Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What is it about 25?

Having always had a knack for befriending those who are slightly older than I am, I've had my share of "when I was your age" discussions or future predictions. Sometimes, they've been frustrating or infuriating, and other times, they've been insightful. It seems that there are certain "betweener" stages where these chats come a little more often. 25 is apparently one of those ages. 

This year, I've received some of the most interesting life advice from those who are a little older (or a lot older), and they are equal parts terrifying, hilarious, and insightful. I've also received some unsolicited comments from those who are younger than me. 25 is an interesting age, one in which everyone seems to have an opinion of where your life should be and what you should be doing. Similarly, 25 is one of those landmark ages, so those who are younger have preconceived notions about what it means to be a "quarter of a century old." Everyone seems to have these ideas of events that are supposed to occur during or before the 25th year of life, and it creates some really interesting comments aimed at those of us who are 25. The things people say may be strange and frightening, but they're definitely worth discussing (and also noting why some of these aren't the best things to ask or say). 

1)  You think that's bad? Wait until you hit 30! 
Whatever this statement is about (whether it's a stressful work situation, a broken heart, an injury, a changing situation in life), if I trust you enough to share my situation with you, please do not discredit it because I'm younger than you are. Aside from that, I've probably seen you go through it and been there for you, and I have seen that it gets worse. I'm sorry, and I appreciate you trying to prepare me for that, but I'm not there yet, so let's let me live in my world without all these flashing red lights and warnings about the sky falling down on me someday. 

2) Happy 25th! Now comes all of the random extra body hair.
Thank you…wait! WHAT?!? Yes, this is a conversation I had alongside my birthday wishes this year, and it's truly a horrifying thought that I have so many things to look forward to as time progresses. I still have dreams and goals and things I want to accomplish, but now I also have more options and more choices at my disposal. Apparently, I can potentially become sasquatch in my old age. Cool, thanks, friend for the encouragement! 

Happy birthday, gorgeous! It's going to be a great year!

3) You're like 12.
No. I'm like 25, although, I do appreciate you lumping me in the "young" category. I'll take it, no matter how petty it is for me to enjoy being "young" for a moment. 

4) Hangovers will only get worse. 
I know this. I'm not 21 anymore. I've seen the progression of the "morning-after" feeling, and I know that it only gets worse. I no longer recover quite like the youngster I used to be, and I've also seen firsthand what my future holds, lest you forget that I've helped take care of many of you on those mornings, older friends. 

5) Your day will come. 
I'm 25. I'm not sitting around wondering if I'm going to be alone forever. I'm not soliciting advice from "Dear Abby," you're not a fortune cookie, and I'm not asking you to read my palms. I'm out living my life, having a blast, and living in each moment. So, please stop with this one. Just…please. I don't really care to hear your predictions about the one who is going to ride in and sweep me off my feet. I'm pretty good with where I am in my life and all that I have accomplished, all that I am blessed with, and all that I have going for me. 

6) One of these days that workout will hurt a little bit more, trust me.
It already does. It. Already. Freaking. Does. That's the point of the workout. I've always been one to push myself to the extreme when working out. I'm already walking like a little old man after a rough leg day, and I already have a couple of joints that pop. I realize this will probably get worse with age, but don't try to ruin my post-workout feeling with a rant about how it's all downhill from here. 

Leg bastard!

7) What is your five year plan?
I have two answers to this, and they vary depending on how sassy I'm feeling that day. Answer #1:  To be fabulous and happy. Answer #2: None of your damn business. That's my thing, and five year plans must be flexible anyway. I have learned that what doesn't bend breaks; therefore, I bend, I give myself and my plans room to breathe and grow and change with life's tides. 

8) There's going to be worse ahead, but there will also be happiness, so don't get stuck in this moment. 
I get this, and I actually appreciate it greatly. To be honest, I appreciate it the most because it came from a dear friend who was helping me through a tough situation and reminded me that there were plenty of good things ahead, and that there were also going to be more times that hurt. Sometimes, we need these realities spoken to us even if we already know. The hurt doesn't last forever; neither does the good. Appreciate it all for what it is. 

9) You make me feel so old. 
Not my intention…and I apologize. If we're going to be honest, your continual reminders of my aging through your comments make me feel a little old, too. Are we even now?

10) You should go back to school before it's too late.
Too late for what exactly? And, whose timeline/life plan am I following? Last time I checked, there wasn't a set map of things I had  to check off to be successful. Truth be told, I'm probably not going back anytime soon, and if I do, it won't be because someone told me to. 

This kid and me both. I'll go if and when I'm ready and possess the desire.

11) There's still time. 
The subject behind this message changes from conversation to conversation, but I'm quite aware that there is still time…for whatever I want to accomplish. I can feel my heart beating, and I'm taking in breath. Therefore, I'm fully aware that there is still time. I'm not in a rush, and I know that good things take time. 

12) Have you ever tried botox?
This was a question in passing the other day, and I legitimately had no comment. Some days, 25 feels young and vibrant. Some days, it feels really old. The botox day was a "really old" day. The short answer is no. I have not. I have not had a need for it, but now you made me look in the mirror for a good, solid five minutes, analyzing every detail after we had that chat. 

After you've analyzed your face post-botox questioning, put on the lipstick, hold your head high, and walk away (all the while noting that you don't need botox--at least not yet).

13) I have no idea what I'm doing.
I relish my conversations with other 24-26-year-olds. We can freely admit to one another that, while we're enjoying the adventure of life, we often feel as though we're practicing this "adult thing."

At least once a day...

14) Do you realize you're now older than the characters on Friends when it started?
I do now. Thanks for ruining my day. Just walk away slowly, please. 

15) When I'm 25, I'll be married and have two children.
My young cousin asserted this to me in such a confident and direct manner that there was really no response from me other than laughter. Good for you, little guy, good for you. 

16) So, you're old enough to remember pre-crazy Britney?
Yes. Yes, I am. Somehow 30-somethings tend to forget that five to ten years of age difference is really not that much, and I'm not that much younger. Most of our childhood/teen experiences (especially when they come to pop culture) are going to be very similar. 

17) When are you going to grow up? Why are you sitting at the kids' table? Or… You don't take anything seriously. 
Facts:  I am a grown up. I'm sitting at the kids' table because sometimes they're more entertaining, and I have that option as a single individual at most of these events where everyone is married and/or has children of their own. And, I take many things seriously. I have a job, I pay bills, I have had to be the responsible one in many situations, I have a dog I care for, I have a car that I keep in regular maintenance, I have many responsibilities. I have many things I care deeply about and have passions in life. Still, I enjoy life. I don't think that means I'm not "grown up." I think it means I find reasons to smile, laugh, and enjoy most situations. It's a balancing act at 25 between the kid we were and the adult we now are, and most of us do a good job of handling it.

18) Have you ever tried online dating?
(Raised eyebrows) Maybe I have. Maybe I haven't. Wait. Do I even know you? These are the types of suggestions that come from the most random people–people who have no business knowing anything about my dating life. 

19) You should learn to cook if you want to be a good wife one day. 
Hmm? What? I don't think I heard you over the sound of my now imploding mind. Seriously. Mind = blown with that statement. A) I can cook, quite well, actually. B) I do it for me, when I want to. Most of the time I don't want to, and I live with a man who is a far better cook than I am. I have no need to cook oftentimes. C) That's not the standard definition of "good wife" anymore. It's not 1950. D) Once again, what?

20) I have a friend you should meet. You two would hit it off great, and I realize 47 is a little old…
I don't date 47-year-olds. I just don't. Not going to happen. I realize I spouted off all that "I'm an adult" stuff earlier, but I'm not that much of an adult. 

21) You're going to regret that one day. 
Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. My choice, my consequence. And, I'm no longer in that "old enough to know better, still too young to care" mindset.  I'm old enough to know better, and I'm old enough to care. More often than not, my decisions are carefully weighed, and fully thought out. Sure, I have my spontaneous choices, and I do some things just because I want to. But, I can assure you I've put cautious thought into any big decision I make, and if you don't understand the decision, there's a chance you don't understand what I had to choose from. 

22) I'm old enough to be your dad.
Yes. Now this is sufficiently awkward for both of us. Regardless of if we are in a work situation, a bar, or wherever we may meet, let's not make it awkward by placing this weird context on things. 

23) You should do X, Y, and Z while you still have time.
Once again, I like to seize the day as much as the next gal, but why are we acting as though I'm on some kind of race timeline. With whom am I competing for these milestones and goals? Am I in a race with all my peers, and am I supposed to be comparing my life to theirs and their weddings, babies, jobs, etc.? That sounds like the recipe for the opposite of happiness to me. I am in competition with no one other than who I was the day before. I want to be a better version of me, and I want to follow my own timeline. Sure, time flies, but we're not on deadline for these things that society wants us to have by 25.

24) Do you have children? OR… Do you want children? OR… Why don't you have children?
Unless you are a close immediate family member or a close friend or someone I am dating, this question is probably off limits. It's inappropriate, and I shouldn't have to define or explain my life choices to anyone. Moreover, this is a private matter. Before questioning, people should consider the fact that, if a woman wants children and does not have them, this question may be a heartbreaking matter to her. If she doesn't want children like I don't want children, she does not owe you an explanation for this. It is her life–not yours. 

25) What's holding you back? 
I appreciate the sentiment in this message. I've always been optimistic, and I enjoy looking forward to the future. Still, there's something about this statement that hints that I'm missing the boat, actively denying myself of something, or somehow not doing enough to get to where I want to be. Like I said before, you don't always know what I have to choose from. This is an expression of encouragement I will gladly and gratefully accept when I have asked for advice or input, but it's a little harder to stomach when it's unsolicited. (Because sometimes, there are a lot of things that hold us back from whisking away to a new place, taking that trip, etc. that are out of our control:  finances, self-respect, our jobs, our families, whatever it may be).  

The fact of the matter is that most of these comments come from a place of genuine love or concern, and I usually take them with a grain of salt and a laugh. Still, I feel like there should be a little more tact in most of them, or I feel like someone should have given me a heads up. Something along the lines of: "Hey, once you hit 25, EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG is going to have life suggestions for you, because let's face it darlin, you're not living according to their plan" would have been a sufficient warning. I'm kidding slightly, and maybe it lasts past 25. I'm not quite sure on that. I'm not there yet. I just know that it's been amped up this year, and that every time I tell someone my age, it's as if they have an epiphany about wisdom they must impart upon me. It's a strange phenomenon, and all joking aside, it's opened my eyes to the fact that, perhaps, we should all be a little slower to offer unsolicited advice and suggestions. Perhaps, instead, we should listen, offer only if asked, accept that each of us takes a different path, stop jumping to conclusions. 

None of us exists within a cookie-cutter mold. And, truthfully, none of us has it all figured out. If you think you do, we all probably want to hear from you even less. There are certainly things each of us can learn from one another, but these tidbits of knowledge should not be handed out in the form of preconceived notions or judgments about our life. Aside from that, cut us some slack at 25. We're past the point where nobody likes you (that's 23 for those of you who don't listen to Blink-182), but we're still dealing with a lot of changes coming our way (see above about the wrinkles, adult responsibilities, and sasquatch's a lot to take in, so be patient). We have a lot of things happening in our lives and a lot of shifting roles, and in the midst of it all, we're trying to find the "new normal" under which our generation demands a great deal from us. It's no longer enough for us to choose one thing and be great at it. (I blame Pinterest for this, by the way). We must now all take on sewing, crafty things, be a cleaning genius, have a successful career, etc. I could go on all day, but I will stop. The fact is that we've all got our own things that we're working toward, so instead of asking us about that five year plan, consider instead asking us what we're doing now. 

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