My twenty-fifth birthday is in a month and I have to admit I have felt somewhat apprehensive about it.
Yes, I know in the grand scheme of life I’m quite young. But the mid-twenties are really the beginning of the end, at least physically, and they are also the unquestionable end of adolescence. Of course, our culture’s extended adolescence will probably keep being prolonged further, but for now twenty-five seems to be the turning point. Come June 7, 2015 I am undeniably a grown up.
This realization causes most people varying levels of inner angst. Some people respond to that angst with despair. Some respond with humor and distraction and a “live it up while you can” attitude. Some respond with wishful thinking. I’ve always been more prone to the wishful thinking. See the glass half full (you aren’t that old!) or try to convince yourself it’s all an illusion (aging is really beautiful!)
But I think we know the truth. Aging isn’t always beautiful.
Aging robs us of so many things. We lose our bodily vigor and strength. We lose some of our physical beauty. We lose mental function and we forget important things. We lose time. That one stresses me the most right now. With twenty-five years behind me (a quarter century!) I wonder what I could have accomplished that I didn’t. I had the idea for my novel at eighteen, but here I am, having just re-written it all over again, and it won’t be published before my twenty-fifth birthday like I had hoped. Time has been taken from me. And it will continue to be taken from me because aging is relentless. Aging is the process of death.
The only way this fact does not cause me severe existential crisis is because I believe some part of me can triumph over death. I believe I have a soul that lives on forever thus aging and death are only temporary sufferings to bear. The best thing I can do is to bear them well, and this will come with being healthily detached from the things that will die. It will come with clinging to the things that live forever.
In order to deal properly with the reality of aging I think we have to start defining our lives differently. Too often we define them by dates, by the way we looked, by where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished. But that’s not how people define us at our funerals. At our funerals we are defined by the quality of our souls. So shouldn’t we start defining ourselves that way now?
The other night I divided my life into five year increments and reflected on each, asking myself, how did my soul grow in those years? I was amazed at my answers— things like, deepened relationships, and learned to suffer well, and conquered anxieties. My resume for a job application right now would look pretty meager. But when I look at the story of my soul and its relationships to others, I’m actually quite proud of myself. I am becoming the person I will be for eternity. I am obtaining the qualities I will be remembered for. I am forming and deepening relationships that will mean more in the long run than anything on this earth.
And knowing what the passage of time does for my soul, I wouldn’t dare slow it down. I wouldn’t dare stop the process of time. I wouldn’t dare stop growing older and I can’t wait to turn twenty-five. I’m not going to say I’ll love it when my hair turns grey or when my bones get weaker but I will love becoming my eternal self– more than some invincible beacon of youth, I will love becoming the eternal self I was made to be.