4.22.2009

Feeling My Age?

Over the weekend I enjoyed a lovely brunch with a poet friend here in DC (where I got to have aebleskiver--one of the few ethnic treats of my childhood!). Over the course of our meandering conversation, we talked about what it meant to feel old.

"I was just thinking recently about how no matter how old I am, I feel old," I told her. I expected her to reciprocate the sentiment.

"Not me," she said. "When I was in my thirties I had so much energy, and it stopped all of a sudden. I do feel like a different person now."

Since our talk I've been thinking about this because

a) I've continued to feel old
b) I've continued to feel tired

I had to remind myself that I spent seven years living on college campuses, and that for the last three of those years, I lived with 18-year-olds. Hundreds of them. I lived with them, then I taught them in comp and creative writing classes, and then I spent the next four years working on their campus, surrounded by them.

For all intents and purposes, I spent roughly the first 13 of my adult years completely surrounded by 18-year-olds, deprived of adult contact and conversation, except among colleagues.

Although it's not much time between, say, 18 and 25, the mental distance is vast. I watched young adults make the same mistakes I made, had conversations in which they said to me the exact same crazy/stupid/arrogant things I said in my own youth.

More than that, they saw me as old. They weren't able to distinguish much between me and some of the regular tenured faculty, for example. I was pretty much a generic "grown-up." I had a "real life," whatever that meant. Bills, I suppose--a car payment.

It reminds me of an encounter I had at my Target Greatland. My cashier, a girl in her late teens, had been awkwardly talking to an older man. I took his age to be about 45. As he left, she rolled her eyes. "God!" she complained. "He always flirts with me. It's so gross--he's, like, thirty." She laughed and looked at me. I must have had a shocked look on my face; she dropped her laughter and silently scanned my items.

9 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about this topic a lot, and trying to come to terms with it in a way that will be the least embarrassing. The way it's going so far I'm not sure I'll accomplish that goal. Of course, I'm older than you so mine is more an external angst rather than internal.

    wv: schander

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  2. There really is a kind of hollow assuredness in youth. I don't know where it comes from. Maybe they just haven't been wrong enough yet, to learn more fundamental doubt. Or maybe they just have no idea about the ever-expanding scope of the horizons, of which they only see the smallest bubble around their noses just yet -- and that's easy to know everything within.

    What's stranger is the seemingly increasingly prevalent absolute right/wrong, one-answer mentality. Maybe it has something to do with science and technology playing greater roles in our lives.

    Or maybe that's just me, getting older.

    It is strange, isn't it?

    Tired all the time though? Try throwing away and ignoring all clocks, and see what happens as your sleep migrates away from mechanical control.

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  3. Every teen I've come into contact with at events and workshops believe once you hit 30 you're basically a senior citizen. It's even worse in the gay community. 30=death.

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  4. Growing old is very difficult. I turned 27 two weeks ago and reflected about how much less creative and more inhibited I've been. I need to be more obnoxious!

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  6. I remember, when I turned 30, I was editing something for The Raven Chronicles, and there was a short story by a nineteen-year-old about a thirty year old woman whose life was over because she was thirty. Although said character had travelled the world, had a successful career, a couple kids, it was over because she was SO OLD.
    See also: How not to get published.

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  7. I got older and older until I hit 40. Now I'm getting younger again. I'm only about half kidding. :)

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  8. There's something wrong with me. I've never felt old. Ever. And I am old. I guess by the gay community's standards, as you put it, I'm actually dead.

    r

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  9. When I was working in public relations, I was actually glad to turn 30 because it was really only "then" that people started taking me seriously.

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