Usually, I don’t care about getting older. I’m often so excited about my birthday that I forget it means I’ve aged another year. I have no problem with grey hairs (in fact, I actively tried to dye my hair grey but it didn’t work) and I still get asked for ID on a regular basis, so the older I get, the more flattering that becomes. Up until now, age for me has really been nothing more than a number but on Monday I turned 27 and, at the risk of sounding dramatic, I’m pretty sure I’m having a quarter-life crisis.
OK, so perhaps it’s not “a quarter life crisis” exactly as that would take me up to the ripe old age of 108, and I am way too unhealthy to assume I’m making it to triple digits, but I am now officially in my late 20s. I’m aware a lot of people who read this will be over 27 and chuckling at my calling late 20s “old”, but for the first time I actually feel it. I am definitively no longer one of the young people at church. University is merely a distant memory. Singing Taylor Swift’s ‘22’ right now would be downright laughable. I’m staring down the barrel of *gulp* my thirties, but I don’t feel a day older than I did 10 years ago.
I don’t feel like a person in their late 20s. I go to weddings but it still feels like playing dress up. Friends come round for dinner and it’s a bit weird that we’re all sat around drinking wine and talking about work. I had to file a tax return last week and the sheer adult-iness of the whole thing had me close to tears (for “close to” read “in actual”). My inner child is raging against the cold, hard evidence: I am a grown up now. I’m married. I have a mortgage. And the whole thing is frankly disgusting.
But while my inner child protests about my adult life, the rest of me is panicking that I haven’t done enough for 27. 27 seemed so old when I was a kid. At 27, my parents already had one baby and I was on the way. At 27, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. At 27, Ernest Hemingway published his first novel. And that’s not even mentioning all the people who did brilliant things before they were 27, or all the people I know filling up my Facebook feed with all their amazing achievements. I’ve been on this planet for almost three decades, and what have I done with them?
Does this feeling ever go away? Is there a person on the planet who a) feels their own age and b) feels like they’ve accomplished enough for that age? I’m starting to get the sinking feeling that we all get a touch of the 27 crisis every year; that birthdays are a reminder of the clock slipping away from us, and taking our opportunities with it; that we never really get to the point where we have it “all figured out”, and each year we get more and more frustrated with ourselves for our failings. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that idea. In fact, it’s dampening my birthday buzz. So, let’s change that. Right now.
Let’s stop looking at birthdays as reminders that we’re not where we thought we’d end up by now, and start celebrating all the good things about birthdays: cake, presents and being centre of attention (or is that just me?) No matter how old you are, let’s stop listing all the things we should have accomplished, and start focusing on the amazing things that we do have in our lives. No I haven’t published that novel yet, or even written it, but if you’d have told 17-year-old Chloe that she was going to start a charity with her friends and become Deputy Editor of the best magazine ever (in her humble opinion) by the time she was 27, she never would have believed you. That’s the problem with focusing on the “should-haves” – there are plenty of awesome “shouldn’t haves but dids” that you forget.
And for the things you still wish you had achieved, don’t spend your birthday lamenting your failure – use this as momentum to go out there and get it done. Another birthday means another year has passed and you’re still here. And if you’re still here, you still have time. You can still do something. You can still change the world if you want to. Only, now, you have another year of experience under your belt. You may still feel 10 years younger than you actually are but now you have the wisdom and growth and resources of someone 10 years older. That’s not something to freak out about; that’s a dangerous and powerful combination.
And in the meantime, if anyone wants to get me a birthday present to help me deal with my mid-life crisis, I imagine a bottle of prosecco would be immensely helpful…
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti