For most of my life, I viewed myself as old, even when I clearly wasn’t. It’s about perspective.
The memories are vague, or even nonexistent, but when I was 2, I got a baby sister. By age 3, I’m pretty sure I thought I was old. For sure much older than my sister, which I held over her head — until I hit 30.
When I was 5 and someone asked my age, I no longer had to fold any of my fingers in toward my palm. I got to hold up my entire outstretched hand. I remember feeling like this was a big deal (because it was!). Plus I went to kindergarten. That most certainly qualified me as old.
When I was 8, I was finally allowed to ride my pink banana seat bike by myself to the corner store to buy Laffy Taffy. That sort of responsibility and independence is reserved for those who have attained a certain level of experience and sophistication in life. Hence, in my eyes, I was old.
When I was 10, I reached a new level of oldity — double digits and double hands. Having two numbers in my age was exciting and practically screamed maturity, as well as the privilege of having my mom drive me to the mall so I could get my ears pierced.
The age of 16 is a milestone in nearly everyone’s oldometer. The importance of 16 candles on the cake can be summed up in two words — driver’s license. I no longer needed a parent to drive me to the mall; I could get there on my own. Anyone old enough to drive a car is old — at least old enough to drive a car.
Everyone believes they are old at 18, and why not? You can do lots of grown-up things, not the least of which is refer to yourself as an adult. It’s a privilege you’ve been waiting for your entire life.
At 20 you are no longer a teenager and that has old written all over it. Looking back, of course, I was probably more kid than grown up, but I didn’t know it at the time because I considered 20 old. The same goes for 25, and (eek) 30, which was a biggie for many of us.
Most of it is a blur after that. The older you get, the faster time flies. I remember my parents telling me this; I didn’t believe them. Now that I’ve become them, I understand the truth of their words.
Somewhere around mid-30-something I found designating myself as old wasn’t as alluring as it had been when I was 8. Instead of the sweetness and privilege of Laffy Taffy, extra years meant responsibility — the prestige of a minivan; replacing acne wash with wrinkle cream; fighting the dreaded muffin top; wearing comfortable shoes; and fine print that seemed finer and fuzzier.
I’ve been old most of my life, or so I thought. And now that I’m older than I ever was before, I’ve decided I’m as young as I’m ever going to be. It’s a change in perspective and it works for me.
Besides, old or young, it’s what you make of it. Age may be an unyielding (and ever-increasing) number, but it doesn’t have to be.
Oh sure, the calendar will change and technically so will the digits that designate how old (or young) you are. But you get to decide — whether you choose to be 8 years old or 88 years young.
As for me, right now I’m somewhere in between, but young at heart — hopefully always that.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.