There’s always going to be someone older than you. It starts with your parents. Maybe an older sibling or two. But you’re never going to be the oldest person alive. (Barring your ability to live to be 120.) You might end up being the oldest person you know, but realistically, there will always be someone to tell you that you’re not really that old.
This might sound a bit rich coming from a guy that’s only 31. My age is still puts me well within the “young” category, at least in relative terms. I’m not “starting out university” young or “backpacking in Europe for six months” young, I’m the “still building up a career” kind of young. That really means that only teenagers and 20-somethings wouldn’t think of me as young. And yet I’ve had a 35-year-old tell me I’m still young. So which is it?
I feel more old than I feel young. I don’t have kids but I bemoan how kids act today. I don’t have the physical problems that come with advancing age, but I do have some of the financial concerns. I still like going to bars but only if I leave before midnight. I have unreasonably ambitious dreams that conflict with the ever-increasing reasonableness of a steady paycheque. I can have regrets about the life I didn’t live while I’m still living it.
I know I’m young enough that I could make a drastic life change if I wanted to, but I would have to think long and hard about if that was the responsible thing to do. The reality is that we’re always going to be younger than someone else, even when we’re older. There will be moments where we feel young and others where we feel old (I’m looking at you, Vitamin C supplement). And yet we still always seem to want to compare our lives to those of younger people.
It can be people just two years younger than you or ten years. But if you see someone doing something at age 25 that you hadn’t achieved by 30 it can start to feel like you missed some kind of opportunity, regardless of whether it was one that was never presented to you or one you were never interested in. It creates that feeling of “If only I had done that in my 20s, I would be doing this other thing in my 30s or 40s.”
I find myself more envious of people who achieve some quick level of success in their mid-20s than I am of someone in their 50s with a lengthy, sustained career of success. And that’s ridiculous. For almost everyone, success doesn’t happen overnight. That applies to success in work, relationships, hobbies or any other pursuit. It takes a lot of hard work and lot of trying and failing (insert generic DIY mantra here). So why do we idolize young people who have achieved some title or other token of accomplishment when we really don’t know much of how they came by it?
According to a lot of other people, I’m still young. If I achieve one of my life goals by the time I turn 35, there’s going to be some 45-year-old out there who will be envious of me. Same goes if I achieve something at 50. There will be a 60-year-old who only sees a failure in his own life. But he’s not that old. He’s still got time. Just like everyone else.