Last year, when I crossed over into age 26, things changed for me. A wave came over me that send me careening into new and refreshing waters, and I knew that for the first time, there was no escaping the undertow and no turning back.
You see, like many 20-somethings that don’t have their mind made up, my past life was a downward spiral of moving from here to there, and jumping over obstacles, as though life was a game of leap frog. It was when I turned 26, and tried to put on that short, gauzey, flowery skirt, which I had somehow outgrown exponentially, that I realized it was time to grow up. Growing up does not mean you have to set aside your youthful spirit, your aspirations, and ridiculous belief that wishes made when the clock strikes 11:11. It does however require you to face the reality of bills, car insurance, and watching to make sure your teeth don’t rot out of your face because it’s the last set you’re gonna’ get.
27 came with an even bigger realization, the realization that in three years, I will be 30. It’s a challenging moment, when you scan your life’s accomplishments, experiences, and current placement, and introspectively soul search to determine whether or not that is “good enough” for you, and satisfying. The only opinion that matters is yours. And if you’re shaking your head in disapproval, there are changes to be made. Although 26 was a bit rocky at first; I felt suffocated, I flailed my way through the water, nearly drowned as I became forced to learn new swim strokes. 27 is better. More comfortable. And there it is, the word that, based on your response to it, tells you whether or not you’re getting old.
When you hear “comfortable” and breathe a sigh of relief.
No longer are the days when you contort yourself into tight, ungodly outfits all for the sake of fashion or impressing a member of the opposite sex. You prefer to walk around the block, go to the grocery store, and run your errands to pay your electric bill in your most comfortable, spacious pants and your favorite basic t-shirt. Comfortable is a night in, relaxing, reading, and listening to music or catching up with your mom on the phone. Comfortable is a rainy day watching a movie. And comfortable is being with someone you love that loves you back, unconditionally, which is both comfortable and exciting. But mostly, comfortable.
You not only do the crossword puzzle, you speak crossword lingo
I’ll admit, I love me a good crossword, and not just the ones that are easy and I can whip through and understand, I like a real, down-to-earth brain challenging one. I understand what the crossword says when the clue is something obscure like: “Fall mo. pl.” and “This, in Toledo”. Though, I do sometimes have to look up some of the actors and actresses from the 1960’s and prior, but there are so many clues I shock myself with knowing the answer to (and scare myself by knowing the answers only the “old” people should get); I can cruise my way through the world of crosswords like….well….an old person in an armchair. The only part of the picture I haven’t completed is smoking a pipe.
You actually read and appreciate books
After college, I swore I would never read another book. I burned mine, sold them on Amazon and used them as a makeshift coffee table in many an unfurnished apartment. But, a good book to me, is like a good meal. Nourishing, mind-bending, thought-provoking. Books are the new Ecstasy, and I’m hooked. When a book is not rich enough for me, full of paltry words and unintelligent dialogue, I poo poo it and call my Grandma for suggestions for this week’s top reads.
You actually start to believe it when you’re Nana says, “Nana knows best.”
Taking other people’s advice has never been one of my strong points. I like to pave my own paths and blaze my own trail. But after awhile, you start to realize that this lands you in a mountain of debt, no friends, and with the prospects of a lifelong career as a cashier or waitress. You want to succeed in achieving your goals? Take advice from those who have done so. Once I stopped turning a deaf ear to my mom and nana, my father, my boyfriend, my friends who have been there…things began to get remarkably easier. They get harder at first. But then….ah….
The people you admire are 20+ years older than you
For starters, most of my best friends are 20+ years older than me. One of my best friends is 67 right now, and the other day I befriended a 68 year old. I can talk to these folks just as well as I’ve been able to confess to my childhood BFF’s and collegiate acquaintances. When I look at what I should be doing, I consult these folks first, and look to them to help dictate my age-less, timeless fashion.
You cook, you clean, you sew.
When people enter my home, they take their shoes off at the front door. It’s clean. You know you’re getting old when no one has to pick up dirty socks to sit on your living room furniture, to brush aside the dust that has accumulated on your coffee table before placing their mug on it. You know you’re old when you HAVE a coffee table to place your mug on. You wash your sheets once a week and you clean your entire bathroom and kitchen, including the sinks, oven and shower. You know you’re either growing up, or your Cinderella.
You go to Trivia Night. Consistently. In fact, you have a trivia team and are part of league.
That’s Tuesdays, Wednesday night is tennis.
You go to anything. Consistently.
You fall asleep at 9:00pm no matter where you are
I’m not a great party date, because if the party just so happens to involve socializing past the hour of 8:30 pm, my brain becomes mush and I’m searching for the nearest surface to lie down on. You know, truthfully, this has been a trait I’ve had all my life. A girl needs her beauty rest!
You drink tea.
You’re too jittery when you have coffee, and it makes you see double? You drink tea instead, non-caffeinated, herbal tea, the kind with health benefits like: Ginger, Licorice Root, Rose Hips, and Yerba Mate. You know you’re getting old when getting yourself as high on caffeine as possible is no longer a sport, it’s a catastrophe and throws off your bowels.
Age is a mindset, this is a cliche, and a truth. I don’t think feeling old is necessarily terrible, it’s simply what happens when you feel the magical transformation into a new phase of life. A life where modesty and being a grown up is praised. Where sitting up straight, and chewing with your mouth closed will get you further than a keg stand. I want to say I was never really the immature one at the party, and was instead usually the one who brought her checkbook to balance and then designating herself to drive everyone home….but I’ve definitely noticed a shift as of late, as I’ve come to realize what this age acts, looks, and feels like. If anything, I think the number one way you know you’re growing older is that you have gained and grown to love the word “RESPECT”. Respect for life, for yourself, for others, for consistency, and for the present moment.