Getting Older

On Friday, I attended a friend’s 27th birthday party. As she took turns hugging and thanking everyone who came, I asked her “Mary, how does it feel to be 27?” and with brutal honesty, she replied “Old! Very Old!”.

I could empathize.

Ever since I turned 21, every succeeding birthday throws me into a fit of depression. Okay, not literally but my gratefulness for having made it another year is overshadowed by the idea that I am older.

What is it about getting older that people don’t like?

This is radically different from the way I felt as a teenager. Then, I could not wait to get older. I had my plans all laid out for what I’d do, look, say and become. Adulthood could not come soon enough for me.

Now, I am fighting to hold on to and really enjoy my age. I don’t want to get older even though I know it’s inevitable. I guess I’ve realized that time really does fly by and you only get a certain amount of time to indulge in activities where your age can still be used as an excuse.

But “getting” and “feeling” older are two different things. Where does my concept of feeling old come from even though my mentor, a man in his fifties tells me “Nkem you are way too young to be feeling old.” (We’ve had this conversation one too many times but I digress)

Where indeed, did I get it from? Does it have a biological or societal basis?

I look back on my life so far. Like many Nigerians in the states, I had to work and go to school at the same time. Compared to my peers back home, who just went to university, I had a lot of responsibilities. I had to grow up really fast to handle those responsibilities and be successful. Do I feel “old” because of my experiences?

I think back to my secondary education. I schooled in the east, Onitsha and a lot of my peers had this idea that one had to be married by one’s early twenties. For the most part, that has been the case as many are married and have children. Do I feel “old” because my friends are all mommies and mommies are automatically old?

I look at where I am in life today. Professionally and academically, I seem to be on track. Still the feeling persists and thoughts of “I am old, I am old, I am old” run repeatedly in my mind like a broken record.

Is it generational? Another friend of mine who recently turned 23 shared the same sentiment. Since the three of us mentioned are in the same age group should I assume that our generation is the cause?

But for every scenario I painted, I know people who fall within that age group who don’t feel old. I also know people who are much older, men and women alike who have a childlike zeal and enthusiasm for life that if you didn’t know their age, would think they were younger.

I wonder how much my coming to the U.S. influenced my thoughts on aging. As I alluded to earlier, growing up in Nigeria, I couldn’t wait to be older. I also recall that being older in Nigeria was considered a good thing as it accorded you respect and deference.

I have seen that being older does not accord you that same automatic respect, in the states.

Rather, youth is lauded. Much emphasis is placed on being and remaining youthful and it is not uncommon to see twenty something year-olds be in positions of higher authority than people who are older than them. Youth “rules” here and people spend millions of dollars trying to remain “forever young”.

Perhaps these factors combine to make me feel the way I do. I don’t know. Either way, I think it’s a sad state of affairs when young people feel old and when no one looks forward to getting older.

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6 comments
  • Rosie

    I am only commenting on something that I and people around me feel. You may think that “life hasn’t touched me yet” (and btw you still haven’t guessed my age, I left it intentionally broad) but my experiences will say otherwise.

    Anyway, thanks for commentng.

  • At (the age group of) 23 you are indeed still young. Enjoy, and stop worrying about aging. Everyone matures at emotionally and physically at different rates, so don’t compare yourself to others. It will only drive you nuts. Though it may not feel like it sometimes, these are the best years of your life. (And yes, life has not yet touched you. Some day you’ll catch my drift).

  • Good one…although you were elusive about the age thingy. I celebrate whatever birthday I can grab out of life now because mortality rate is so high now that we should all be thanking God for his goodness every morning.

    Btw,

    You don’t need to feel old in my books because I count you as Methuselah as soon as you turn 25…that’s preety old to me.

  • Thank you for your comment. Please read carefully. I never said I was 21, that would make me a genius to have done so much by 21

  • You are still 21. Please wait to get older before giving an introspective piece on aging. Real Life has not even touched you yet.