A few weeks ago, I met up with two of my dearest college friends, Amanda and Kristina, in Knoxville for Garth Brooks’ show at the University of Tennessee. We usually manage to see one another about once a year, but with Amanda’s wedding and Garth’s one night Rocky Top appearance, we squeaked out three whole visits this year.
It was the first time I’d spent more than a few minutes on the University of Tennessee campus since graduating, but it felt a bit like a time warp, despite the new dorms and buildings. Just walking to Neyland Stadium brought back so many memories, memories that feel like they happened yesterday instead of nine plus years ago.
I graduated college on December 11, 2010. It was freezing cold and an ice storm was pending. My aunt Crissy, uncle Tim, and cousins Kiley, Courtney, Chloe, and Timothy drove nine hours from Arkansas to be there. Papa and Granny, my parents, and my siblings drove six hours from Virginia. They played Christmas music throughout Thompson-Boling Arena while we waited and Kiley texted me things like “don’t trip” during the ceremony. Papa wore the ridiculous newsboy hat he took a shine to in his last years of life, and had a lot of thoughts about Al Gore as the commencement speaker. Kiley texted me those too.
I remember every moment of that day, even though it was nine years ago.
A couple of weeks after Garth, I was at the gym chatting with one of my all-around favorite humans and coaches, Kevin, between sets of back squats. We were talking about my visit to Tennessee and always insightful, he said “I bet it feels like just yesterday that you were a student there instead of nearly ten years ago.”
He struck on something mentioned over dinner with Amanda and Kristina pre-Garth. We were reminiscing about college as we tend to do and one of us said, “I don’t feel like I’m in my thirties. I still feel like I’m 25.”
I cannot tell you how good it felt to hear someone else vocalize a thought I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with lately.
I don’t feel 33.
I don’t know what 33 is supposed to feel like, but I don’t feel like I’m 33. I, too, still feel like I’m 25. I still feel like the world is at my fingertips and that I can go anywhere I want, do anything I want, be anything I want.
Once in a while, I catch myself thinking about how behind I am in life. I’m not married, don’t have kids, don’t own my home, find my career “just okay.” I’ll sit and think “what’s wrong with me?” or else “is this all there is?” Especially when I want the marriage, the kids, the home, the dream career.
I don’t like it when I go down that path. I’m pretty good at recognizing my thoughts and playing the “Choose Again” game, a technique I learned from Gabby Bernstein’s Super Attractor book. I’ll recognize my negative thought patterns, say “thank you,” release them to the universe, and then choose another thought to bring myself back to a more positive place. Despite my best efforts, I can sometimes go pretty far down this path and hang out there for a while, despite the signs flashing all around me that the path is dangerous and I need to turn back.
At 33, there’s perhaps a societal expectation – particularly here in the south – that I be “further along.” I think that the tide is changing – I know a lot of thirty-somethings that are just like me: single, living in an apartment, trying to figure out their career, their life. More and more, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, with us. We’re “settling down” later, but when we do, we have a greater sense of who we are, what we want, and where we’re going. Even if society, maybe even our families, expect us to be somewhere else by bow.
I like that I don’t feel my age. In fact, I like not feeling my age even more than not looking my age. The college kids I coach gymnastics with are surprised when they find out I’m not in my twenties. I had to show someone my driver’s license to prove I was turning 33 on my last birthday. I didn’t hate that.
Right now, I feel a lot like I did nine years ago, freshly printed college degree in hand, singing “Rocky Top” one last time as a college student before moving my tassel from one side to the other and becoming an alum: like I could change my mind in an instant and go try something new. I can still chase dreams, hop on a plane to somewhere new, learn a new skill, pick up a new hobby. There’s nothing stopping me, least of all my age.
We don’t have much control over time. It ticks by whether we want it to or not, and when our time is up, it’s up. We don’t know how much time we have, whether its a few more hours or decades. We can all get wrapped around the hands of time, worried about arbitrary deadlines that seem to have passed us by or else stumbling down the “what’s wrong with me?” path when you get a Save The Date card in the mail from a younger cousin.
There’s that saying;
“You’re only as old as you feel.”
I really understand that saying now. I don’t feel 33. I feel 25 most of the time. Sometimes, I may feel 45, particularly when a training cycle is hitting its peak or the days feel a little extra long in my drab cubicle. There’s a lot of magic in embracing that feeling of youth, of believing you can wake up one morning and decide you’re going to give something new a try, change the direction of your life.
Magic. Maybe fear. But definitely magic.
I’m okay with feeling 25.
How old do you feel?