”I’m Peter Pan in a black hole…“
-DIES, Less Than Zero
”Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”
-Lane Del Rey, Young and Beautiful
I was picking at my toenails the other day (because I’m psychotic and it relaxes me) and as I bent over to really dig into the nail bed of my big toe, I noticed a few varicose veins on my leg. They weren’t too apparent or bulging from the skin but I still noticed them, little purple squiggles running beneath transparent skin.
I know this condition isn’t just reserved for older people, but still. I’m already finding gray hairs running down the length of my body and what’s not turning gray is rapidly falling out of my head. I’m developing lines around my eyes. And now I’m noticing visible veins on my legs? What’s next? Liver spots? Incontinence? A general disdain for Generation Z?
I’ve always joked that I have an old soul. When I was younger, I felt like I had a grown man’s burden on my shoulders, despite all my needs being taken care of. It was the demon of anxiety that slipped underneath my skin and wrapped itself around my ribs. And now that I am a grown man with actual burdens (and with the anxiety squeezing ever tighter), I’m still projecting into the future, looking at my life like an old man on his deathbed reminiscing on his regrets.
I’ve got a lot of them, a ton of unfulfilled wishes and experiences and just like the man with the waning heartbeat, I often feel like much of it is too late to repeat, repair, or realize. Should I have attended that art school or should I have played it safe? Should I have experimented with drugs and alcohol and should I have plunged into those people and possibilities? Should I have held on to the friends I had? Should I have been more available to make more? Should I have made that phone call, kissed some lips and split others, fallen in lust and out of love, kept my faith and forgot to stay angry at those who wronged me?
Maybe some people emotionally age faster than others. Maybe some people are a product of their environment. With all the jobs I’ve ever had, 95% of my co-workers have been at least twice my age. And since I was always awkward, most of the social interaction I got was through them. They spoke of marriage and mortgages, worried about their children and bills, told me all about their physical aches and pains, the same ones I’m now starting to experience. Had their age and adages put a curse on my own crown?
I never went through a rebellious, crazy phase. I never sowed my wild oats or got a glimpse at anyone else’s. I never fell in love in high school and locked lips next to a row of lockers. I never joined a fraternity or fared well at social gatherings. I never snuck out of the house to meet someone special or sip cheap alcohol on a restaurant rooftop. No one ever touched my skin while it was smooth, rocked my body while it was strong, or caught my eye while it was sharp. I never partied or participated in a protest. I never did anything that mattered to anyone or to myself.
At my new job, I’m “the kid” ‘cause, again, everyone I work with is twice my age. Yet, at my old retail job, I’m now one of the oldest ones. My peers moved on, found better jobs, made something of themselves. They were replaced by careless teens and not only am I balancing two jobs but trying to find my footing with both sets of employees within. I’m unable to relate to the diabetes or dank memes and often feel out of place.
It really creates an identity crisis because there’s a part of me that feels absolutely ancient but when I realize that I’m 31, it doesn’t seem possible that I’ve gotten this old without having gone through certain milestones most people get to experience. Despite the wrinkles, I still have pimples and I’m shiny and awkward. I have a fear of making doctor appointments and traversing the intricacies of insurance and equity. I carry this naivety with me, something that used to be cute in my teens but is now offputting in my early 30s.
I’m like an adolescent octogenarian.
And maybe what’s more upsetting than a few unsightly veins is that I’m very much a vestige of both youth and maturity. I was a wise thinker at 18 and a simpleton by 28. Everyone caught up to me and then propelled past me. Along the way, I got off course and ended up regressing. I’ve been backsliding ever since. Maybe I’m not so far gone. My brain and body haven’t completely broken down on me yet. But I bet I’m a lot older than my face might portray.