I have spent a lot of time thinking about age lately. I find myself in a new category, while not so young as to lack experience, I am not yet considered mature, or older. I seem to exist in a vague bridge hanging between youth, adulthood, experience, miles, vanity, and acceptance. In this odd place, a place surrounded in mist and fog, where I catch glimpses of my youth, and visions of what my future will be, age and the age we look seem to have the most value.

In this new realm I have lost all sense of age, I seem to think I am the same age as anyone, the 18-year-old airman bursting with life and what ifs, and those who have gained the maturity to enjoy their place in life. Depending on the day and circumstances, I am filled with an awe and wonder of life, or the quiet calm that comes with experience. It was in this place that I found myself a few weeks ago.

I have been following the development of Barack Obama’s new podcast series Renegade: Made in the USA. The idea of a deep friendship between an iconic rock star, a man who has not faltered from speaking his mind through his music, Bruce Springsteen, and a former president intrigues me. How can two such polar opposite men, or at least those who appear to be so polar opposite, have such a deep friendship? What could I learn from them, what perspectives and wisdom?

As I have followed the development of this podcast, I found an article in the British edition of GQ. Surely an article written by a journalist from another country would hold a new perspective, perhaps even an answer on how this friendship started and how it has grown. I didn’t make it past the first paragraph. I know both of these iconic men, I lived in New Jersey for over nine years and call it and California my home, have more life experiences than me, but to call them middle age was a crime. I immediately stopped reading, my feelings stung and hurting, and wondered how could we be middle aged? I felt so young, so vibrant, so alive, in the photos from the podcast, these men looked every bit as full of life as me, so how had we hit middle aged?

I immediately googled their age and was shocked. I had forgotten I was almost 20 years younger than them, age has lost its relevance to me, life didn’t start until I turned 40, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted until that age, and I have loved every minute of this decade. A few days after reading the article, I was with a contractor getting an estimate for winter storm damage. Having caught me on the way to the gym, I had workout wear on, no makeup, and my hair pulled back with a million bobby pins. As we walked through the building, I was asked if I was the person in charge, as I responded yes, he said he hadn’t thought I was as I looked like I was in my mid-twenties. Shocked, I just continued through the walkthrough.

I think as a society we place too much emphasis on age. Age has come to represent milestones, signify maturity and wisdom, but age does not signify any of these things. I know 60-year-olds who have the maturity levels of a 10 year-old, and 4 year-olds with more wisdom than our leaders. Miles and experience should be the indicators we use to measure milestones. What we have accomplished and lived through, experience will indicate our emotional intelligence and maturity. Age is irrelevant. Working through this journey has forced me to look at myself and my practices. Yes, I still dress the same way I did in high school, and that is not going to change, but my makeup, the gray hairs that poke through, the smile lines around my face, those I have earned, and the need to hide them is slowly slipping away.

I love to hear from my readers. You can reach me at believestrengthpassion@gmail.com.

Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton.

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