For whatever reason, being 27 has been a weirder experience than other ages. It’s more…existential? Reflective? More HOLY SHIT I’M 27? There’s something about officially being in my late 20s that makes me feel like I’ve run out of time to grow (even though that’s totally ridiculous and untrue. If everything I know now is all I’m ever going to know, well, then, I’m in trouble, friends).
Perhaps the more accurate description is that feeling of waving goodbye to adolescence. The very surreal, yet very present emotion that childhood is over. For good. You don’t get repeats. And so recently, I was sitting up at night thinking about all the things from my past that I regret. I thought, “Not only will I never be a kid again. I didn’t do it right the first time.”
Mind you, I have no idea what “right” would have been.
A lot of people try to avoid growing up. So much that it’s been turned into an industry. I can’t think of anything more marketable right now than nostalgia. Many people think of childhood as an easier time, when parents worried about the real stuff. While that’s not the case for everyone, it was certainly true for me.
The thing is, when you’re a nervous, awkward, anxious person, when those tendencies are innate within you from birth, you always find something to worry about. And when you don’t have bills to pay and a career to pursue, it’s easiest for those worries to be totally social.
So, in those school girl days, I was always trying to maintain an impossible balance of desperately wanting to be liked, desperately wanting to seem like I didn’t care about being liked, desperately wanting to excel at something (hell, excel at everything!), and desperately trying not to cry when my expectations for myself weren’t met. On top of everything, there are those crazy little things called hormones that make you just…so…angry…all…the…time!
From what I understand of the adolescent experience, what I just described isn’t uncommon. Which makes me wonder, what is there to miss? To long for? It makes me wonder if when people say they want to go back to being a kid, they mean they want to be a kid who knows what an adult knows but is still free of responsibility.
It makes me wonder, even though I feel like I didn’t get adolescence “right,” if I could do it again, would I?
Not in a million f***ing years.
I remember a lot of my childhood classmates proclaiming, at some point, they couldn’t wait to grow up (grass is always greener, yada yada). This is usually in reference to not wanting to follow your parents’ lame rules anymore, to wanting to stay up late and eat ice cream for dinner and not get grounded. Those things are nice. But when I said I couldn’t wait to grow up, I meant it. Thing is, I already stayed up late (I was a horrible insomniac until about 3 years ago), I got plenty of ice cream, and to me, getting grounded rocked. You mean I can’t leave my bedroom? Where I have all my books, Barbies, and a TV? Suh-weet!
I couldn’t wait to grow up because it seemed like growing up meant I would have less time to care so deeply about what other people thought of me.
Perhaps many of us always worry about that on some level. We’re pack animals after all. It’s natural. I mean, the entire concept of this blog is feeling terribly uncomfortable in social situations. However, up until recently, hearing any sort of negative comment about me, especially who I was from middle school-through-college, really made me spiral into a deep, sulky depression. You ever see that episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon goes to her high school reunion thinking she was the nerd and it turns out everyone thought she was really snarky and aggressive? Yup, that was me. I was angry, I thought I was really funny, and I thought no one was listening.
But then, a short time ago, when I was on the brink of 27, I ran into someone from high school. We got to talking, a bit of reminiscing. And then, inevitably, at some point, he said, “Yeah, you were mean back then.”
And what normally would have resulted in completely shutting down, excusing myself, going back home, and crying, resulted in my mind going wait a second, I’m about to move to a new city, about to start grad school, about to move in with my boyfriend; I’ve got a thousand actual things that need consideration running through my head; frankly, I was never that fond of you either, and I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT, followed by a curt nod.
How unbelievably liberating!
I would take 27 over that other nonsense any day. I would never want to be a kid again. Chances are even if I didn’t make the same mistakes, I would find other ones to make. People are funny that way.
Now, a carefree adult with the means to do nothing but travel the world, drink wine, and read books? And I wouldn’t need ask my dad to take me to the airport and have to be home by 10? That’s a far more compelling option.