When you graduate college and you’re 22 life is very difficult, but only because you are experiencing many things you’ve never done before all at the same time. You have to make a lot of educated guesses and just try new things (like paying bills) all the time. But it’s a fun-scary experience because it’s totally okay to fail. People expect you to fail. You likely still have a strong safety net to fall back on if things don’t turn out as you’ve planned.
I remember “feeling old” a lot in my younger 20’s. But it was a joke, like, “LOL I just put a stamp on an envelope, I’m so old!”
When you’re in your late 20’s and you start to feel old, it’s because you’re actually getting old. You’ve been in an office job for years at this point so you realize you have to take care of your health, and not for a fun reason like looking good at the beach, because if you don’t take care of your health you actually suffer real consequences. Your parents aging and nearing retirement and you realize sometime in the last few years that safety net disappeared and even though nothing has really changed, you know that a fall now has real consequences. And– bonus, if you’re a woman, you’re only seven years away from a geriatric pregnancy. Geriatric — like, for old people.
I only just got plates that match my bowls this year, and I’m already nearing the beginning of old age. It makes you think.
When you graduate college it’s like a race to see who can be an adult first. The first person in the friend group with a real job, the one with the most put-together apartment, the first to get married, the first to have a kid. Growing towards 30 it can start to feel like your whole life bucket list needs to be done by then. But there’s also this feeling of seriousness that emerges from this racing towards adulthood chaos: you see that time moves quickly so you want to make sure your life is about the things that really matter to you.
At first my friends with kids felt guilty about not coming around as often, by 28 they’re perfectly content to be homebodies. They are doing the thing that makes them the happiest, there’s no more guilt about not doing what others do to be happy.
Life is about ricocheting back and forth between gravity and grace and not losing either. We “feel old” at impossibly young ages (like 28) because that gravity — aging, the inevitability of death — is as much a part of life as the things that fulfill us (grace) are. 28 is a weird age because you have no choice but to accept this. The grace period for being a mess is over. And that’s okay, there’s a point after warming up for a long enough time that you want the game to start, you want the consequences to be real because you’ve worked for them. You’re ready for them, the good and the bad.
There are always new things we learn or new things that happen to our bodies that will make us feel old, that will never change. But it’s a weird feeling to realize the seriousness of that. It’s “yolo” without the feel good, recklessness that phrase is supposed to come with. It’s maybe finishing the first lap of a 4-lap mile run and checking your pace, knowing where you’d like it to be.