I’ve recently been self-identifying as a 22 year old. What I mean is, I keep thinking I’m 22. When Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar, I thought, “well, I’m basically her age.” When I go to bars, I’m shocked if a bouncer doesn’t card me. When somebody asks me my age, the first answer I’m inclined to say is “22.”
Except I’m not 22. I’m 27.
That’s a five year difference. And although it’s not a huge age gap – what’s five years in a lifetime? – it is a significant one. The difference between a newborn and a five year old is a world of language and fine motor skills. The difference between a 16 year old and a 21 year old typically means high school vs. college, voting, and the ability to drink legally. So it’s significant.
My age disassociation has been plaguing me. So after much agonizing and many discussions with my therapist, I’ve started to realize why. I’ve had a slight case of Benjamin Button syndrome, although instead of aging backwards, my conception of my age is backwards.
I’m the youngest child in my family, with siblings spread out over a whopping 23 years. I spent much of my childhood surrounded by adults. I’ve always felt more comfortable in a room of people older than I am, than I ever did with my peers. When I was 13, I couldn’t wait to be 16 or 18. When I was 18, I started telling people I was in my early twenties.
Then I went to college and expected it would feel like I finally was among other adults. Except it didn’t feel that way at all. I couldn’t wait to get out of class and start working – to start my real life.
So, I didn’t wait. I left school early and at 20 years old began a full time film career. I was consistently the youngest on set, usually by several years. I never felt out of place, though. Instead, I felt like I was working with contemporaries. I navigated offices and sets with ease, comfortably relating to other PAs, producers, directors, and network executives. From age 20 – 24 I was living the life of somebody nearing their 30s.
Except, then (age appropriately) I hit my quarter life crisis. The years I spent working twelve to sixteen hour days on productions caught up with me and I was burnt out. I didn’t know what I wanted out of my career. I took a soul-searching trip to Thailand. And now I’m 27 and feel like a 22 year old.
I’m trying to start (…or restart) my career, while most of my friends are getting promotions. I feel like I’m behind the curve, which comes as a particularly hard blow since I used to be so far ahead of it. I yearn for clarity, for an answer about what or who I should be.
I wanted to end this post about how it’s okay because now I have a solution – hoping any readers that identify with the above could find some solace.
…I don’t yet have a solution, though.
I struggle daily with figuring out an answer to this question, as well as a slew of others. I do know that on particularly hard days, days when my panic outweighs my joy, a few things help:
- Writing in my journal – I find that anywhere from one sentence to several pages of my thoughts on paper adds a pseudo-third person perspective and at the very least assembles the clutter inside my head onto a tangible page.
- My therapist – there is often a lot of stigma around therapy, but having a true third party, one with some formal training, is often a great way to find clarity and make action plans. (More on this later…)
- My dog – and in case you need a little pick me up today, here she is, adorable and ready to snuggle:
By Nora Resnick