So last year was momentous. I turned 21. Yes, I was excited to finally be able to drink alcohol in America. Woot. Like a true female, I bought into the hype and turned my 'coming of age' into a week about myself. I seized the opportunity. Sadly the partying and the lunching was hiding something very real that I was desperately trying to cover up...
What I was really hiding was an underlying insecurity. In eager anticipation I had prepared myself for an array of 'feelings' towards stepping into what I perceived to be the beginning of adulthood. Unfortunately, the 'anticipation' soon transformed into thought patterns that found me concerned by the impeding number of 21.
21, surely at this age in our churched world marriage, career and purpose are words that circulate. Completely loaded words. Quickly I succumbed to a frenzy where I pondered and obsessed about the number 21. I came up with a brilliant idea to nurse the frenzy through reading several journal entries from an earlier age. Genius. These Journal entries described dreams and hopes I had for my future, dreams and hopes that would come to pass by 21. Cue; Shortness of breath and a bead of sweat running down my face...
The main concern; I was staring right into this age and NADA. None of my 'dreams' were happening or even faintly in reach. Had I been too optimistic? I saw no fulfilment. I'm convinced I have not been the only victim caught in the over zealous dreaming or age pin-pointing goals.
So I did what I knew to do, lay on my bed and starred at my ceiling whilst listening to some Christian music in hope that Jesus would answer my concerns, and remind me that these dreams will come true ASAP or preferable in the next 3 days. I was hoping my optimism would cause some miracle. Feeling like a failure is not high on my list of 'favourite feelings' so I was hoping that Jesus would turn this feeling 'off'.
During my pity party I somehow found some rationalisation.
I realised that 21 was not scary because of the number, rather I felt like a failure because I was reaching an anticipated age that I thought would have resulted in monumentus achievement. And then I realised...
Who is measuring the race? Who is setting the bench mark? And who said I was destined to be an old cat lady if by 21 I had not yet meet the man I would marry.
I realised that a number holds the significance or bearing that you give it. Who defines the shift into adulthood? Who says that suddenly at 21 "you're an adult"? I'm no peter pan but someone (or perhaps the church) providing benchmarks for adulthood were what caused my sudden anxiety. The truth is I already feel like an adult. Even though I had not ticked off all my designated hopes and dreams for age 21, I felt like an adult. What I was actually wrestling with was disappointment and failure (or what seemed to be...)
Age anxiety is a phobia of turning a certain age, usually an age marked by significance such as 25 (quarter life crisis), 30 (mortgage, marriage and babies) or 18 (yes your legal to drink alcohol now). All these bench marks have been set by various groups of people, parents, friends, churches, and society. Yet instead of bench marks being achievable and reasonable goals they are somehow becoming a source of anxiety if not reached. My personal antidote on the subject? You are an individual. And no, not in the anarchist way.
As an individual we have the freedom to enjoy ourselves at the age and stage we are at. As an individual we do not need to conform to the various standards set by others. As an individual we have the freedom to calculate our own perspective on being 40 years old and single. As an individual we have the freedom to explore and dream with Christ about our various ages.
The key? If you're setting bench marks for yourself this year or even in 10 years, be prepared for the fallout from time to time. This is not a cynical statement rather a realist's angle. Unfortunately we cannot control many external circumstances which have the ability to affect our age goals and dreams, therefore we need to learn to be comfortable and at peace in our age and stage we find ourselves in.
And to be honest, this is where Jesus can teach us a big lesson. Learning to 'rest in him' I believe is not only the ability to stop 'doing' all the time, but to also be at peace, restful, in your current stage of life. And let's be honest, sometimes it can only be heavenly joy that produce such a peace.
In the meantime I will be preparing for 22. Cue another anxiety episode. After all, I'm getting close to dropping the 'young' from young adult. *gasps*.
Chloe Ogilvie is a full-time dance teacher and business owner who enjoys writing as a hobby.
Chloe Ogilvie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/chloe-ogilvie.html