I believe I am getting old.
To clarify, my body is healthy, plus my mind is far from dementia. Most likely I still have more time in front of me than I do behind. But at 26 years old, I’m certain that my youth is completely gone.
The first time I saw this clearly was on a tire swing with my young niece. “Let’s spin!” she screeched as I crammed into the tire. Sometime around the 25th turn in half as many seconds, I realized I might vomit on this precious little girl. Like a combination tornado victim and depraved alcoholic, I dragged myself from the tire. “I can’t ever…do that…again!” I thought. Meanwhile my niece stood nearby, eyes down, uncharacteristically silent. “Whoooooooooooooooooaa,” she finally explained. I recalled being her age and spinning for what felt like eternity in my living room, then collapsing on the beige carpet, watching the ceiling spin, and laughing.
In my early twenties, I knew life did nothing but improve. I traveled incessantly, never saved a dollar, and burned most professional bridges. Like a child, I lacked foresight and was self-absorbed. Nothing could go wrong. Everything would work out.
Sometime during my mid-twenties, my youthful optimism evaporated. I became acutely aware of it the other day when I lost one of my part-time jobs. My first thought was not that something better lay around the corner. Instead, I thought of my dwindling bank account, and doubted I’d find as good a job as I’d just lost. It was depressing. It was also as real and valid as my niece’s joy as the world spun beneath her feet.
I wouldn’t give up my current responsibilities – rent, taxes, car bills – for anything. I love my life and the woman I’m going to marry. But I’m no longer convinced all will turn up rosy. My heart lacks its former pliability. My imagination is loosing endurance. And my capacity for hope, once truly limitless, is now tempered by a day-to-day pragmatism. My limits are becoming more clearly defined, like an old stone wall in a lifting fog.
Perhaps this is an organic occurrence. Really, wasn’t it inevitable? I must admit, though, that from 2 to 24 I naively assumed I’d always be young. I still don’t feel quite over the hill, but I’ve crested.
Maybe this new pragmatism will serve me well. I’ll need a good head on my shoulders as an adult. Certainly I’ll find another part-time job; even a good career eventually. Soon enough, all the youthful hope will be replaced with a more weathered, realistic outlook. That’s fine with me. I’m not one to fight against the inevitable, nor do I fear the best of life is behind me. But, I confess that as I begin to descend the slope, I’ll look back towards the sunlit summit with a little envy. Before I descend in earnest, maybe I can cling to that optimism. While the fog of youth lifts, I’ll try to stand a little taller.