I’ve been thinking a lot about age lately. After denying it for many years I feel like I’m ready to embrace that I may never feel more grown up than I do now at 35. And I really feel about 19. I kept thinking that if I reached certain benchmarks then I would feel older. Like graduating college, working, getting married, having a kid, etc. But I don’t feel older. Physically I feel different, but mentally I still feel like I’m in college basically. It’s just harder.
I’m reading this memoir and this line popped out to me: “My life had to mean something more than that, didn’t it?” I read it and laughed. It was the author’s teenage self saying this. And yet, I regularly think this thought at 35. I’m so worried about my life feeling meaningless. I still feel like there should be more; that there is more around the corner. I know I’ll get there eventually, but I want it now.
I denied what I heard from so many older, wiser people because I was desperate to be more than my 19 year old self. Once I got through my first depressive episode, I needed to be different. I needed to be separate. I did things like throw away relationships along with old letters and pictures. I saw 19 year old me as pathetic. I was searching for myself, and at a certain point I felt like I should have discovered myself already. I was afraid that feeling 19 meant that I was being immature by choice.
Lately I’ve been listening to some new-to-me music–obsessively devouring The Cure–in a way that I haven’t in years. My 19 year old self loves it. I’ve felt a little silly though enjoying it so much without stopping to critically analyze it the way my 25 year old self would. I just like it. It makes me feel good. It doesn’t make me think about politics or philosophy. It doesn’t make me want to take a class on it; I just want to listen and dance a bit.
But last night, I took a break from The Cure to listen to the Ryan Adams album Gold from 2001. In the summer of 2001 at 19 I went to see my then favorite band–Counting Crows–in concert at Sam Houston State University. It was a great show. I wore this off shoulder black sweater and a denim mini skirt. I was only a few months out from my suicide attempt. After the show I got to meet the band with other fans. It was a dream come true for me. I asked the lead singer what music he was into, and he told me about Gold. He sang some backing vocals on it.
That was it. I had to have the album. Coincidentally, my boyfriend wanted that album anyway, so I bought it not long after it came out. It was a gift for my boyfriend, but I opened and listened to it before I gave it to him. I remember that moment. I was pretty excited to hear it. It’s a good album but it gave me some great memories. Most of the songs either remind me of singing harmonies on my own or being with my boyfriend traveling in the US and UK. Together we listened to the shit out of this album. Ah, to be young and in love!
This album is from that age where I feel stuck. The way I was excited for this album is the way I still get excited for new music. The way I loved life and people then is how I love now. What I loved then I still love now; I’ve just spent 16 years trying to move on. Around age 25, I began to feel embarrassed for not being different from my 19 year old self. I was different–more educated more experienced, but the same books and music still felt just as moving. And new stuff I loved felt just like opening Gold at 19. But I tried to grow up anyway. I thought throwing away my “toys” was the way to do it. Listen to less Counting Crows and more Tom Waits. Less Ryan Adams more Radiohead. Less of what I loved and more of what I ought to love. It felt grown up to move on. But I didn’t really move on. I just compartmentalized.
So what has changed? I don’t know. I read this really poignant facebook post on age; maybe that’s it. It got me thinking about how it’s okay to still feel 19, and still like things I did then. But more importantly, I think that it’s okay to continue discovering myself and what I like. And that was what I really wanted when I was 19. To discover myself. And I still want that. Because even though I keep changing, I still want to know and love the person I am. And that takes effort, work, experience. It’s okay that my heart feels 19, my brain feels 25, and my body feels 35. It’s refreshing to think about actually. It’s a relief that I don’t have to fight myself. I can just embrace it. It means that new music can always remind me of Gold, and I like that. It means that I am allowed to reread my old, marked up books–the ones I’ve read to death–and enjoy them. It means that I can accept that I’m not that cool. I try hard sometimes, but I was too emotional at 19 to be cool. I was so raw I could only love what I actually loved. Now I can enjoy it without the heartache.
I’m not sure that this feeling-younger-than-you-are is universal for all adults. My husband says he feels 36. What I think, though, is that age is just a number. You are who you are. Some things change, others don’t. However you feel–whether your stuck at a previous age or not–love yourself for who you are. Accept yourself. Don’t waste time trying to be more grown up or cooler. When you find something you love, enjoy it. When you find something that makes you happy, hang on. You are good just the way you are, whatever age you are, and whatever age you feel.