Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Finally Old Enough

On Monday, I finally hit my mid twenties. It feels pretty good so far. Of course, I don't expect a few days to make much difference to the usual swath of people thinking I'm in high school, in college, a minor. But I'm sure a few months will change that. Right?

I confess, I'm insecure about my age. About how young I am. I think I have good things to say (we all think that about ourselves), but I'm afraid others won't take me seriously. How can I have advice for college graduates? How could I have opinions about kids? How could I claim to have work experience?

I've taken my life at high speed. I skipped sixth grade, almost skipped 12th, and graduated college early. At 20, I completed my entire education and entered the workforce. When I was 21, I embarked on my dream career as a writer and editor, the job I hold today.

Despite all that, I feel like I'm behind. Not because I haven't achieved things or gone places or done exciting stuff: simply because I'm younger. Nearly half of my close friends are in their 30s and 40s and I will never catch up to them in age. I will never have as many memories or stories, never have as much life experience.

Even though they love me and treat me as a peer, I can't help feeling like a wily green shoot in the midst of a forest. Society tells me that age matters, that my lack of experience blinds me in ways I can't understand, and that my enthusiasm for changing the world is "just a phase." I'm told that much of who I am is changeable (is that a bad thing?) and that not only do older generations look down on me, I will look down on me too one day.

I don't want any of these things to be true.

I'm in good company, here in the golden 24th year of life. Jennifer Lawrence turns 24 in a couple days, and nobody can say she hasn't accomplished anything. I remember watching American Hustle in theatres; while the other, older actors were superb, Lawrence's performance was real. She could've been a real woman in the 60s, with actors positioned around her.

Veronica Roth, too, is in her mid twenties, and she's already authored four bestsellers (first published at age 23). The Divergent trilogy is still out on Costco's book table, and now they're being made into highly popular movies. Christopher Paolini self-published at age 18 and was a bestseller at 19 when Knopf picked up his book. While his books have a less mature writing style, they have the necessary elements--gripping plot and sympathetic characters--to become widely popular among teens.

These people are successful because they're skilled. They worked hard and got good at something--better than plenty of people older than them. If they had let their youth get in the way, saying that someone older surely could do it better, we wouldn't have the great books and movies we have today.

Doing something with your life isn't reserved for those who have years of experience. So I'm learning not to pass off my passions as the silly trappings of young adulthood. I used to feel that in order to respect the wisdom and experience of those older than me, I have to downplay my own experiences and not argue with them when I disagree. But I'm learning to see that those older than me have as much to learn as anyone else, and that maybe we can be friends on this journey; I don't have to be the baby of the bunch.

I may not be that old, but that doesn't mean I have nothing to say, or that what I say matters less. I have a voice. I need to use it and not be afraid.

Word count: 680.