My birthday rolled around this year with a lot of apprehension. I remembered my birthday last year and how that was steeped in existential angst and I was preparing for more of the same. Last year I turned 26 and I remembered thinking ‘who could I have been by now if I hadn’t had to spend most of my life living out and trying to recover from trauma’ and being sucked into a spiral of sadness and frustration.
I didn’t want that to happen this year. I had a bbq with friends and stuffed myself with familiar phrases: 'you’re not behind', 'you’re where you are supposed to be', 'don’t compare your journey to anyone elses' etc etc. It turned out not to be necessary. 27 slipped itself over me quite inconspicuously. It's more comfortable to wear than 26, but still feels like a foreign item, it doesn't feel it quite fits yet.
The disconnect is that I feels that it communicates a maturity that I don’t have yet and I am already tired of the looks of surprise when I tell people my age. I know it’s supposed to be a compliment when people underestimate your age but to me it feels like a judgement, as if the person is saying ‘well you don’t have your life together yet so you must be younger than 25’. I know that’s not what they mean, but that’s what I hear and it cuts at me a little every time. I think it’s also partly because I’m surrounded by so many people younger than me that provoke expressions of surprise when someone new finds out that that they’re actually 24 and not 30. It’s like wait, don’t I seem mature too? (I mean, I am definitely child-like a lot of the time so it makes sense why you would say no, but still).
I googled the definition of mature and the first definition that comes up is
‘fully developed physically; full-grown.’
Another definition is
'to become fully developed or ripe'.
It’s interesting to note that the second definition categorises mature as a verb where the first presents it as an adjective. I think that difference is some of the discontent I feel. There is a sense in which I feel that to be 27 means to be ‘fully developed’ but the truth is that there is there is only the process of maturing, ripening. To be a new year older means to be in a new phase of growth. It doesn’t mean that I should have already become and it doesn’t delineate what I ‘should’ have become although it often feels that way. There’s a lot of pressure to ‘find yourself’, ‘find your purpose’, ‘find the meaning of your life’ and ‘FIND YOUR SPOUSE’ in your 20’s as if these are the only years that matter. I do have a good idea of who I am and what my life is about, but there is a lot I don’t know and that I am unsure of, and that’s not a bad thing. There's a lot that I have done, but there's also a lot still to do. A lot that I have become, and still a lot more becoming to live through.
There's also the fact that we often treat milestones as an end and not the start of a new journey or the continuation of one. For instance, if I got married tomorrow (which it seems like would serve to make my life more full/complete) people would celebrate it as a milestone met and I would be celebrated for the fact that I had 'become a wife' rather than continuing a journey of 'becoming' a wife. Similarly if I launched a business tomorrow, I would put 'founder' in my bio, and people would read that and see me as someone who has their life together as a business owner rather than someone who is learning to be one, because everyday from the moment I launched my business, that is what I would be doing; being a business woman and also becoming one. Every sale would be a refinement. Every partnership would be a ripening. Everyday would be a learning.
In this way, those things we see as milestones stop feeling like things I have to meet or perform to make it seem as if i've made it, but instead they are born out of our natural becoming. I want to remember this as I walk out this year. To not doubt all that I am as I have in the past (because imposter syndrome is wild) and to embrace all that there is still to be. I will trust that my life will be expressed as it should be as I live it.
- Are there any age related pressures that you feel? Where have they come from?
- What are your personal measurements of growth and success?
- Are there areas in your life where you feel the tension of both being and becoming? What are these areas for you?