It has recently come to my attention that I am being to age. My body has shared this Breaking News with me by revealing the very beginning of wrinkles in the corners of my eyes. While I continue to be a vastly superior athletic specimen than my 17 year old self [see attached photo], I have come to terms with the fact that I am aging and that I will never be 20 years old again.
And to this realization I say: HALLELUJAH.
Getting older isn’t like anything I imagined. I spent my childhood years anticipating college with the kind of youthful desperation that made me the living embodiment of Springsteen’s Born to Run. At my elementary school’s 5th grade graduation my friends nostalgically signed yearbooks while I, the angst ridden 10 year old, anxiously paced Mercerville’s gym thinking, “It’s time to get this show on the road, people!” The Boss’ escape from his hometown was a chrome wheeled, fuel injected suicide machine. Mine was a liberal arts education. The only downfall to my “last chance power drive” is that I romanticized college so effectively that I never thought about life post-college. For one who so fiercely craved the future, my post-graduation years were left unimagined.
So for four years I reveled in my Eden, my Haverford, which my brother Cyriaque once lovingly referred to as “a utopian version of the wild west” for its lawless yet peaceful nature. Everything was copacetic until the day I received my college degree and my pride turned to horror as I realized my diploma was a glorified eviction notice.
Having been handed a diploma written entirely in Latin (keeping it classy, H-ford) and promptly kicked off campus, I decided to pursue the most lucrative profession I could find: elite runner. Beside the handsome paycheck that racing brought in (ha!), it gave me the perfect opportunity to stick it to that professor who lectured me on priorities and informed me that athletics wasn’t a career and, no, I couldn’t have an extension on my history paper. Armed with a ludicrously difficult goal and a healthy dose of spite, I set out for the real world in a state of abject horror and confusion.
As I look at my other friends, who from time to time scratch their heads and have that WHAT IS HAPPENING look plastered on their faces, I know I’m not alone. Even my own mother admitted that her 20s were “disorienting and strange,” while her 30s were “where all the fun happens and you’re not so freaked out.” Hell of a pep talk, Ma.
The closest anything has come to describing the post college years confusion has been the immortal words of the Talking Heads:
Well we know where we’re going/ But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we we know what knowing/ But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children/ And we know what we want
And the future is certain/ Give us time to work it out
What does that even mean? EXACTLY! It’s cryptic and it’s terribly confusing and it implies you’ve lived and yet still have so much road left to travel, and that you, my friend, are totally lost. Welcome to your mid twenties!
Once I got a grip on that fact that there’s no getting a grip on your twenties, things became easier. The previously overwhelming Choose Your Own Adventure aspect of a 20-something-year-old’s life became less stressful and more liberating. I was startled to realize that I enjoy aging. I have more fun, I feel more attractive, I’m 20 seconds faster in the 1500m, and I am better version of my younger self. I let nagging teen insecurities go along with grudges and my motivating but emotionally draining spite that I’d been carrying around. And while I do have the to urge to yell, “How ’bout them apples?” at Mr. History Professor when I see him around campus, I now know, like me, he’s just trying to navigate his life.
Getting older looks good on many people and I’m determined to wear it well. I look to my grandfather, a newly minted 90, for guidance, and I pray daily that being a Powerhouse is genetic. My own parents are better dressed, wittier, and smarter versions of their 40-something selves, although my two siblings and I are entirely to blame for any poor fashion choices made in child-rearing-fueled states of exhaustion.
Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for aging. A young woman I coached once remarked, “I don’t ever want to be 25.” I remember thinking turning 25 sure beats not turning 25. At 27 I’m aware that many of the kids born in 1985 are not as lucky as I am in celebrating this milestone, so I never begrudge a birthday and I happily take a step closer to 30. So yes, young runner, you want to be 25. And 35. And 65, and you want every damn birthday you can get your hands on. But who wants to listen to person with almost-somewhat-wrinkles.
So happy birthday to me and all my comrades in celebrating the 10th of December. May this year be wonderful and new and totally unpredictable.
Live and live well, TrackFans.