Over the long weekend, three of my friends and I sat in a booth at a restaurant we’d been going to since we were kids when a group of teens came in, grabbed a spot next to us, and immediately made us all feel super old.
Which I don’t say as a bad thing. I feel like I’ve felt old since I was old enough to realize I’d rather stay home than go to a bush party. (I mean, for good reason: have you ever tried getting home from a bush party? Good luck, you will need it. I hate nature and I hate most people, so imagine the fresh hell I found myself in. But that’s another story.) As a kid, I was so excited to grow up and go out for dinner in nice clothes or dress and feel like whatever a Vienetta or Ferrero Rocher commercial looked like. (Fancy? Kind of like Christmas? Formal, for sure.) Even as a twenty-something, when so much was going catastrophically wrong, I knew it wouldn’t last forever; that one day, I would figure my shit out enough that I would at least get to look back and feel relieved that I’d made it out and into the wide world of adulthood. I mentally counted down until I could care about the pop culture I liked instead of using newness as a currency. I couldn’t wait to Get Old.
I turn 33 this year, and that is not old. I don’t even know what “old” — in its traditional form — looks like anymore. I don’t think my parents are old, or that my aunts and uncles are old, or even that my 89-year-old Grandfather is old. “Old” in a negative, times-a-ticking, “your opinion doesn’t matter anymore” isn’t something I’m interested in. But “old” in a, “You know what? I’m over this shit” is something I’m here to celebrate. Old as in, “I know myself enough to know who I am and what I like and what I hate and what clothes I like.” Old enough that I am too tired to pretend that I can sleep well if I’m crashing on somebody’s floor. (Goddamn it man, NO.) Old enough to like and know myself enough to be that same person in front of people I’d like to impress. Old enough to genuinely not care instead of telling everybody I don’t.
Which, I’ve learned, has nothing to do with age at all. Age doesn’t grant you admission to a “You’re Finally Over It!” club, nor does it deliver a healthy order of cynicism upon you reaching a specific one. You don’t wake up at 25 and realize that you’re going to start living for you (because you’re a quarter-century) and you don’t ring in your 30th birthday suddenly unaware of what The Cool Bands are. (That is your 32nd birthday. Or so I assume because honestly, truly, I’m only really here for Top 40 right now.) “Old,” instead, is the comfort of realizing that you have said and done and lived through things that have helped you prioritize what you like and what you love, and that you’re just not going to take any shit anymore because who cares? You’re doing fine and/or fine enough not to hang your worth on the opinion of a single person. It’s dressing how you’d like, it’s making the life for yourself that reflects you and makes you happy, and it’s reconciling what makes you great and what makes you shitty. It’s the realization that everybody is sad and everybody is ready to implode but that everybody is also just trying to live their own truth, which is great (or not — and in that case, you back away from those people slowly because it’s not your job to save anyone, and that’s something you’ve also realized in your old-ass life).
“Old,” to me, connotes experience. It is a trove of achievements and successes and happy memories, and maybe even a bigger trove of the darkest, worst, most painful shit you can sift through. Because old, as my Nana used to say, is a badge of honour. And without the things that make us old, we wouldn’t learn how to set boundaries or to decide what we’ll put up with or what we won’t. And it doesn’t matter what age you are when you do it.
I looked over a few times at the table of teens sitting next to us, hanging out and being teens and figuring out what they’d do that night. And for sure, I felt super, super old. But not because I couldn’t relate to them trying to figure out what to order or what to text so-and-so (my literal reality), but because it was getting so late. Even as a teen I needed 22 hours of sleep a night to function. But I’ve learned I can look around at my friends and say “Okay bye I’m going home now” and then do just that because I do what I want. Also because I’m old, finally.