“Aren’t you too old to stay in hostels?” my brother asked me the other day as I was casually perusing travel websites. “When all those young folk are going out, you’ll be telling them to shut up ‘cause you’re trying to sleep.”
“I mean, you’re basically 30.”
I momentarily feigned offense before conceding the obvious: he was right.
Not about hostels themselves, per se; my Scottish background will always have me embracing economical choices. But, more towards what thirty supposedly represents, and the lifestyle which allegedly accompanies it.
Reaching age milestones can be a stressful proposition. 20, 25, 30, 40, 50: they all represent some mental roadblock and can trigger some mini-crisis simply by existing. The inherent logic is clear: on a deeper level, we all have goals and aspirations, and ageing without having completed them can mean lost opportunities; on a superficial level, we still live in an ageist society, and getting older means a fear of social inferiority.
But what if you’ve already arrived before your body does?
Without having actually reached the age by number — I’ll begin the final year, 29, of my roaring twenties in July — I’ve long thought that I’d reached it in practice years ago. I joke with my students all the time that I’m old. That I’m sixty on the inside. That I enjoy staying home on weekends, avoiding people. They laugh, a little uneasily at first, until they realize that I’m not joking. At least, mostly not joking.
I’m introverted and thus like my space naturally, independent of age. I’m also a teacher, so after a work week, having time to oneself is definitely welcomed. Apart from that, I’ve noticed some concrete changes over the last few years that have now been firmly cemented into my routine. I prefer to stay in most nights; going out once a week is about all I can handle; I now like tea; crowded spaces make me uncomfortable; I’ve found myself drawn to fancier clothing and cuisine; and I really enjoy going to bed and waking up early, even on weekends.
Pass your judgements as you must.
The actual take away here is that ageing of course is natural, and can serve as the internal motivation all of us need from time to time. Reflecting on goals not reached — and the reasons for that — can be extremely beneficial. Mindful, calculated planning and decision-making are important; reactionary, panicky, crisis-induced reactions are not.
Jerry Seinfeld once said that birthday celebrations are pointless. That all we’re celebrating is not dying over the previous twelve months. But perhaps the milestone ones serve a bigger purpose: they can force us to take a look at ourselves, our lives, and ask ourselves the question most often neglected: are we good?
Perhaps staying in hostels isn’t my favourite thing anymore. To be honest, I’m not sure it ever was. But, one thing is for sure: I like what I like, and if that qualifies me as “older,” then so be it. The difference is what I like now is certainly different from twenty-five-year-old Andrew. I’ve changed, I know it, and I like it.
Now, if you need me on this Saturday night, I’ll be drinking green tea and watching Cheers reruns.