If you feel out of place with people your age, does this ever go away?
April 14, 2013 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Can you relate to most people who are your age? If not, have you always felt this way?

Though this question relates to me, I don't want to make this personal, so I'll say this: for nearly all of my life, I've felt like I didn't quite belong in my age group. I am in no way asserting that I am superior to people who are my age because I respect and get along well with them, nor am I asserting that I have met every single person who is the same age as I am -- this is a generalization of my experience. I have connected with people in my age group, but very few. For what it's worth, I am nineteen. I thought things might change as I entered different periods of my life, or that I'd outgrow feeling "different", but I've felt this way for most of my life. Sometimes it can get a little lonely.

However, I'd like to hear about other people's experiences. So, for those of you who can relate, has it changed in your adult life? Do you have a variety of friends of different ages? Have you just stopped caring?

posted by metacognition to Human Relations (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I did feel that way as a teenager, and to some extent in college. Now I am a grown adult and I don't feel that way, partially because I am free to choose the people I spend time with, instead of being stuck going to school with everyone who happens to go to school with me. I figured you were probably still very young right at the beginning of this question. Don't worry, it gets better!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:51 PM on April 14, 2013 [12 favorites]

Do you feel more at home with older people? How much older?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:00 PM on April 14, 2013

So, for those of you who can relate, has it changed in your adult life?


Do you have a variety of friends of different ages?

Yes. I don't even think about people's ages when I make friends with them now - it's not a relevant consideration. Sometime they're older than me, sometimes they're younger. Similarity in interests is more important to me.

Have you just stopped caring?

No, but it has ceased to matter.

You're going to be OK. You're out of high school now - you don't have to hang out with the same people everyday. Put yourself out there, meet new people. You'll find people to whom you relate. You're an adult now, and this is the point where 'age 'ain't nothing but a number' actually starts to become true, as much as it ever will be.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:00 PM on April 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

I feel comfortable and "my age" around people that are like-minded and share the same principles and lifestyle. But I always feel as though I am faking my way through an adult world.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:04 PM on April 14, 2013

I felt that way all through school, including high school. I think I stopped feeling like that kind of in my mid twenties, when more of my peers settled down and became homebodies like me instead of always wanting to party and drink and gossip about fashion and boys.

Of course, there always were homebodies like me around in my age group too, but they were harder to find, whereas just about everyone in older age groups seemed to be more serious.

Also I probably ended up meeting my peers half way, in that I became a bit more open to the more casual fun party lifestyle too as I moved away from my strict religious upbringing that made me think of that as "wrong".

I guess I still hang around with a lot of people 5 or so years older than me (I'm in my 30s now). But the other thing about getting older is that "your age group" bracket gets a bit wider. I would think of anyone from about 28-40 as "my age", whereas in my early 20s it was probably 18-25, and at high school it was only people in my actual year. So that gives you a wider range of people and lifestyles as possible matches.
posted by lollusc at 7:06 PM on April 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

For what it's worth, I am nineteen.

I would bet my life this feeling will completely dissipate once you leave uni or whatever and get out in the "real" world, where you will hang out with a much more heterogenous crowd of varying ages, activities, and purposes.

The demographic consistency that you tend to see in social circles - and is often assumed that you like in social circles - at younger ages is really an outlier. Once you start work, lots of jobs will have a much broader age-range, likewise, clubs and hobbies. Really outside heavily casualised labour forces and school or school-like environments, you tend to see much more diverse groups.

Nothing wrong in bridling against age-related stereotypes or lifestyles. The only folly is assuming that you're the only person like this, not so. There's lots of you - it's just crowded out in these settings. School or school-like environments force a lot of people together who have little in common beyond age; most of life is not like this, and outside those environments you will likely find that age matters less and less as a shaper of friendships, almost to the point of irrelevancy (at least for me, at 32).

I'm the youngest of four kids, and my two eldest sisters, whom I'm very close to, are 8 and 9 years older than me respectively. When I was younger I noticed that I gravitated - not exclusively, but noticeably - towards people who were roughly that much older than me. Even now, some of my best friends are in their late thirties, early forties. But some are in their early twenties, too.

Don't beat yourself up about it. :)
posted by smoke at 7:11 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh God it gets SO much easier! When I was in high school I always had friends who were a few years older than I was which made my senior year really tough, and then college got better because it was a self-selecting group. After college it mattered even less and now as an adult it's super easy to have a group of friends whose ages vary wildly; on Friday I went out with some people from work ranging in age from twenty-three to thirty-five (I'm twenty-eight). I realized around twenty-five that even though I was technically closer in age to an eighteen-year-old I had much more in common with a forty-five year old; job, rent, long-term-relationship, all that stuff. You move on and age matters less and less.

I've also loosened up a bit (as lollusc says) which has helped me a lot but mostly it's that now I can hang out with all kinds of people instead of just my chronological "peers".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:13 PM on April 14, 2013

This is something that you most likely will grow out of. I definitely felt like people my age group were being silly and "immature" when I was a teenager, and for the most part, people grow up and mature as we age. Now, I don't think about whether I fit into my age group, because I find that most people, no matter what their age, have something interesting to say.

So really, it wasn't other people who were immature, it was me!
posted by xingcat at 7:23 PM on April 14, 2013

Once I was in my mid-twenties or so, everyone my age or older was just "grown up" and I can hang with folks in their 70's as easily as folks in their 30's (I am 40.)
posted by Daily Alice at 7:24 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I was scared of hanging out with babies or young kids until I had one, now they're some of my favorite people to talk to.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:25 PM on April 14, 2013

The older you get, the more it is "okay" to have friends that are not your age. Heck, I have very few friends my own age because most people my age are married off and I am not, so I don't fit in there when I used to (relatively speaking). Somehow folks in their 40's who are married don't give a shit that I don't come with a playmate for their husband, and folks in their 20's don't care either. These things change with age, I guess. But it gets better!
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:33 PM on April 14, 2013

Once I got into the working world the differences that mattered were not related to age, but to whether they were single or seriously paired up. I was single through my 30's and I had some friends ten years younger and one who was twenty years older. We had interests in common so we could hang out and age didn't matter at all.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:39 PM on April 14, 2013

I always felt too old for my age as a kid, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.

I wish I'd spent less time as a teenager being stuck-up and superior and more time getting stoned, listening to stupid rap, and having fun. I'm trying to make up for it in my 20a but ironically that just makes me act immature. Rebel against your parents. Do stupid, irresponsible things. Listen to whatever's on the radio instead of worshipping old music. Start a band. Act your age. Don't end up like me.

This Onion article sums it up.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:39 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always had an easier time with older or younger friends rather than peers, I think because, first, my development was uneven (ahead in some areas, behind in others); and second, it's odd, as humans, to be kept in such narrow same-age peer groups. When kids are in groups with older and younger kids, there's a natural hierarchy that develops (and you automatically move up as you get older), but in a same-age group there's a lot more jockeying for status, and people who are uncomfortable doing that may withdraw from the group, or people may linger at the bottom of the status heap for years (which doesn't happen as much in a mixed-age group). I had plenty of same-age friends, but I always felt awkward and out-of-place in same-age peer GROUPS, and it was easier in mixed-age groups. When I watch groups of kids playing (at the park, at parties, whatever), I see more conflict in same-age groups than in mixed-age groups; the little kids automatically defer to the bigger kids and the bigger kids automatically put themselves in the role of teacher or coach or referee, and there's not the same loss of face for the big kids if the little kids ignore them (who cares? they're just little kids). In same-age groups there's a lot more conflict around the negotiation of who decides the game and how it's played and who's in charge and how far can I go before you refuse to play and then I lose face and so on. I suspect this is not an uncommon feeling for exactly that reason.

I found it faded considerably as I went through college, and, as so many people note above, disappeared completely as I got into the full-grown-adult stage of life.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:53 PM on April 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

The big difference is right now your friends/peers are "people you're around because you happen to go to the same school" more or less, while later in life your friends are "people you find interesting or like being around" and your peers are whoever you want them to be.

And some of this may be geography. You may not belong in a conservative small farming town, you may belong in a huge busy coastal city (or vice versa). Go, travel, find your place. It's fun!
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:03 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with what TPS says. Once you can choose your own society, you'll find peers who are both in your age cohort and satisfying to spend time around.
posted by Miko at 8:32 PM on April 14, 2013

Young people can be very silly and provincial, and that can be frustrating for a young person who is more mature and broad-minded. BUT, you should not over-estimate your own maturity or broad-mindedness. There are many things you believe now that will probably make you cringe someday, and it's not unlikely that some of what you currently regard as maturity will someday strike you as pompous or judgmental. As you get older, you change in some ways that are hard to predict.

As an adult, age differences can complicate friendships, but it doesn't have to be insurmountable. You learn to make allowances for some of the angst and silly ideas of your younger friends, and you learn to be a bit more patient with the way your older friends get tired so easily, and never want to do anything risky or fun. You have some insight into how it feels to be young and stupid, and old and tired.

Listen to whatever's on the radio instead of worshipping old music.

Not to derail, but that line strikes me as pretty bad advice. It's never too early to discover older stuff that's actually good, stuff you'll love for the rest of your life. I will never stop being grateful to my parents for sharing music like the Beatles, Willie Nelson and Ray Charles with me, stuff that was released well before I was born. I have zero regrets about growing up a Velvet Underground fan, instead of giving up precious hours of my youth listening to Will Smith or whatever other crappy, disposable rap was popular that week. (As it is, I wish I'd gotten into punk well before I did, and that I'd given up on heavy metal a lot sooner. I had a mullet for far, far too long...)

I am not advocating being such a little snob that you spend every night alone in your bedroom listening to stuff that none of your peers give a shit about. But if you are into good, old stuff, you can share it with your friends and get them hooked on it too. Then you get to be the Cool Kid they'll never forget.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:19 PM on April 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I thought the problem was people my own age, but in fact I don't fit in with people, generally. That hasn't changed since I reached adulthood.
posted by town of cats at 10:03 PM on April 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

I don't remember if I was in high school or college when I had this extremely banal realization, but… your peers will stay your peers all life long. Your classmates in elementary school come from the same pool of people as your high school classmates, your college classmates, most of your cohort mates in grad school if you decide to go, your office mates at your first job, and so on.

I had a job in special education for a short while. Pretty much every night all the instructors got together and went out to get wrecked. It was one of my first jobs after college, and I really wanted to say, "But… but… but… you're adults!"

I'm 28 now and I work for a university, so I meet a lot of bright undergrads. They're interesting, and motivated, and diligent, and all those other things that young people "aren't supposed to be." And I know more than a few grad students who are skating through life and partying every weekend.

So, really, the only lesson I've been able to learn is that it's very easy to find people you don't get along with at every age. But as you get older, it also gets easier to find people whose company you do like.

And, uh, don't listen to Charlemagne In Sweatpants. Mondays are his backwards days.

posted by Nomyte at 10:29 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Infact, I still make friends in all different age groups! Like a few above, once I got out of my 20's, specifically, I stopped paying any attention whatsoever to age.

Frankly, it's kinda nice and totally a blessing to feel this way:))

This is a good thing (except between the ages of like, 19 to 22, when it makes you feel like kinda a weirdo. You are not a weirdo!)
posted by jbenben at 10:59 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Who you are friends with should be about your interests, not your ages. How close your friendships are can be affected by age, but if you are similar enough anyway, it won't matter. It's not unusual to not get along with the people you know in your age group, possibly because your mutual neuroses are too similar. People older or younger can be refreshing in comparison.
posted by emjaybee at 11:38 PM on April 14, 2013

Don't forget that your early twenties are a tremendous period of growth for yourself as well. Your friends do mellow out a bit, which is a great help. But at the same time, you're developing coping strategies and emotional strength that you never knew you had!
posted by yaymukund at 11:52 PM on April 14, 2013

Note: I am 23, my husband is 25.

Can you relate to most people who are your age?

Kind of.

Certain things I can mesh with people my age about. Examples include complaining about college and classes before I graduated, enjoying super dumb top 40 music, internet fads, when I was partying/drinking, people who game (xbox).

If not, have you always felt this way?


I was raised with classics - including movies and music. Therefore I tend to vibe with people slightly older. Again some things allow me to get along with people my age. Other things don't. One of the things that separated me from people is that I got married kind of young. I was married a month before I graduated college (22). My husband and I also don't drink and quit a while ago. Therefore when I was finishing college I tended to get along with "non-traditional" or older students as my life was more similar.

Part of that was just feeling more mature. My goals were more future-based which is why you may feel "different". When you are young you sometimes just live "now", which it seems like you may NOT do like your peers.

So, for those of you who can relate, has it changed in your adult life?

Pretty much. I have realized age is relative. I could be friends with a 17 yr old or a 70 yr old if we share the same view on life and maturity level.

Do you have a variety of friends of different ages?

Mostly. I just moved to a new state, so my friend-base is lacking, but I pretty much don't care what age friends I have and I have friends a variety of ages.

Have you just stopped caring?

Completely. My husband and I would probably get along with a couple 10 or 20 years older because we like good conversation and no drama, which can sometimes come with age.

I feel you may feel "weird" because you are surrounded by people your age, and are maybe thinking, "Wow, I sooo don't want to do that" or "I am wayy more mature." And that's fine. I also think you may feel weird because people may see you as "too young" to hang out in an older group, especially in the teens/twenties area.

It's all about how you carry yourself. When people just talk to me, they usually think I am about 5 years older than I actually am. It's just how my personality comes across, so I wouldn't worry about age. Try to find a group you mesh with more. If they care about your age then they probably aren't people you should be hanging out with anyway.

Anecdote: I was in a 200-level (sophomore level) college course when I was a senior. I hold a job as "Director of Client Marketing" and I was getting married. A freshman 18 year old looked at me and said, "Wow! You're like a grownup!"

OOFTA that was long.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:56 AM on April 15, 2013

Mod note: Some comments deleted. Ask Metafilter is not the place for chatting or debating with other commenters. Please just address the OP and answer the question.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:47 AM on April 15, 2013

People mature at different rates, and people in their early 20s are still growing (physically and in terms of brain development.) If you matured early or were one of those kids people constantly called precocious, then your peer group will not seem like peers to you. The good news is that eventually they'll catch up. I was around 30 when this happened.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:22 AM on April 15, 2013

I grew up feeling very different and out of place as well. In my case, I am different in a very obvious way as I am multiracial and to top it off was always shunted into the "gifted" programs in school. Also, I was just generally an odd bird. Ha. This deadly combo led to me being bullied pretty mercilessly all though my K-12. I thought I was a misanthrope throughout my teenage years which were very hard. I still think that adolescents are somewhat difficult to be around as they can be very cruel and thoughtless.

It started to shift a bit when I got into university when I met a few likeminded people.

After that, things really changed and even though I have yet to meet someone who is "just like me" (and am fine with the fact that that'll never happen-- we are ALL special snowflakes at the end of the day, ha) I have met so many that I feel a deep connection to and consider myself to be very fortunate in this regard. In my case it had a lot to do with first accepting myself and my quirks. It also helped to put myself into environments and situations where I was more likely to meet other weirdos (many of whom are weird in some of the same ways I am but also feature other pockets of their own strangeness). I have many close friends who range in age from 19 to 60something. Most who I am really close to are in their mid twenties to upper thirties, however.

I think my early experience of having felt like such of an outcast has actually made it somewhat easier to see other people for what they are and to accept them from where they are coming from as an adult. I feel I can now easily interact with and appreciate a very wide spectrum of humanity and I am not sure if I would have the same ability if my early life had been easier.

So, right. No worries! It'll get better as you gain more agency in the world and are freer to go seeking those that have that inimitable something that you can deeply connect to.
posted by telomere at 3:48 AM on April 15, 2013

I think this becomes less and less of an issue as you get older because people separate themselves out more based on what they do and where they are in their lives than based on their ages. Also I think most of us get less... oppositional? is that the right word? as we get older, and define ourselves more based on who we *do* fit in with rather than who we *don't* fit in with.
posted by mskyle at 6:22 AM on April 15, 2013

Thanks to having a late summer birthday and skipping an early grade, from the age of seven onwards, I socialized with and went to school alongside people who were at least one, almost always two, and sometimes nearly three years older than me. It might not sound like much on paper, but as a child, it was fairly terrifying to have my physical and psychological development permanently severed from my nascent social life; I was literally unable to interact with people who were going through the same thing because there were none, and other than passing them in the halls at school, I had zero exposure to people who were my [exact] age after kindergarten. (I have also been an 'odd duck' since forever, and am decidedly weird-looking -- one of my slightly tone-deaf friends refers to me as "an acquired taste" -- neither of which helped my case.)

As such, I've long felt extremely out of place with people my age, and VERY acutely around 18-20, when I took up a 40-year-old boyfriend because dating a 20-year-old human male would've felt like cradle-robbing a hormonal wildebeest; almost all of my boyfriends have been 10+ years older than me because they were just... more well-spoken? Wiser? More thoughtful? They basically taught me how to mimic adult mannerisms when I was still a kid, which was and is very useful.
Even when I was a young child, I've always thought of my 'self' as being exactly 32 years old; that year has long been held up as the age by which I would have most, if not all, of my shit figured out. Well, at the lofty peak of 30, I couldn't be further from having anything figured out, but I have gained the ability to interact with people my [exact] age and I am here to tell you that they are all totally normal -- although I do still feel a small pseudo-generational gap between me and the class I would have otherwise graduated with, simply because most of my life has been spent around people that are slightly to much older. While interacting with people who are my age has normalized somewhat, people who are even just a year or two younger tend to make me feel like a painfully out-of-touch old fogey.

As you've likely discovered, possessing the ability to communicate "up" can occasionally make for some awkward and extra-lonely moments. Folks I corresponded and chatted with in my teenage years all but universally assumed I was a decade or more older than I actually was unless I advised otherwise. Whenever I'd gather the nerve to 'fess up, the other party would usually feel creepy and weird ("I've been chatting with a 14-year-old high school freshman!? But I'm 28!") and I would always feel alienated and depressed ("I'm being rejected by My People?! But I'm 32... on the inside!"). Fortunately, this tendency started opening some truly awesome doors for me once I was 23-24 and started being considered a Regular Person instead of a Young Person. However, the vast majority of my friends are still 5-15 years older than me, and I will always feel more comfortable around older people. Takes all kinds.

tl;dr - This can definitely just be part and parcel of being 19, especially if you're precocious, but there's nothing wrong with feeling more at home with people you feel are your brain-age rather than physical-age peers. And yes, you will eventually stop caring. Nice people are few and far between enough that you will start caring much less about age and much more about kindness, goodness, generosity, and open-heartedness.
posted by divined by radio at 8:43 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was younger, I certainly felt like I struggled a lot with forming friendships with people my age and really preferred older friends. I think it's more because we were in different mindsets/life stages and continue to be now. For example, I still find it really hard to relate to people who are my numerical age but I have somehow developed a lot of really fantastic slightly younger friends with whom I am not aware of the age gap. I am 24 and am living with two 21 year olds - this is the first time I've thought about it this way after a year of living together and I consider them my best friends. If you had told me this at 19, I would have pissed myself laughing at how ridiculous it seemed.

I'm pretty certain that once I shift out of being a student and into the workforce, my friend groups will shift, but I doubt will ever be friends with normative folks my own age because we just don't see eye to eye - and that's OK really, I'd rather not be surrounded by people with that kind of lifestyle. However, I'm also not likely to form friendships with normative older or younger folks either. Other factors are much more important to me.
posted by buteo at 11:03 PM on April 15, 2013

Your idea of "the same age as me" will continually expand as you get older. At 37, I consider anybody between 30 and 45 "roughly my age" and when I say that I have "some friends who are older than me" I mean that they're in their late 50's or early 60's and don't treat me like I'm their daughter. I also enjoy being invited to hang-out-time with my 25-ish friends (with the implications that I'm not so old and lame I'm going to ruin it). Actually, I don't necessarily know how old a lot of my friends are - it's just not as important now as it used to be.

17-22 is a rough age bracket because there's a lot of legal change going on, in terms of who's allowed into what clubs, what bars, what types of beverages, what types of parties, and it can be very noticable that you're not as old as your 22-year-old friends. But in another 5 years when they're 27 and you're 25, there's nothing to divide you - you'll be "the same age".
posted by aimedwander at 8:08 AM on April 16, 2013

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