Why Emotions Keep Our Souls Young, Even As We Grow Old

by Adalay Katch

A few months ago, I was working for an amazing company, doing something I love to do. The circumstances would have been ideal, except for the fact that my immediate boss was going through a difficult breakup.

At the time, I was unaware of her personal dilemma. All I knew was how she was treating me, and others, on the job.

By the middle of my term, I was fueled with so much resentment and, well, exhaustion, I was looking forward to turning in my badge and walking out the front doors of the establishment for the last time.

But, then, I found out why she had been so tough to work with.

The weekend before my final day of work, my boss had personally attacked me on multiple occasions, was unavailable to provide much-needed support and, ultimately, fostered a negative-working environment. At an outside-of-work function, she turned to me and burst into tears,

“I’m going through a breakup, Adalay.”

I went home that night, laid in bed and cried. I thought, 'Is this the reality of being a nearly 40-year-old woman?'

Everything I felt and said about this coworker beamed in my thoughts louder than ever. I did not regret feeling she was unprofessional and immature.

Now that I knew her emotional life affected her work so gravely, those feelings weighed heavier than they did before.

She is unprofessional and immature. But, not more than I would be in the same situation.

I am not the kind of person who would ever let her personal life affect her work life, but that’s not what scared me about seeing my boss in tears.

What scared me is I would feel the same way and hold that exact mindset in my personal, private life. She was going through a breakup with a year-long boyfriend at the age of nearly 40, but she was acting like a young girl.

She was acting how I would act. And, the simple fact that I could possibly still feel such immature feelings and entertain such malicious, selfish thoughts 20 years from now scared me into tears.

I am often illogical when it comes to my emotions. I can be envious; I can say horrible things about other; I can say horrible things about myself. I can be mean-spirited in all the wrong ways, and completely unforgiving.

But, I am a kid, so I reason I am allowed to feel this way. Soon, I will grow up and everything will change.

Adults are not supposed to act that way. We get older; we get stronger; we get wiser, and we learn how to keep it together and be reasonable. Right?

And, then, it dawned on me: My boss is not the only one. The problem is, we get older. We get older, and we think that means something. Everyone always complains about how getting older sucks.

We have completely separated getting older from being young. Childhood and adulthood are distinct entities and you may only occupy one at a time.

We get older, and we take on so much more responsibility; we play different roles in the world, in the lives of others and in ourselves. But the problem is, we think this means something. We think the difference between childhood and adulthood means change.

We think 21, 22, 23, 29, 36 and 42 are greater than 8, 9, 10... 15, 16 and 19, so there must have been change — significant change. After all, the numbers didn’t stay the same.

So, we act like we changed. We don’t throw tantrums; we keep our commitments; we work. We stay composed; we self-care; we pretend we don’t care what others think of us.

We pretend we’ve outgrown peer pressure. We pretend we’re strong enough to handle harsh words, lost friends and unreciprocated romantic interests.

We are 21, 29, 36 and 42. We pay bills. We go to jail. We sign everything. We start families. We feed ourselves. Ultimately, we come home to a shelter we pay for, to people we chose to have in our lives and tuck ourselves into sheets we washed.

As we fall asleep, we lay amongst everything that proves we underwent changes: the bed, the job, the shelter, the people and the alarm set for the next day.

We have so much more responsibility and we think that means something. What we worried about as kids is so trivial; nothing is the same. But, then, we roll over to check our phones and read our inboxes, to see someone or to see no one.

We scan through the happenings of that day, all the things we expected that never panned out in our ideal, preconceived ways. And, suddenly, all the proof of adulthood is drowned-out by the pain of words that were or weren’t said; things that are or aren’t had.

And, we feel guilty because we are adults, and we are not supposed to feel this way. Or act this way. Or cry this way.

But, we have empty relationships, empty inboxes and empty beds, and facing all of that hurts the same way it did before.