands of people in the world like me—but before, there weren’t as many in my circle, or even on my radar.
There’s also the part of me that just wants to feel settled. Many of my friends are older than I am, and buying houses or Porsches, having children or dinner parties, and the fact that I still have years to go before moving somewhere with a yard (technically never, in the Seattle-area housing market) pains me. I’m ready to settle into a two-bedroom house with my dog and my mid-size SUV and my fine China dinnerware settings. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with two of my siblings, and feeling too old to be in this living situation makes me seem ungrateful for these few years that the three of us get to be in the same space.
One of my most used phrases these days is “I’m too old for that.” My left knee gives out on me more times than I care to admit, my eyeglass prescription is so strong I’m nearing blindness, and I actually walk around my bed to make either side instead of leaping across like I did when I was fourteen (and, of course, had to be asked several times before I actually made my bed). There are things I do that make me feel older than I am, but I don’t know if the mind or the body is more at fault. Everyone you know who’s made it to sixty or seventy or eighty say the same thing: it’s all gone by too fast. I’m in what’s considered the prime of my life. Why would I want to skip any of it?
Maybe it’s the wondering about all these things that keeps you tied to your number. The fact that I’m wondering and worrying about trying to process these feelings could be telling of my age already. Overthinking everything is what your twenties are for, isn’t it? While there are a lot of things that make me wish I were thirty-seven this year instead of twenty-seven, I need to remind myself of everything that will happen in those years between twenty-seven and thirty-seven that I wouldn’t give up for the world.
I guess having this 1000-word conversation with myself is just a reminder not to will myself to grow up faster, but to enjoy myself and my life right where we are now. It is, after all, the older and wiser thing to do.