At the end of each year, we tend to mount the happenings of the last 12 months on a timeline.
We either relish in these moments, satisfied with all we've achieved, or we are antagonized in the face of our failures for not achieving enough. It’s usually a little bit of both.
We’re in a constant flow of time and age, creating invisible benchmarks to scale them. I come from the “age is just a number” school of thought.
But, this past summer, I subscribed to the stigma of growing up that I resented and demoralized for so long; I huffed and puffed about turning 23.
T-Swift made it trendy to be 22, but did 23 mean I was untrendy? Was I old? Is this what real adulthood feels like?
All this paranoia sat nestled in a far corner of my brain. This was also around the time I realized I had a bulging vein on my forehead that became prominent when I was too stressed or laughing too hard.
I frequented the doctor for funny problems, couldn't make it past midnight on the weekends and caught myself sounding more and more like my mom. I know, it was all so theatrical in hindsight. I rearranged the pixels in my head and it finally dawned on me: What logic is there in chastising myself with insecurity about growing up?
Getting old isn’t supposed to be gut-wrenching, it’s earned. Here's why:
For the formative part of our lives, we have a roadmap with a route that’s roughly sketched out for us. There are years of schooling, odd jobs, weird young love and experimentation.
You step and repeat, then that stage folds and you don’t really have a roadmap. You’re at the discretion of your own navigation. The ambiguity of what goes beyond the more predictable phases in life is equal parts terrifying and exciting, but at first, it’s just terrifying.
You’ll find that the derivative of your personal happiness is embracing the wonder of “first times,” creating bucket lists and crossing things off those lists, one by one.
There are a few things universally enjoyed by human beings, including reminiscing and storytelling. Many grandparents are strong storytellers. I recently heard the story of my paternal grandfather from a cousin. It seems every time our family gathers, a new anecdote of his life emerges, even though it’s been a decade since he has passed.
Some people’s lives are so enchanting that their stories can keep you entertained for hours on end; his is one of those.
This story was about his time serving in the Air Force during the Second World War. He had been abandoned for some days in malaria-plagued jungles of Myanmar. Needless to say, he lived many years after to tell his tale.
A time will come when you’ll become graceful for being sucker-punched and having endured bitter situations. If your body hurts one day, it’s probably because you’ve used it. Our bodies and scars are testaments to who we are.
I owe a hell of a lot to my body for hanging with me through too many doughnuts and burgers with mayo, not enough sunscreen in the summer, neglect on stretches, lack of vitamins and dumb stresses.
It’s a real privilege to witness the full-circle cycle of life: having kids, witnessing your kids having kids, and then one day, seeing those kids become parents.
Sometimes, growing pains con us into thinking costs outweigh benefits. We’re in a rush to grow up, and then, suddenly, we revert to a yearning for youth.
There’s a blurred line that rests between that transition because there’s always something that glitters on the other side. For the young, there are car keys, independence and longer curfews. For the elders, there's the simplicity of childhood.
Junior high, for me, was a ban on makeup. I wasn't thrilled, but I never challenged it. My mom’s explanation used to be, “You’ll have plenty of time to wear it when the time comes.”
In the same spirit many years later, I experienced the reverse. My mom didn’t barrage me with chores or nag me about not knowing how to cook like the mothers of many of my friends did.
Her explanation was then, “You’ll be doing a lot of it one day; you’ll learn when the time comes.”
I succumbed to the self-depreciating stigmas of aging just as fast as I snapped out of it. It just takes a couple swivels of the Rubik’s Cube to see better, brighter sides.
Growing up is sort of an embarrassment of riches. Getting old doesn’t suck; it's an earned gift. And, I'll learn not to hate that vein on my forehead.
Original post can be found on Zareen's personal website, www.zareenabbasi.com.