The other night my husband said, “Sometimes you act like you think you’re still 16.” In the moment, I’m not going to lie, it stung a little. Sensing that, he assured me that he didn’t mean it to hurt my feelings. We laughed and moved on. It did get me thinking though. I’m 35 now. How am I supposed to be acting? Do I come off as immature to those around me?
Truthfully, I don’t tend to worry too much about what others think about me. From time to time, a negative thought will creep into my mind and take up residence for a little while. Luckily the lease is usually short and I’m back to my typical IDGAF attitude in no time. These negative thoughts sometimes creep into my mind following an innocent comment like, “You act like you think you’re still 16” and sometimes they just appear out of the blue.
Sometimes they lead to some negative self-talk. I might say things to myself like: “well you do act like you’re 16;” “it’s really time to grow up;” “people probably think it’s weird that you post to social media so much;” “it’s too late to think about changing careers or chasing futile dreams of making a living doing something creative;” “you’re delusional about how funny and talented you are;” “get over yourself;” “you don’t work hard enough or follow through with anything;” and so on and so forth.
Some of that may seem kind of harsh, but I’m just being honest. And I told you, this negative self-talk is fleeting. I promise you, it doesn’t last long. I mean look, I’m writing this blog post right now aren’t I? Like as if what I have to say actually matters. Just kidding, I know it matters. Ugh. That sounded conceited. (Kendrick Lamar is now singing in my ear, “Sit down; be humble.”)
Anyway, what does it mean to act your age?
In my opinion, I really don’t think there is a simple answer to that question. I mean sure, if you’ve ever taken a basic developmental psychology class then you probably are familiar with the different stages of a human’s life and what sort of developmental milestones they should be hitting at each age. That’s not what I have in mind when I ponder this question. I’m not really thinking about things like: children should probably start to walk around a year old. I guess I’m thinking more about interests, hobbies, and general behaviors.
What’s interesting is that I never used to think about this kind of stuff when I was growing up. I was always very comfortable with moving through life at my own pace, liking the things I liked and doing the things I did, not giving so much as a second thought about what people my age were “supposed” to be doing and liking. I played with Barbie dolls until I was in fifth grade, but I started watching MTV in sixth grade. I was obsessed with boys by second grade, yet didn’t kiss one until ninth grade. At age 12, I couldn’t get enough of classic movies like Casablanca and Singing in the Rain and for my 35th birthday my husband bought me Moana and Finding Dory. I was lucky enough to have supportive, nurturing parents who encouraged me to always just be myself. My whole childhood I bounced from friend group to friend group, ultimately coming home to my brother each day who was really my best friend. Sometimes I acted younger than I was, still agreeing to play pretend with him. Other times, I corrupted him and made him watch PG-13 movies, The Real World, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony music videos when he was like nine-years-old. I escaped my youth fairly unscathed by bullying and self-doubt. Though I went through some of the typical angsty teen stuff, I really didn’t suffer through it like some people do. Sure I cried over a few boys and really wanted to get a nose job, but for the most part I was just really happy. In some moments, I could be a gigantic goofball and other times a truly old soul. I felt blessed to have a core group of friends who were more like sisters and seemed to love me just the way I was (and still do to this day…I think!?) So I really never ever thought about whether or not I was acting my age.
And then I turned 30. I started to wonder if there was some sort of adulting handbook that I was supposed to get in the mail that maybe I had missed. It seemed as if suddenly all around me people were growing up, getting more serious, and I just…wasn’t. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was living in my parents’ basement. No offense to anyone who did or still does! That’s awesome! I’m sure you rock that living situation!
At 30, I was married. I owned a home. I had been teaching for six years. I had a cat. But I didn’t have kids, which was one of the major things that set me apart from a lot of the other 30 year olds in my various circles. I also still felt very connected to almost all of the things that I had been enjoying for as long as I could remember: pop music, Disney movies, reality television, spending time with my family, eating junk food, napping, being a goofball (i.e.: doing voices, singing songs, making people laugh, dancing around every room of the house). The final thing that I felt set me apart was the fact that I still was a bit of a dreamer. It seemed (though perhaps it was only an illusion) that all of the other 30-somethings I knew were pretty settled and content. Sure there were a few folks here and there who had maybe switched careers already or were getting divorced or starting a side business…but for the most part everyone was just doing that stereotypical daily grind.
For the majority it involved getting their kids up in the morning and off to daycare, going to their nine-five, picking up the kids from daycare, doing the dinner/bath/bedtime routine and then maybe having a glass of wine while watching one episode of a show saved on the DVR. I started feeling guilty that I could binge watch Making a Murderer while others had to watch one or two episodes a week! The horror! I also started questioning whether or not my blogging and Snapchat stories and Instagram posts were coming off as narcissistic and juvenile. How could people possibly know that I was just still trying to nurture the creative part of my soul. That I feel incomplete when I don’t have an outlet and I still believe deep down that someday my writing or my humor or maybe my singing (but probably not, let’s be honest) will lead me on a crazy new journey that will involve more than just the internet and my friends and family.
So for the past five years I’ve had those negative creeping thoughts from time to time. Am I doing it wrong? Am I making a fool of myself? Do people think I’m ridiculous? All I can say is this:
I’m just doing the best I can at this thing called life. I’m not perfect. I have a lot of flaws and fears that I’m still working on every day. But I try to be good to other people and to myself, and above all, I always try to stay true to who I really am.
Age really is just a number. It marks how long we’ve been alive. I believe if you’re doing it right, every one of those years can simply be viewed as another year spent living the life that makes you happy in that moment. Never mind the traditional milestones and markers of age and passage of time.
Today I slept until close to 10 a.m. and the first thing I did was check to see how many people had viewed my Snap Story from last night. On weekdays I’m up and out the door by six every morning, off to my very demanding job of teaching high school English (which let me confess is more about teaching teenagers how to not be such d-bags and less about teaching them how to diagram a sentence). I take two to three yoga classes a week, but I’m not above housing an entire bag of kettle corn in one sitting. Sometimes I leave dishes in the sink. Sometimes I do five loads of laundry in one day, complete with ironing as well! This is my 35. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.