It’s hard to tell if I am an official gerascophobe or just damn close, but whatever the case, I’m afraid of getting older and more so than the average person. I have been this way since I turned 16.
Up until that point I had always wanted to be older. I wanted freedom. I wanted to move to a big city. I wanted to be my own woman. But when I finally hit 16 I figured out that I was going to have responsibilities to go with those freedoms. And I panicked. From that point on, being old was something to resist and mock.
I met a girl this week, a 22-year-old to be exact, who said she was happy with getting older. That she actually LOOKED FORWARD to it. My initial reaction was what you might expect from a gerascophobe. I guffawed, I assumed she knew nothing about life, and then Google-chatted with my college friends later that night to laugh about how hard reality will hit her when she graduates. I felt superior and safe in my knowledge of how much it sucks to get older.
But yesterday, for almost no reason other than I was thinking about it again, I realized something. I guffawed at this young woman because she was so self-assured. She is excited to get older because she believes it will get better; she sees herself poised to do something great, to achieve her goals, and to basically crush adulthood. She thinks it’s going to get better. She knows and believes that it will and, honestly, I don’t doubt that it will for her. But what about me?
Did I set myself up for failure all those years ago dreading the graduations and the great unknown that lay beyond them? Have I sold myself short with the choices that have led me to who I am now, which is just about 28 and still afraid? What if, because I am still so crippled by my fear that it won’t get better, I’ve already peaked and this is it for me? I still fear getting older, and I haven’t embraced any of the age that I’ve achieved thus far despite it really being a gift to grow old.
How do I look out on the rest of my life as a series of achievements waiting to happen instead of a series of disappointments and failures?
I can’t help but think of the little New Englander who lives inside me. A spirit that is unbreakable and strong, yes, but steadfast in tradition, wary of change, believer of “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I once respected and loved that part of me, the unwavering, bullish part of my soul, but now I’m a little scared of it. Is my stubbornness ultimately going to hold me back? Is my natural predisposition to stick with something, even if it isn’t working, going to drive me insane?
There are parts of me, glittering special parts, that do drive me to do new things, but as I get older it gets harder and harder to fight against it, to keep my life fresh and new and exciting. It’s a challenge I’ve had to accept already by the nature of who I am and where I come from. If I can just believe that life gets better with age, then maybe I too can look at my next birthday as an opportunity for greatness, and not another marker on the slow march to the end.