How much life do you deny from yourself because of your age? We sometimes think that we can’t do something because we are too old or too young; often too old. It’s ok to know our preferences and tell no thanks to things we no longer need in life, but when we let our age limit us, we are building barriers that might prevent us from living fully.
I’m 35-years old now. If I had made decisions in my life following what most people do, I would have a mortgage, corporate career, possibly a partner and in some case scenario a kid. Well, I don’t have any of those. I still live on rent, I’ve spent most of my mortgage deposit money on my travels, and since I’ve just started building my own business, I’m flirting with fear, uncertainty and financial disaster every second day.
I haven’t met the partner I’d like to share my life with and feel like my life couldn’t be further away from having kids. This was an issue for me some years ago when I was still thinking that running after other people’s dreams (?) would make me happy; when I thought that because of a certain age I should do this and have that.
Well, those times are behind, and in the past two years, I’ve really taken a huge leap in how I see life. While I’ve defined and clarified my own dreams and started taking steps towards reaching them, I’ve also realized that I don’t want my age to limit me. I don’t want to deny any life experiences from myself because someone might think that I’m too old for that. That someone can also be me, partly unconsciously reflecting all the expectations and culture that the surrounding society is putting on us. As we still have a very narrow view of what kind of lifestyle is desirable or appropriate.
I’ve met several people who’ve flushed their dreams from the toilet, thinking that they are too old for that. A couple of years back, I worked on a project with a highly successful woman in her early forties who had always dreamt of living in New York for some time. She shared this dream with me and stated then that it’s too late now because she is too old. That comment shocked me. Why on earth would anyone be too old to fulfil their dream in their early forties? Why living in NYC couldn’t work out a bit later? We put these nonsense barriers in front of our dreams and sabotage ourselves living fully.
How to do it anyway?
I’ve learned to recognize when I get these subtle thoughts that question if my actions, desires or goals are appropriate for a 35-year-old. Like, is it ok to still enjoy a clubbing weekend in Berlin, get drunk and dance until early hours? Or how does it look if I’m hanging out in youth hostel dorms when I’m backpacking in Latin America? Or am I making myself ridiculous by trying to learn to surf properly (whatever that means) at this age?
While I still sometimes might feel a nanosecond of hesitancy, or even shame that what am I doing here, but I’ve learned to walk past that very quickly and do whatever I want to do. And do it wholeheartedly, enjoying every second.
I might adjust my decisions based on my preferences that have matured with age, like not booking the worst party hostels or making sure that the DJ is good if I plan on partying all night. I also decided to skip the thong-bikinis that most 25-year old girls use while surfing in Mexico or Costa Rica. I felt more comfortable surfing with my ass somewhat covered, even though I tossed the shorts-model when I started feeling like a grandma on the beach. However, at my age, I’m ok to have less sexy tan lines.
The point is that to walk past those barriers, we first need to be aware of them. Once we’ve recognized them and figured out what we really want to do, we can start breaking them. It might require some courage and willingness to step out from the comfort zone. But it’s worth it!
Does adulthood and maturity equal to becoming boring?
I sometimes wonder what it means to be an adult? The social construction that we’ve built around stereotypical responsible adulthood often looks like it means that we are supposed to lead boring lives filled with conformity and conventionality. We need to abandon ourselves to be good parents, good performers at work and good citizens. We want to follow the crowds and look appropriate. Being too busy in performing our perfect-looking lives, we might actually end up leading lives that are dead from the inside.
What looks boring to me can be a dream for someone else. And that’s wonderful. The point is that we should all face our own desires honestly and from that inner place, evaluate if we are doing things that we want to, regardless of our age or other irrelevant limitations. Adulthood doesn’t equal with stagnation; we can still strive to learn, explore and evolve as human beings.
The world is full of great excuses to avoid decisions that would take us closer to the life that could be more fulfilling or meaningful: age, money, comfort – whatever. The relevant question is to ask if it’s worth it. What’s the payoff in hiding behind our excuses?