Sometimes people will reverently refer to someone as an 'old soul'. You know the kind of person they mean - someone who isn't actually old but has a kind of depth to them that hints at experiences beyond what you'd expect for their age. Perhaps they're always full of sage advice; perhaps they seem less agitated by life than the rest of us. We might hate them a little bit for having it so much more together than we do, but we admire them too. We wonder what their secret is.
I have never been referred to in this fashion. I have, however, been told I am being 'old'. See also: killjoy, scaredy cat, square, mumsy, fuddy duddy (people still say that, right?), etc. Apparently there is such a thing as 'too sensible', and I have at times fit that category. Of course, I behave in an absurd fashion sometimes as well - ask my friends - but generally I'm not exactly spouting youthful joie de vivre and YOLO-ing around the place, nor am I inhabiting the zen-like calm zone of the old soul. I'm just fretting, and trying to cover it up.
You see, 'you're only as old as you feel' is only construed as a positive when you feel young. This goes hand in hand with your idea of young meaning carefree and wildly capable. It's a bit difficult to be carefree or feel wildly capable as a late twentysomething in this world, I think. Personally it's a bit more like carefree on the odd weekend, capable two or three times out of five.
The rest of the time we're vascillating between trying to make big career strides and wishing we'd taken that gap year after all, because we're not sure we actually did 'find ourselves' yet. We're trying to achieve financial independence but realising that getting a mortgage without help is close to impossible and once we have one we can't change jobs or go on a proper holiday until we're in our thirties. We're still not used to planning our lives more than a few months in advance, but the time goes just as quickly and what was that about children? Oh you didn't want them yet? But you'll be 30 soon! Have you got a pension plan? Have you got life insurance? Have you written a will?
I know, being inside my head sucks hey! It's not always like that. But there's a definite undercurrent of panic as I continue to get older but am still classed as young, and am missing check boxes left right and centre. Who put those there anyway? Was it me, or was it a society based on ideals that have long passed out of reality? Are we living in the hangover of previous generations' success? And if so, how do we break out of it?
I very much wish I had the answer. I bet one of those old souls would.
You see back when I was getting told off by my peers for being 'too sensible' and 'old', it was because I was afraid of the consequences of my actions. These days it's more a case of being afraid that none of my actions have consequence, at least not outside of the small corner of the planet I inhabit. I've grown up with a burning desire to do something significant, to be someone of value to the world, but I don't know what or how to achieve it. It's much easier to see the practical obstacles of life than it is to see the opportunities at times, especially when those obstacles are always pressing into my peripheral vision.
This all sounds a bit doom and gloom, doesn't it? But I don't think I'll be alone in thinking or feeling this way at times! We live in a world that offers so much so quickly, but it demands so much from us as well. We can easily feel that we need be running at a hundred miles an hour just to keep up, but with whom? The Joneses are just an advert family on the billboard across the street - a constructed image, created for someone else's financial gain and blown out of all proportion.
The trick then, perhaps, is to recognise it for what it is, and try to be a little more forgiving of myself and the world around me for not living up to something that was never real to begin with.