I stood up in front of the congregation and took the microphone that was offered. I was at my grandmother’s funeral in Illinois, and the group had been asked if we had any memories we would like to recount. A few of my family members had already spoken, and for some reason I felt compelled to speak. Donning my Sunday best, long brown hair, and glasses, I cleared my throat and held the microphone to my lips. I don’t remember what I said verbatim, but it was something like this:
“I don’t get out here to see this family as much as I’d like to, but whenever we celebrated Christmas at my grandmother’s, she always made it feel special for those of us who didn’t come every year. She always added something to my holiday.”
I lowered the microphone, and noticed a curious look on the clergyman’s face. Somehow, I knew what he was going to ask before he even said a word.
“How old are you?” he inquired with a smile.
“25,” I replied with a heavy sigh.
“25? I’m in my fifties, and my voice still isn’t that deep.”
I gave him back the microphone, but truth be told, I wanted to throw it at his head. I know, I know, that would have been highly frowned upon in a house of worship, but I was pissed. When he asked that question, all I could think was, “You’re really doing this, right now, this couldn’t wait until afterwards?” I wondered if he had been paying attention at all to what I had said. I felt undermined, and just plain foolish.
My aunt reassured me that he meant nothing by it, that it was meant to be a compliment. She said that maybe I was being too sensitive to some degree, which I absolutely was. The problem is that I’ve heard it too many times, and despite how many times I’ve heard it, I still haven’t gotten used to it. It still grinds my gears when someone tells me how young I look, because it makes me think that they look at me as someone who is so young, so green, who hasn’t really experienced the world for what it is.
Maybe that’s a leap, but if I’m being truthful, I haven’t felt young for quite some time. Physically, I feel fine, but mentally I feel like I’m in my sixties or seventies. There’s still so much I want to do in this life: get married, have a family, have a fulfilling career, but part of me feels like I’ve somehow crammed a lifetime of experiences into just 29 short years. Sometimes I find my friend’s parents more relatable than my actual friends, and it blows my mind that many of my friend’s parent’s parents are still alive.
I’m somehow 29, look like I’ve just obtained my driver’s license, and feel mentally like I should have my AARP card. One of the biggest struggles of my twenties has been to feel like I’m just that, in my twenties. When I visited New York for my second time and decided to move there, it was the first time in years that I felt like I was the exact age that I was, that I could just be a young, dumb twenty-something. It’s an elusive feeling, feeling my age, but I still chase it.
I was 9 when my stepmother passed, and I distinctly remember my father saying, “You’re going to have to grow up just a little bit faster that the other kids.” I know that my childhood isn’t coming back anytime soon, and that it’s foolish to think that it ever would. I guess more than anything, I just want to feel like I’m as old as the rest of my friends, not decades ahead. I don’t know if and when things will start to even out, and I don’t really have any remedies for what ales me. It’s made me feel incredibly isolated at times.
As the people around me begin to get married and have kids, and if I somehow manage to do that in my life, maybe that’s when things will feel more normal, maybe that’s when all my ages will converge. As for now, I’m blessed to have friends and a wonderful therapist that will discuss these issues with me, even if I’ve been afraid to bring it up before. After all, I know I’m not the only one to lose someone close to them, especially a parent; it’s just that the people I have these conversations with are usually a little older.
In closing, I still am unsure of how to reconcile the different ages that I am and feel, how to finally balance myself out. I am constantly working at it, and my therapist has been such a huge help. I like to think that at some point, I’ll feel the exact age that I am and hopefully I’ll achieve some sense of normalcy, or at least, as normal as I could ever hope to be. I know that I need to relax, that that clergyman was only trying to offer some sort of weird compliment, but I’m still not ready to laugh these things off just yet.