I don’t think I’ve felt truly comfortable with my age since I was about 10 or 11 years old. Before then, everyone around me seemed to be in a similar boat when it came to success or social circles. Of course, I still had insecurities around not having done as much with my life as my friend Katie who won an IT award at age 9 (something which strangely still burns today), but I never thought to myself that I wasn’t a ‘typical’ 9 or 10 year old. Everything I had done with my life seemed to me the correct progression of a pre-teen.
Before I got to secondary school there wasn’t the same pressure of puberty, sexuality or exams. Before I was a teenager, I looked around and saw myself in most other kids my age. Sure I was different in many ways to the girls I went to school with, I was a shy tomboy who did barely any extra-curricular activities, but I still had friends and could relate to most people my age.
For some reason, though, the concept of age and what I was supposed to have done by my particular age became a source of great anxiety during my teen years, and has only become more prominent as I’ve gotten older.
Objectively, it makes perfect sense. As you get older, you start to think more about your future, and as a result the future of your peers. You start to look at your friends differently, wondering secretly how accomplished they feel in themselves, and you begin to look up to those friends who appear to have done more “mature” things, even if those things are damaging. You start to look at celebrities differently, no longer just idealising them from afar, but now you begin going through their wikipedia, seeing at what age they accomplished the most, at what age did they “make it” and were they younger than you are now when they did?
It’s pretty much impossible to strive for something at any age and not compare yourself to others. But the feeling of discomfort in my age and in growing older is something that has slowly been building on me, to the point of concern and sleeplessness. I know it’s ridiculous to think about my life as a series of goals-by-age, (dream job by 23, buy a house by 28, get a dog by 30…), because the truth is you probably won’t achieve those goals, because goals change, and life changes around goals.
Even though my brain knows this, and I tell myself not to worry about my age and not to compare every other 21 year old to myself, I know the anxiety will never truly go away, let’s just hope for now it’ll ease off a bit.