How can a late-bloomer sow oats without getting stuck?
December 2, 2006 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Late-bloomer-filter: I was a painfully shy, geeky, withdrawn guy with almost no friends and no social life. Over the past few years (I'm 28 now), I went to therapy, got a new job, moved from my sleepy suburban town to New York, got tons of people-practice, made new friends... and then this year, it all suddenly and magically clicked. It's unreal, but instead of nights alone with my laptop, I'm out almost constantly with tons of friends, hanging out, going on dates, drinking, dancing, and generally having more fun than I ever believed was possible for me. But I need your advice before I create a monster.

I've wanted this for so long that about all I seem to care about at now is hanging out, drinking, dancing, dating, and partying. But the implications of most of my friends being in their early 20s isn't lost on me. At 28, most people are moving on toward a more adult phase of life and I'm regressing and loving it. Has anyone else had this experience? Will I get over this phase, or do I need to worry about getting stuck as a perpetual adolescent? And finally, how I can make the most of this awesomely fun and unexpected development? Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Worry about this problem when you are 38 and still hanging out with people in their twenties. Seriously, relish this time you have now - 28 is not that old.

But don't let it become a habit. Eventually the thrill will pale, you'll be bored, and when you are be ready to let go and move on to new things - all those adult serious things you have no interest in.
posted by zia at 2:00 PM on December 2, 2006

Well, you're worried about regressing, that's positive sign. Some people never become that introspective. Since you call yourself a late bloomer, just consider that you might move onto a more adult phase at a later time than your friends.

I wouldn't worry about it. I'm 31 and after my last girlfriend, I did some regressing. Actually I'm now 10 months into it and it doesn't bother me. I'm having fun and the only damage is to my wallet.

So just have fun, and a more mature life will arrive eventually. Course if you really want to speed things up, you could buy a house or two.
posted by Cog at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2006

Well, I'm in my late 30s, and from my perspective a lot of the "growing up" is caused by responsibilities. Not that it makes any difference whether that's good or bad. But it seems a lot of people these days swing to the extreme and yoke theirselves with assloads of family/financial responsibilities/obligations. This might be why you feel like the odd man out sometimes... hell, I do. It's weird to gradually see old friends and classmates vanishing into the obscurity of their chaotic lives.

Drinking and hanging out? That's actually pretty common... when I lived in Austin the Slick Willie's pool halls were filled with family guys on the weekends. Dating? Cool -- though you're getting your feet wet there. Partying? Well, I dunno... you know what Chris Rock says about being "the old guy at the club". I guess as long as you aren't doing stupid stuff that you did when you were 18, who cares?
posted by rolypolyman at 2:13 PM on December 2, 2006

Don't worry about it...New York City is all about the extended adolescence. Post again when you're 40.
posted by footnote at 2:15 PM on December 2, 2006

Consider yourself blessed. You get to have all the fun you missed in your early twenties, but more intelligently and ethically than you probably could have prior to therapy and getting to know yourself better. You've been the lonely outsider. That gives you a powerful empathetic perspective. You are less likely to indulge in the indecisive headgames that younger hedonists are more prone to play with their friends and partners. You are also less likely to shirk your other commitments in the pursuit of endless pleasure. If you find yourself slipping up in either of those ways, therapy has given you the tools to sensibly examine your choices. Don't stop using them.

Don't think of it as regression. Think of it as pleasure deferred and hard-earned, and now, with a richer perspective, better enjoyed.
posted by melissa may at 2:18 PM on December 2, 2006 [4 favorites]

You're on a different timeline than everyone else, and that's just fine. You started "late" and you'll finish late-- no biggie. When the group of peers you've chosen for yourself (these people in their early twenties) start moving off into GrownUpLand, you probably will too. If that doesn't happen, then you can (maybe) start asking these questions.
posted by chickletworks at 2:19 PM on December 2, 2006

Just avoid anything damaging to your health -- don't do too many drugs, drink too much alcohol, and you're so lucky that there's no smoking in bars/clubs where you live. I find that as I get older, these things affect my concentration and energy much more now than they did 10 years ago. Something to consider.

And I think it's really great that you made the changes that you wanted to and are happy, not everyone has the strength to do what you did.
posted by echo0720 at 2:28 PM on December 2, 2006

growing up means being comfortable with who you are now and taking care of your responsibilities. It's not about some pre-made schedule of when (or if) you need to have a wife and a white picket fence and 2.5 kids.

If you were to get married and settle down with someone you didn't love because that's what you're "supposed" to do, THAT would be immature.

Also, there's no such thing as "growing up," really. Everyone changes and hopefully grows over the course of their life, but it's not a process that magically ends with marriage or kids or anything else, really.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:30 PM on December 2, 2006

I had quite a similar experience in my late 20s. I agree that you should enjoy it while it lasts.

I did however find that when I needed a true friend it was very hard to connect to those people who were 10 years younger than me. In some fundamental ways there was a lack of relating or connecting when it was most needed, and in some cases I didn't feel that my confidence was kept, because the person I confided in just didn't really get what certain things meant to me. I enjoyed having good times with those people but I learned very quickly where the boundaries had to be with my good-time friends.

There's nothing to really learn from my experience, except perhaps that having a friend who's in similar place in life and can really see where you're coming from and relate to your perspective is a wonderful thing and I deeply appreciate the ones I've found since then.
posted by loiseau at 4:04 PM on December 2, 2006

I hit a situation not too different around the time I turned 26. It led to a fantastic time with a group of friends that felt like a second family, even though most of them were younger.

But it came to an end. Eventually (about 2-3 years later) everybody found themselves pursuing new directions: grad school, new job opportunities, falling in love, and founding their own new families. The thing that really came as such a shock to me was how many of them didn't make a large effort to keep in touch, and a few of them even actively cut ties. I tried to hold onto all of this while it was fading and it was all pretty rough on me.

I don't regret at all seizing those moments while that tight community of friendship existed. Embracing it was the right thing for me to do, and I'm even glad I made some personal and career development sacrifices to do it. But looking back, it's also easy for me to see there were a few spots where I took things too far, opportunities I turned down to stay with the tribe, new social overtures I undervalued, time I didn't spend well. So when all the dust settled, I realized that there were things that were important to *me* -- not just outside values society wanted me to grow up into -- that I'd neglected for a while.

If those kinds of internal values are what's driving the feeling you should "grow up", then you probably ought to listen to that and make sure you weave some good habits into your life that help drive you, if slowly, in that direction. This can *also* help you keep your friends -- if they feel like they're able to keep the friendship and the party going while making the progress they need to make, they may also be less likely to drop away when they feel their own internal pressure to move forward.

There's nothing like finding that social circle that fits. Enjoy your friends and be good to them. But keep a balance that flows from the perspective that someday, things will change, and you'll be happier if you've cultivated not only the good times and friendships, but the development almost everyone needs for those introspective times we have to look at ourselves and test for a solid sense of personal satisfaction.
posted by weston at 4:22 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I started doing stuff in my mid-30s that I wished I had been doing in college.

If your "regressed" lifestyle is interfering with other goals, then yeah, step back and try to strike a new balance. If not, and you're not hurting anyone, I don't see a problem. Perhaps you think you should have other goals but don't. That's not the kind of thing you can just will into being. "I should want to go to grad school so I will," or "I should want to buy a house so I will" makes no sense.

Live it up.
posted by adamrice at 4:52 PM on December 2, 2006

If by "adult phase" you mean a real career, then you are right to be concerned. By 28 you should be on track and if you're not on track getting a plan to get on track should be your first priority. If your social interferes, ditch your social life.

If by "adult phase" you mean a wife and kids, then what footnote says. At least in New York, nobody starts looking slantwise at single guys-about-town until they're 35. Family is a tremendous responsibility and shouldn't be looked upon as a goal or a graduation present, but something you take on when the time and person is right. (When you get tired of partying might be a sign the time is right, of course.)
posted by MattD at 5:13 PM on December 2, 2006

hahaha MattD. "Ditch your social life and get a job." yeah, buddy, I'll get right on that...

Look, enjoy your life the way you want to. Don't believe anyone who tells you you're too old or too young or too anything to do something. Just because someone places limits on themself, doesn't you have to, no matter what they say.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:35 PM on December 2, 2006

In a couple years, people will talk about how unseemly it is to be carrying on like you are in your twenties, but they're just trying to drag you down to their level. Fuck 'em.

Just don't be an asshat, OK?
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:39 PM on December 2, 2006

Enjoy yourself!

Of course make sure you're not over-indulging to the detriment of your future. Try to be building lasting relationships and have a few true confidants. Also be sure that your job is providing you with useful skills that will enhance your employability. That is to say, think about what you want out of life in ten years. Probably financial stability, as MattD suggested (so if you're working at the Quickie Mart you need to take a serious look at why you're working there), but also the chance to explore, adventure, & have fun before you start saddling yourself with responsibilities of a family or career. Having these experiences is as essential to your future happiness (I'd imagine, at least) as getting a good job/education is to your future financial stability.
posted by soviet sleepover at 5:57 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

28 and partying? Please...worry if you're still at it in 10 yrs.

Oh yeah, one more thing, easy on the blow.
posted by ASM at 6:23 PM on December 2, 2006

I'm just gonna throw this out there. I'm 22 and when I was younger I used to think it was really weird if anyone over 25 partied a lot or led a really alternative lifestyle. Now I know PLENTY of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s that party like rockstars (which does NOT necessarily mean getting constantly fucked up), who have also got it going on with their jobs, families, etc., and I completely admire them. There are plenty of subcultures here in NYC and I have to assume in other places too where adults don't conform to mainstream society's expectations that the most exciting their weekends get is a nice dinner out, and thank god, because now I don't fear getting older.

Rave on, man. And hit me up if you wanna party. You are not alone!

See also: Burning Man.
posted by infinityjinx at 7:22 PM on December 2, 2006

Hey man I can relate. Let me ask u, you're 28 but do you look 28? Or do you look younger. Cause I'm on the same boat but although I'm 33 I look more like 24-ish.. a kid even.. so I think that has a lot to do with the late-bloomer situation.

Cause I seriously don't think people would think twice if I was still partying when I'm 35, since I'll probably look like I'm in college.

Anyway there's no problem with your social progress offset by so many years, as long as it evolves at about a normal rate. So if normal people go thru this phase say from 21 to 28, that's 7 years. So if you start at 28, that means you should be ending by 35. But since older folks might not have the stamina subtract a few years. So that means, you'll end at about 33. And that's how old I am. And I might be starting this phase now! So there you go.. it's all relative.
posted by 0217174 at 8:08 PM on December 2, 2006

28 and partying? Please...worry if you're still at it in 10 yrs.

No, anonymous, this is not true. Never grow up. Play, and party, and try to have a lot of sex - as much as you can - for the rest of your life. Try not to get too involved with cocaine, and be sure that the alcohol does not become the reason for the party.

Aside from that, it is all good. Enjoy, and good luck, friend.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:20 PM on December 2, 2006

Youth is wasted on the young. You got lucky!
posted by flabdablet at 1:05 AM on December 3, 2006

Let it happen. You'll know when its time to quit. Enjoy what you have now. I went through the same thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:22 AM on December 4, 2006

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