I turned 26 last month, and I’m not thrilled about it.
I used to indulge in the chance to reinvent myself at a new age. At 10, I’d be one of the mature kids on the playground – sitting on the sidelines, braiding hair, and making conversation with the teachers – an old soul, if you will. At 16, I’d drive to school and back, and sometimes, if my parents allowed it, to the Krispy Kreme down the road. At 18, I’d finally be “an adult” and blissfully think I could “do anything.”
But the anticipation of a fresh number has gradually lost its sparkle. The older I get, the more I can’t get rid of this gnawing feeling that I’ll never have time to do it all, and that I’ll have to compromise – either travel the world or have kids. Either climb the ladder at the same steady-income-job, or try something new and have to start from scratch.
I consistently can’t make up my mind, and that’s not stopping the time from keeping on, and dragging me through the dirt. I am aware that 26 is not “old,” but 26 is not your early twenties. Am I setting my life up for success? What is success, really?
For my birthday this year, I went on two walks, ordered overpriced pasta from Jon and Vinny’s, and had a Zoom dinner with my parents – just enough to not feel too much like a lonely loser. It was expectedly sad, not just because of COVID, but because here I am again, feeling like I’ve lost yet another year of my life. Everyday is another day that I haven’t found the answers, and I know I know, that’s not how life works, but that doesn’t stop me from the existential panic.
At what year does that sentiment switch? How old are you when age becomes a thing that’s lauded, and not an imminent dread?
My grandpa’s birthday is a few days before mine, and I forgot to call. I remembered this as he and my grandma called me – they’re seriously punctual about phone calls, especially on your birthday.
Pop-Pop is 81 this year, and he spent most of October in the hospital, alone. He’s out now, and currently on dialysis and a strict diet. He honestly sounds a lot happier than he’s been in a while – we think it’s from the lack of tobacco use (thank you long-term hospital stay), but it could just be that he’s thankful to be home.
Our phone conversations don’t usually last more than five minutes – neither of us are solid at small talk. But the past few calls have been five times that – on my birthday, we energetically chatted about the clam pasta that my grandma cooked him for his 81st, and all of the other low-sodium, doctor-approved meals he’s been eating.
We agreed that next year, we’re going to have a massive party, because we all deserve it. And I felt guilty that he called me, and not the other way around.
I keep thinking that it’s an honor to know him. To have gotten to know him. And I’ve strangely never thought about what he’s accomplished in life. I just think about the way he loves the Yankees, does every New York Times crossword, and gives good hugs.
At 26, all I want is to have my year back. But I’m trying to revel in the days spent. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and we don’t know who it will take. I’d like to start believing in the passing of time as magic in itself.