Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Pivotal Age: Pre-Birthday Musings on Chronological Age

Odell Park should be renamed Idyll Park
 So, my birthday is in just over a week. Typically, I recognize my own birthday out of a sense of an obligation to do so. Since the all-important 19th birthday, no temporal milestone has seemed nearly as relevant as those tied to achievements. I'm not sure why - the eve of a birthday was historically the only evening as suspenseful as Christmas Eve for most of my childhood. The polish is off, now.

I figure a part of that is that there's no longer a "feature" unlocked by my age. Chronological age doesn't entitle me to new rights, abilities, pay grades, or opportunities. In point of fact, a number of the rights attached to age haven't really impacted my life all that heavily and to be honest there were a few of those rights for which the age of responsibility should perhaps be elevated.

A running joke among my friends (and, increasingly, my co-workers, given the increasingly long time I tend to stay in one place) is that I'm already an old man, even when I'm often the youngest person in a group (though this is less common now among my co-workers as more and more teenagers join the work-force over the summer). In point of fact, "old man" is a sort of unrecognized byword for most of my mannerisms - mostly tied to my love of vests, sweaters, tea, and a certain ornery, almost stubborn attitude I unintentionally cultivate. I don't feel old per-se. True, I often feel older than the people I'm around (even when this is not true), and to be fair, that's a bit of an arrogant assumption in my mind.

See, when I was younger, I always associated age with maturity, and it's certainly true as a generality that there's a correlation there. However, a certain point came in the last few years where I realized that wasn't true. I've met immature individuals in their fourties and fifties (and beyond), and wound up hanging around with people far younger than me who made me feel like an irresponsible child.

And that's the key, really, is the way we define maturity. We often associate it with what we can do - voting, smoking, drinking, driving (preferably not the latter two together), and to a certain extent, that becomes what we mean by mature.

But the reason those activities were always privileges tied to age and not inherent rights was because of concerns of the consequences of those activities, when carried out by those too immature to properly weight the consequences. It's why children can't make their own medical decisions - if I was allowed to have made those calls I'd probably never have taken a single blood test, and as a result we'd never have found a medication to make me relatively stable.

More Odell Park.
Having said all of that, I'm still not sure what maturity means, which is why I can't say I'm more or less mature than I was before. I'm certainly more responsible in certain areas than I was in the past - my brother's birthday in a few weeks also marks the longest period of time I've had a single place of employment without incident, and the promotion I recently received probably underscores that. What's more, a few months ago I also celebrated my single-longest continuous stretch of employment, where the two jobs I had most recently overlapped, meaning I've now been gainfully employed for a little over a year.

But life is more than working, and maturity is more than employment. What I've gained in work-ethic, I haven't gained everywhere. I'm only just starting to get a handle on treating my belongings with appropriate care, and even then, there are screw-ups.

So, am I mature? Illogical question. Am I more mature for having lived a year longer than the last time I asked myself this question? I should say so.

And there's always room to grow. Otherwise, why bother counting from one birthday to the next?

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