Most of the time, I go about my daily routine and don’t really think about it too deeply. But there are times when the reality of my situation hits me like a ton of bricks, and that reality is that I’m not a teenager anymore. I know, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it? But I have a wife and two kids and a mortgage, and all of that is pretty good evidence that I am not, in fact, a teenager. Not only that, but the magic of the interwebs has allowed me to recently reconnect with some people who I haven’t seen since high school, and shockingly, they aren’t teenagers any more either! What is this world coming to?
Okay so, I haven’t been a teenager for almost 11 years now (if you assume that one becomes an adult at the age of 18), so it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to me that my teenage days have come and gone. And for the most part, I’ve accepted the fact that I am now a full-fledged adult. But there are times when I sit and reflect and… holy crap I’m really not a teenager anymore. Wow.
Recent events helped this fact to hit home for me. A few months ago, I filled in for my wife while she was on maternity leave. She teaches 8th grade, so her students are just entering their teen years. That was an eye-opening experience on many levels, but one thing that particularly struck me was that when I was their age, they weren’t even born yet. How is that for making a person feel old?
There were a couple of interesting factors at play in this situation. First of all, I’m a pretty socially awkward person. So I didn’t exactly connect very well with other teenagers even when I was a teenager. Because of this, I didn’t really figure that I would connect with teenagers very well as a 28-year-old. And for the most part, I was right. On the other hand, I’m not one of those people that romanticizes the things that I was into as a teenager, like music. I still like the music I listened to as a teenager, but I also make sure that I’m keeping up with what’s going on in current day music as well. So I figured that I would have heard of most, if not all, of the things they were into. But they managed to surprise me, at least a little bit.
In regards to music, it wasn’t so much that they listened to anything that I hadn’t heard of, but rather that their musical tastes were different than I expected. Oddly, this is one area of my subbing experience that made me feel less old, because I kind of expected that, in this day and age of easy accessibility to almost any music one could imagine via the internet, their musical tastes might be a little bit more eclectic than what was common when I was 14, but it seemed like they mostly just listened to popular stuff. In that regard, nothing had changed since I was in junior high. But other things certainly have.
See, when I was 14, the internet probably existed, but I had certainly never heard of it. I didn’t start using the internet until I was a sophomore in high school, and then it was on a painfully slow connection in the school library. My friends and I didn’t use the internet to communicate with each other, even in high school. But these kids, they don’t know a time when there wasn’t an internet. And they know about all these crazy websites and do things with the internet that never would have occurred to me to do. And I’m not exactly internet illiterate. I would spend 24 hours a day on the internet if I didn’t have to sleep and take care of my kids and spend time with my wife and whatnot. So that makes me feel old.
The crazy thing about this whole topic is that I am not, of course, old. I turn 29 in a couple weeks. That’s really not very old. And I’m sure that in twenty years, when I’m almost 50, I’ll look back at this blog post and think “what the heck was I even blathering on about back then?” The thing is, my teen years seemed like they crawled along. I was so anxious to get out of school and get started on “real life.” And then I graduated from high school, and time has utterly flown by since then. It’s been almost 11 years since I graduated and I still sometimes get that “waiting for life to start” feeling. And then I realize that I have a wife and two kids and a bachelor’s degree! Life has started! I’ve already lived a whole bunch of it!
My biggest fear in this regard is that I’m going to keep “waiting for life to start” and end up missing my children growing up. I’m so used to waiting for and being excited for “the next big thing” that I have a hard time just living in the moment and enjoying life as it is. My son is already 4 years old. Those 4 years have slipped by quite quickly, and sometimes I feel like I wasted that time because I was so focused on what was going to happen next. I want to slow down time and enjoy my children while they are young. It’s difficult though. I’ve really been trying harder to focus on the present with my daughter and not miss out on so much. But she’s already 6 months old, and it feels like she was born just a couple of days ago. So I guess time flies whether you want it to or not. Next thing I know they’re going to be all grown up and having children of their own. And then, I will REALLY feel old.
Postscript: The day after I wrote the first draft of this post, I went to the school to pick up my son, and I was told by two of the students in my wife’s class that I’m old. I thought that was appropriate, considering the topic of this post. I just console myself with the fact that, someday, those kids will be old too.