Scared of getting older...
September 28, 2005 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm 21 and I'm afraid of getting old...

I realise this sounds kind of ridiculous, but I have a huge fear of ageing. I know that part of it is to do with feeling like I haven't achieved enough, but it's more than that. I just feel old in a way that I didn't before I turned 21. I want to be able to look forward to the rest of my 20s, but I can't because looking forward means looking forward to being older and I just can't get comfortable with that. I don't want to be a grown-up yet.

How can I get over this silly anxiety? I'm going to be 22 in a few months and I want to be able to "start over" and be happy and contented and comfortable with myself, but I don't know how to do this. I've heard of the "quarter-life crisis" but I don't seem to quite fit that description.
posted by speranza to Grab Bag (60 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
go vegetarian. start a band. ride your bike a long distance at least once a week. have a few beers every now and then. and read, read, read, read, read.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:56 AM on September 28, 2005 [2 favorites]

"Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that."

Read the above linked article and get busy. :)

Good luck!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:59 AM on September 28, 2005

Oh, good lord. You're not going to believe how much time there still is. Your problem really is anxiety, not age -- if you're worried about achieving, or that you might never be able to feel content and happy, then make an appointment with a therapist who treats anxiety.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on September 28, 2005

Paradoxically, you can get over this by growing old. According to studies, people are happiest later in life. Don't live your life trying to cram in every experience. Imagine you have an infinite number of lives, and enjoy every moment of this one, no matter how simple. Time will slow down, and you will be happier.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:03 AM on September 28, 2005

It doesn't really hurt until 25. What's fun though is really going all out in an interest. Find something you like and burrow into like, like if you like to play trombone or something than learn to play really well, play around town, etc.

Regret is the creeping fear, and it gets worse year after year.

Do it now!
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2005

"feeling like I haven't achieved enough"

Not much meat here, speranza, to cook with. I quoted the only detail that seems relevant. Try establishing some short-term and long-term goals. Write them down in a journal, and then each day, write a brief summary of what you did to achieve them. Also, modify your goals as needed.
posted by mischief at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2005

make a list of stuff you wanted to do before you're 22 and try to do all of it in the next few months.

you'll fail, but it's worth a shot.

that's what makes me feel old more than anything else -- the thought of all the time I wasted just to get, or in getting to this point. And i still haven't written the great american novel. and what's sobering is that the UPS driver is also planning on writing the great american novel, and has told my office on several occasions that he thinks he's kinda like hemingway (I'M KINDA LIKE HEMINGWAY, DAMN IT, except for you know, the war journalism, the boxing capability and you know, the syph.)

So you also could just figure that everyone's writing the great american novel and that, uh, no-one actually does it, leaving you free to forget about it and be amused by simplier things, like watching movies, taking a walk, or buying a case of coors light and getting completely blotto whilst watching the dog try to lick its ass. *

I mean, I regret very little in my life, except, of course, that incident with the automobile and the unicorn,* so, as everyone else who's older is likely to tell you, "Don't worry about it! You're going to get older! There's still pretty of time!" and when they say that, ask yourself in a tiny voice deep inside of your mind "How many sonatas have YOU written, dumbshit?"

* the dog in question has a short torso and so can't lick its ass. If that is not one of life's cruelities, I don't know what is.
** i killed the last unicorn. sorry.

posted by fishfucker at 10:05 AM on September 28, 2005

Don't live your life trying to cram in every experience.

This is really bad advie, when you get 30 you'll want to be able to masturbate to a variety of girls you've slept with. You'll want to think about how fucking awesome Prague was. YOu'll never care about the Orange Julius in the strip mall.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:06 AM on September 28, 2005

I know I felt the same way at 21 and I'm going to assume that its actually very common. I think its the first time I thought "Ok...I'm really not a kid anymore. But, wait! I enjoy being a kid!"

The truth is you never really have to grow up. Or, that is, there is this myth that you know have to discard childish things and somehow be an "adult" Thats BS. I know some 16-yr olds who are more "adult" than some 50 yr olds. Its a mental thing not a chronological age thing.

If the pattern holds, you'll quickly get over this - humans are very adaptable like this. Embrace the feeling of "being in your 20's" - really, some of the potentially best times in your life are still ahead. But, you'll have another crisis at 29. Then a couple years later you'll realize that your 30's bring a maturity and confidence that you lacked as a "brat" in your 20's.

And so on...
posted by vacapinta at 10:10 AM on September 28, 2005

Listen to Built To Spill's Happiness on repeat:

haven't had a half a hand
in half of what i am
haven't heard of half the things
that happened in the past
haven't givin half the time to half the people
and half the things i planned
you don't have to be so cruel,
cause all i do is a little less than what i can
happiness'll only happen when it can
happiness'll only happen when it can

haven't had the half a mind to stay,
to start to take a stand
haven't held on half as long as i had hoped,
as i had hoped and planned
haven't missed half the shit they said i'd have to have to have a chance
you don't have to be so cruel, cause all i do's a little less than what i can
happiness'll only happen when it can
happiness'll only happen when it can
happiness'll only happen when it can
happiness'll only happen when it can

posted by TurkishGolds at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

I would agree with Weapons Grade. The issue isn't getting old. The issue is feeling good about what you're doing now. There is nothing you can do about aging. It's out of your control and it sounds like you are a bit anxious about that. So take stock of what you can control in your life.

I do remember what it was like to be 21 (I'm quite a bit older than that). I was filled with angst about just about everything (parents, school, career, relationships). I just wanted to "do the right thing." Well, it took me years before I found out there isn't any right thing. There's only MY thing.

The more experiences you have and the more chances you take (whether you succeed or fail), the less tense you will feel about your life. What's great about getting older is that "bad" things have happened BUT you survived them. And, even better, you not only survived, you learned a great deal and you're life actually improved because of these experiences. And once that starts happening, you begin to relax.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:19 AM on September 28, 2005

You should certainly live your life to the fullest extent that interests you, but I think having some sort of list of "Things I Must Accomplish by 25" is what leads to this sort of anxiety.

I think being comfortable with yourself comes from believing in the things you're doing and not constantly striving toward "Should"s, whether that's "must revolutionize the face of literature in the next three months" or "must sleep with as many women as possible" or "must drink myself to death now because I can't do that when I'm OLD." The men I've known who've had this same anxiety (and they do all seem to be men, in my experience) all seem to be trying to live up to some weird ideal of themselves they refuse to give up rather than looking around and dealing with life as it comes.

You have no idea what your life will hold. Look forward to finding out, rather than trying to wrestle it into what you think you want. I mean really, would you really want your next 40 / 50 / 60 years planned out by a 21 year old?
posted by occhiblu at 10:21 AM on September 28, 2005

Then a couple years later you'll realize that your 30's bring a maturity and confidence that you lacked as a "brat" in your 20's.

Yeah, I can relate to the original poster but I must say I agree with the quoted comment above and am loving my 30s. This is the best time I've ever experienced. People take you seriously, you have knowledge and power and a bit of money, you can call BS so quickly, you can't be messed around with, you're getting somewhere with your goals, and you're still enjoying relative youth and health. I had the crises too, but the idea that I was 'past it' was a total illusion.

The only regret I have is that I wasn't a bit wilder in my 20s. I should have travelled more, gone on tour playing music, had a lot more sex, done a few more drugs. What hobbled me? The feeling that I hadn't achieved enough and should be getting serious about life. S0 -- don't hobble yourself. Just soak up experience, grab opportunities, see where they take you. You're barely even getting started.
posted by Miko at 10:23 AM on September 28, 2005

Well, just don't get old. Though I do want to tell you that things are SO MUCH BETTER when you do get older. So many of those anxieties just melt away, it's amazing.
posted by jasper411 at 10:28 AM on September 28, 2005

I agree with vacapinta. In November, I'll turn 40. I'm still a kid. I play games; I draw cartoons; I dance around (badly) in my apartment; I talk in silly voices; stuffed animals live in my bed. But I do all this stuff with a confidence that I couldn't feel in my 20s (or even in my 30s). People say that "play is children's work," and to some extent that's true. Children NEED to play in order to learn about themselves and the world. I already know the world. So I can just play to play.

As-far-as I can see, there are only two negatives to getting older (and a TON of positives): your body crapping out on you and your mind getting set into a pattern.

You shouldn't worry about the first problem yet, because it's year away for you. But there are things you can do about it. You know, exercise and eat right. At 40, I feel a lot more fit and energetic than I did at 20. Back then, I tortured my body. Now I take care of it.

As for the mind problem, that's entirely up to you. When you're a kid in school, new stuff gets thrown at you every day, like it or not. Your mind is forced to expand. But it's pretty easy, as an adult, to get a job in which you can run on auto-pilot. After years of this, the brain shrivels up and becomes incapable of accepting new data. I've seen this happen to dozens of people.

I'm STUNNED by the number of my contemporaries who no longer read or learn anything new. You don't need to let this happen to you. It hasn't happened to me. I actively pursue new things. I read, I cook, I travel, I learn. But I direct all this activity myself. I don't wait for some teacher to throw stuff to me.

In SO many ways life improves as you age. Unlike The Jesse Helms, I don't care about girls I missed sleeping with in the past (or even girls I slept with in the past). (But I DO miss Orange Juliuses -- do they make them anymore?) I care about the girl I've been with for 10 years. Our relationship has matured into something so deep and meaningful and personal.

Good luck!
posted by grumblebee at 10:32 AM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Speranza, just saw that you're female. Sorry for my assumptions, but I stand by the advice. And it may not help, but as a 29-year-old woman, I will say that all that "must be X because it's cool!" pressure does fade away, and life actually gets much more interesting when it does.
posted by occhiblu at 10:33 AM on September 28, 2005

If you think 22 sucks, being 30 really sucks. I have pains in my body that weren't there when I was 29, and people started calling me "sir" and "mister". Stop worrying about being 22 and enjoy your youth. Do the things you want to do so that you have no regrets in your 30s.
posted by Rothko at 10:33 AM on September 28, 2005

I went through a similar sort of feeling a few years ago (also at the age of 22). In my case I think it was intimately connected to having left university and not found a job. I was fed up, didn't go out and do much, and mostly just stayed in watching TV and moping. The result of doing all these stereotypically "old" things? Unsurprisingly, I felt pretty old...

Re-establishing a bit of direction in my life pulled me out of the slump pretty much instantly - partly I think because I simply didn't have the time to sit around and mope, and thereby got out of the habit, but also because I was so busy having fun. In my case it was finding a fulfilling job, which in turn led to new friends, new interests and meeting my partner. I now feel much younger - in the sense of going out, having fun and discovering new things - than I did when I was in my teens. My advice would be to think of some things about which you're passionate, or which you find interesting and intriguing, and just grit your teeth and get out and do them. This doesn't have to be scanning job adverts as it was in my case - it could be as simple as visiting somewhere you've never been before, taking dance lessons or finally getting round to reading that book people are always recommending to you. Trust me, the sense of ennui will pass pretty quickly - you will have far more opportunities in your twenties, I bet, than you ever had during your teens. Have fun!

Also, what grumblebee said.
posted by greycap at 10:40 AM on September 28, 2005

The purpose of your 20s, as far as I can tell, is to try to change the world and fail. So get failing.

But. If you are worried about the future, start a retirement account now and DON'T TOUCH IT except in dire (i.e. life-threatening) emergencies. Getting started now, even with $100 a month (though $300 or, starting in 2006, $400 would be better), gives you a huge head start over someone like me who, for various reasons that seemed good at the time, did not start saving for retirement until age 35. Seeing to your own financially securit will save you a lot of sleepless nights over the next 45 years; I cannot recommend it highly enough. Heck, you may even be able to retire early if you start now and save enough.

So sow some wild oats -- but don't forget to make hay while the sun shines, too.

For what it's worth, I have never been drunk or high, and I do not even slightly regret "missing out" on it. Actually I regret my overindulgences (such as in food) much more than I regret any lack of same. So don't sweat it if debauchery doesn't appeal. My regrets include not moving far away from Ohio (and my parents) sooner, not doing more with my music, not keeping myself in better shape, not finishing my bachelor's degree, and not investing for retirement sooner.
posted by kindall at 10:45 AM on September 28, 2005

I'm 37 and it's only just now that I've ever considered it to be an issue. I think getting old is when you have pigeonholed your future and can't make any more interesting changes (e.g. employers or academia making an issue out of your age later down the line).
posted by rolypolyman at 10:56 AM on September 28, 2005

An illustration for you (look at the filename).

If you don't want to be a boring, old, 30/40/50 year old, start by not being a boring 21 year old. You've got a shitload more stuff to do, and time to do it. Get over yourself.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:01 AM on September 28, 2005

Response by poster: Miko - I agree that I should probably have therapy, for this and some other stuff. I have been avoiding it, but it's interesting that you kind of confirmed what I already know I should do.

Mischief - I'm sorry if I didn't give enough detail. The truth is, I could've gone on for ages, but I wanted to be relatively succinct rather than meandering and ranty, because my "question" borders on whiny as it is.

Occhiblu - Not to worry, your advice was still good. ;) I'm always being mistaken for a guy online - I don't know why!

Thanks for all the answers so far.
posted by speranza at 11:04 AM on September 28, 2005

Ah, to be 21 again and have the time to worry about things...
posted by poppo at 11:09 AM on September 28, 2005

> I'm always being mistaken for a guy online - I don't know why!

I am, too. Maybe it's the Italian usernames? Everyone starts picturing hairy-chested swarthy men???
posted by occhiblu at 11:09 AM on September 28, 2005

God, 50 is SO much better than 20, or even 40! (OK, I’m worried about 80, but so far, older is simply BETTER!)

The only thing I regret (in the sense of really wishing I’d done it differently, or been different, as opposed to simply feeling sad about something, which actually seems like a useful feeling) is having taken so long to realize that I’M the one who gets to decide what I’m capable of, nobody else.

But even that gets better with age, so relax.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:16 AM on September 28, 2005

dpcoffin: Hell, 35 beats the bejesus out of 20. Looking back, I can't believe how much the early 20s sucked and how much opportunity I wasted.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:29 AM on September 28, 2005

Maybe this won't helping with "aging", but if you're worried about how long you'll live - take Dunbar's advice from Catch-22 and cultivate boredom which, of course, slows down the passage of time.
posted by mullacc at 11:40 AM on September 28, 2005

When I was 21, I was used to really rapid changes involving who I was and how the world perceived me. Think four years back; you were 17. Four years before that you were 13. So you're probably expecting to be a completely different category of person in another 4 years. It doesn't really work that way for adults.

You're probably feeling pretty much on top of your game, physically, and expect that somehow it'll be all downhill from here. Except it won't. Once you're a grownup, if you look after yourself and your general health is good health, you may not experience significant decline for decades.

The rest is entirely up to you. You'll have to figure out how to support yourself, but you needn't stay in one career or one place or one anything forever. You can find a new job, make new friends, change your presentation style, move around the world and start living in another language, take classes any time in anything that strikes your curiosity, any time you want.

My 68-year-old dad, who always liked swimming but only took it up seriously in his 40s, recently swam his fastest butterfly ever. He's undoubtedly "slower" than he was back then, but he's still strong, vigorous, and much more skilful. This is a good metaphor for the whole experience. In another fifteen or twenty years you may not look quite as dewy as you do now, but it won't matter because as long as you stay alert, you'll be smarter, funnier, wiser, easier with people, and generally more fun to be around.
posted by tangerine at 11:51 AM on September 28, 2005

I used to think getting older would suck.

Instead, much to my surprise, it keeps getting better.

Even sex improves immensely with age. At least up to about age forty, so far as I can tell at this point. I've no reason to doubt it'll continue to be great for many, many years past that.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 AM on September 28, 2005

Getting old is underrated.

The biggest change in my life has been that I have closer relationships, and cooler toys.
posted by I Love Tacos at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2005

I was going through a quarter-life crisis after a rough breakup, commiting my grandmother, taking in my younger brothers for a while, etc, and just managed to shake it off. Admittedly, the chance came with the desctruction of my city. (Don't do that if you can avoid it.)

My advice? Take some time off work and go on a road trip. The happiest I've been this year was wandering on the road with no solid plan and a net of friends willing to let me crash on their couch at any time. Take that pilgrimage to Graceland or New York. Play guitar in parks. Sing as you walk. Stop and talk to bikers in the Waffle House parking lot. Go to the nation's capitol, stand on the steps, and scream, "Why aren't you listening?" Kiss a stranger and wear the outfits you bought but never worked up the courage to wear. Be That Girl in a club one night, in a city you're not planning to stay in for long. Play on swingsets. Talk to kids. Talk in an outrageous accent for a day just to see who buys it. Go skydiving. Do every weird thing you've wanted to without thinking about society's judgement, and keep in mind that you're just wandering for a while. Fund it well and keep a journal. Use crayons in the journal whenever possible. And watch those pseudo-intellectual films you keep meaning to (Waking Life, I Heart Huckabees) but watch a lot of The Muppet Show too. Don't take any of it too seriously.

Best of luck.
posted by honeydew at 12:15 PM on September 28, 2005

Don't want to be a grownup yet? No problem; you really don't have to. I used to think that there was some mysterious inevitable process, like puberty, which was going to hijack my brain and turn me serious, boring, and old whether I wanted to or not. Well, I'm 29 now and it hasn't hit yet; I see no evidence, from my friends in their 30s and 40s, that it really ever will. In fact I was more serious, boring, and old at age 19 than I've been at any time since.

Life has only gotten better since I was 21. I'm stronger, faster, smarter, better read, better looking, and way more confident than I was then, and have more resources (money, friends, experiences, skills) to apply to whatever it is I want to do. I don't feel like I have lost any of my impish delight in life; if anything I am even more wholeheartedly playful than ever, since I no longer feel like I have to apologize for it. If this is adulthood, bring it on - it's great!

I like what grumblebee said. It isn't the passage of time that makes you feel old, it's settling into ruts. You are not powerless here: just keep playing, exploring, reading, learning, having fun, living, and you'll be fine.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:21 PM on September 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

wait till you're 35!! then you'll look back on 21 as the golden years.
posted by libertaduno at 12:41 PM on September 28, 2005

> I'm always being mistaken for a guy online - I don't know why!

> I am, too. Maybe it's the Italian usernames? Everyone starts picturing hairy-chested swarthy men???

I get this as well—and I'm definitely a 21-year-old female.

Back on topic, though, thanks for asking this question, speranza—the answers are helping me think about what I should be doing right about now, too.
posted by limeonaire at 1:10 PM on September 28, 2005

22 feels old because very few people mentally picture themselves being that age. You think (in the U.S., at least) "when I'm 16 I'll get my driver's license! when I'm 18, I'll graduate high school! when I'm 21, I'll be able to get into bars!". Up until now, every year felt like getting "better". Now, you feel like you're simply getting "older". You're venturing into a grey area that you've never really considered and it feels like you've crested over a hill and are beginning to slide down the other side.

I just turned 27. I started freaking out about aging when I was 22 and only have begun to calm down now. Eventually, I think, you do regain a sense of getting "better", once some of the benefits of experience and age begin to trickle in.
posted by 4easypayments at 1:15 PM on September 28, 2005

As my father used to say to his 21 year old son:
"Youth is wasted on the young."
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:24 PM on September 28, 2005

Oh, Gawd. Another mid-mid-life crisis.

Get over your misgivings and move on. We are all faking it; we all have doubts; we are all scared shitless by life. The secret is to just push all that stuff aside and live your life... and hopefully concentrate on the enjoyment of it rather than the axiety of the what ifs.
posted by Doohickie at 1:32 PM on September 28, 2005

I just sent this quote to someone for her 62nd birthday:

"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been. ~Madeleine L'Engle"

More are around at QuoteGarden.
posted by oldtimey at 1:34 PM on September 28, 2005

I'm 22, turning 23 in a week. My advice is to befriend some 25 year olds. You will always be younger than them, and you will realize that their lives are just fine, so yours must be, too.
posted by gatorae at 1:36 PM on September 28, 2005

Future science life extension manual.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:52 PM on September 28, 2005

We are all faking it; we all have doubts; we are all scared shitless by life.

I agree with this. Actually, my "problem" (which isn't a problem at all, because I LIKE it) is that I keep wondering when I'm going to be a grownup.

When I was a kid, I thought there was some magical time when you "arrived." You stood up, dusted yourself off, and said, "Yup, I'm a grownup now." I expected that to happen at 20. It didn't, so I expected it again at 30, but again it didn't happen. At almost 40, it STILL hasn't happened. Will it ever? Is there anyone who actually feels like they once were a kid and now they are a grownup, as if they morphed from one species into another?

I used to teach daycare, and I remember that when the parents came to pick up their kids, they would wink at me if they noticed one of the kids doing something cute. they were those conspiratorial winks that one grownup gives another when a child is in the room.

I was flabbergasted. I realized that the parents thought of me as one of THEM. But I thought of myself as more like the kids in my class.

Every once in a while, I meet a "grownup." Usually, she is a very young parent (usually a woman for some reason -- but not always). I guess, since she's so young, she feels a need to differentiate herself from her child. So she ACTS LIKE AN ADULT. Which generally means NO SENSE OF HUMOR and TALKING DOWN TO HER CHILD IN A SING-SONG VOICE and ACTING MATURE and TSK-TSKING AT ANYONE ACTING LIKE A CHILD.

Don't be like that.
posted by grumblebee at 2:00 PM on September 28, 2005

Everyday we set new PB's in longevity. You've never been older than you are right now.'ll never be younger either - you'll look back on today in 10 year's time and remember your current anxiety with a small smile.

Every once in a while, I meet a "grownup." Usually, she is a very young parent (usually a woman for some reason -- but not always). I guess, since she's so young, she feels a need to differentiate herself from her child. So she ACTS LIKE AN ADULT. Which generally means NO SENSE OF HUMOR and TALKING DOWN TO HER CHILD IN A SING-SONG VOICE and ACTING MATURE and TSK-TSKING AT ANYONE ACTING LIKE A CHILD.

Yes indeed - I've seen too many of them. I think these kind of people have deeper issues though, to do with control over others.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2005

go have sex in a cemetery ... guaranteed to take your mind off getting old ...
posted by forforf at 2:56 PM on September 28, 2005

Response by poster: go have sex in a cemetery...guaranteed to take your mind off getting old...

*huge blush*
posted by speranza at 3:13 PM on September 28, 2005

Just don't overdo the whole legal drinking thing.
posted by Sara Anne at 3:16 PM on September 28, 2005

Oh and lastly, get drunk, get high, sleep around, but don't ever be late for work.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 3:24 PM on September 28, 2005

That age thing? It's just a number. Follow your bliss and just be you. The rest will follow.

The truth is you never really have to grow up. - vacapinta
posted by deborah at 4:18 PM on September 28, 2005

Speranza -- the therapy really isn't a bad idea. Just make sure you find someone you can talk comfortably too. It's a great way to realize you're completely normal, and dispense with the anxiety. There are no rules. It's OK to do just whatever you want to. No one is going to meet you at the pearly gates with a yardstick to see if you measured up (not even yourself). Sometimes just talking through this with someone who's used to untangling problems is incredibly helpful. It's not at all freaky and they won't think you're crazy. Anxiety is so treatable that there's no point living with it.

I think getting old is when you have pigeonholed your future and can't make any more interesting changes

I agree, which is why it's incredibly important never to tell yourself 'OK, I'm done now'. We should always have things we haven't achieved, versions of ourselves we would still like to become. For a short while when I was 31 or 32 I decided I was 'done', and I have never been so depressed. Is this all there is, then? This is life? Well, no, it wasn't -- it was a stagnant time with no challenge. I threw off the traces a bit, changed jobs and cities, and feel really vibrantly excited by life again. I don't intend to think like that any more.
posted by Miko at 5:09 PM on September 28, 2005

You'll get over it. It's part of growing up: really, I'm not being sarcastic. Many people get this kind of age anxiety at around college-leaving age. I did too.

The best advice here is to make sure you live life: try things; take risks; travel; be adventurous.Don't become a miserable little wage slave worrying about pensions and marriage and kids. Use your twenties to experience. And take some comfort from my experience: my thirties were much more fun and much happier than my twenties and so far my forties have been... at least as happy and significantly stranger (in a good way). It's a cliche but life is a journey and you shouldn't think all the best stuff happens in the first hour, you know?

That said, it's also true what someone said about your body crapping out. Stay fit. Even if you're slamming the booze and drugs down, you can stay fit. And keep your mind fit too. Read, learn, socialise, argue, try not to let age narrow your mind. It'll make that journey stay interesting for longer.
posted by Decani at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2005

my "problem" (which isn't a problem at all, because I LIKE it) is that I keep wondering when I'm going to be a grownup.

I think the answer is: When your kids grow up (assuming you have them at some point). When your kids are grown, it seems only logical that you must be too. I just sent my first kid off to college. Our relationship is getting to be more of an adult-to-adult relationship, which is actually kind of nice. Even my youngest is in high school now and is maturing intellectually and emotionally at an amazing rate.

Turning it back around with me as the kid, my mom put it best when she said, "I'm not getting older, my kids are!"
posted by Doohickie at 6:07 PM on September 28, 2005

Yeah, make some friends with some older people. Cool older people. Then you will realize that there is life after 22.

Sort of random, but who cares. The best thing I've heard from my 31 year old friend: "I hate to say it, but the minute I turned 30 I wanted sex all the time. But, I also started having a lot more orgasms." See? Something to look forward to!
posted by jetskiaccidents at 9:00 PM on September 28, 2005

If it's any reassurance, I turned 22 a couple months ago and everything has been just fine so far.

I have many of the same anxieties that you confess to having, by the way. I don't want to get old and stale but I'm looking forward to being old and ripe. But on the other hand, I'd really like to be 6 years old again and have everything taken care of for me.
I keep having these fears that I should really be some sort of ultra-responsible control freak and plan for the future like it's some sort of invasion. Like, if I get get my act together and get a head start, I'll be able to retire early or something.
Then I realize that I'm only 22 and I don't even have a career yet! I have to constantly remind myself to just lighten the hell up because, despite all of my fears, now is the time to explore, experience, maybe get some more education in areas that, only a year ago, I never imagined I'd be interested in.

To combat my fear of getting "old," I try to imagine the kind of person that I'd like to be when I'm 60 and think about how to work against becoming the kind of person that I don't want to be.

But I know what you mean when you say, "I just feel old in a way that I didn't before I turned 21." I can't quite describe it exactly, either. To me, it feels like I can now look back over my life not just as a jumble of memories but rather as a more cohesive whole. Being able to look at that passage of time with the more finely-tuned lens of retrospect that you gain having emerged from your teen years makes it seem like a really eventful two decades. I mean, childhood, highschool, and college memories are a WHOLE LOT OF MEMORIES. So much activity has been crammed into that timespan. Being able to put all of those pieces together, I think, is what made me start to feel older in that peculiar way. Couple that with an increasing feeling of control and responsibility and, I'll agree, it gets frightening and overwhelming. But it's OK, really. Just use your new retrospection and your new control and go ahead and embrace being a grown up. Be who you want to be.
posted by Jon-o at 10:10 PM on September 28, 2005

Oh, good lord. You're not going to believe how much time there still is.

Not to be mean, but that couldn't be further from the truth. You may have a lot of time, you may get cancer early, you may get run over by a bus tomorrow. No one knows how much time there still is.

Which is why it's important to be happy today. Tomorrow may never come, even when you're 21.
posted by justgary at 10:22 PM on September 28, 2005

you have always been dead
you are always being born
posted by Satapher at 11:19 PM on September 28, 2005

I wish I couldn't relate to this question.
In any case, I feel the only thing I can really do is live each day as true to myself as possible. Don't worry about 'cramming it all in', and don't just lay back and put things off 'til 'tommorrow'. Don't do what you feel you 'should' do (in the family/societal sense) but do what you feel you must do. Appreciate your llife and live as much as possible in the moment (within reason, of course). Adventure! Life is to be experienced in all it's ups and downs, in all it's colors and shapes tastes and smells. Live passionately; and be present in your time.Je ne regrette rien :)
posted by Radio7 at 1:34 AM on September 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

And just remember: life is what happens while you're making plans for the future.
posted by Doohickie at 6:43 AM on September 29, 2005

Oh yeah... echoing (sorta) what someone else said... sex has been better in my forties than at any other time in my life. And I mean way better.

I suspect this is a secret that middle-aged people are supposed to keep and I may have just blown it... the grey police will be coming for me any day now!
posted by Decani at 7:08 AM on September 29, 2005

Oh, good lord. You're not going to believe how much time there still is.

response: Not to be mean, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Well, that's obvious and true. Since Speranza is asking about getting old, the underlying assumption of the question is that she will live to get old. My point is that, at the age of 21, I could not conceive of the immense of span of time and range of activities I now have experienced at the age of 36. I just couldn't imagine there being that much time in the world.

But there's absolutely no point in discussing the possibiltiy of early death, since it's not a variable within anyone's control. Way to increase anxiety even more!

Since my advice and your advice are the same (live to the maximum at all times, avoid stress) regardless of whether someone is marked for an early death, it makes not a whit of difference to point out that any one of us could be hit by a bus this afternoon.

And statistically, most of us will not die particularly early. It makes much more sense to plan on living, not on dying.
posted by Miko at 8:45 AM on September 29, 2005

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