There Are No "Chapters" of Your Life
I'm still the same boy who got in fist fights in 4th and 5th grade, who had my first kiss in the back seat of my Dad's SUV; the same kid who looked at pixelated, dirty pictures on the internet, got A's and F's on tests, and stressed out at the opinions of my "peers" while somehow trying to figure out my plans for the future in high school.
I'm still the young man who wasn't sure about my first business, made a ton of money, watched it all slip away, and had hours of philosophical and political debates with the interested and disinterested. I'm still the guy who got distracted, drank too much, put on weight, and felt depressed about the way my life was "headed" and I'm still the guy who re-discovered himself, re-engaged in the moment and started putting his life back together after the loss of his father, his business, and his confidence.
You aren't defined by your age, you are defined by your experiences.
People talk about life like it is this series of chapters. That, somehow, once we've gone through a "chapter" the door has closed and we must move on. Some look on the glory days as though we are not still living out that same story right now. Some look to the future as some distant, separate life. The truth? The future is just tomorrow. No more magnanimous or serious than today. It's the decisions - not the time that defines us.
You're still the same person. At some point you transitioned from child to adult in the eyes of others, but in your personal human experience you're still that same child - a little smarter, a little more experienced, a little better.
People talk about the "age of reason" as if a child somehow reaches a magical age where the maturity gods descend and anoint them with adult perspective. That's ridiculous. From the moment you are born, you live, you make decisions, you learn. There is no "age" of reason. There is just however long it takes you to learn life's lessons and get better at making decisions (something that is, surprise, a never-ending pursuit.)
Some people want to "stay young" so they avoid making decisions and experiencing life. Some people think children need to stay "innocent" as long as possible. What is innocence? Being free from wrongdoing. But how are we to learn and how are we to grow if we don't make mistakes? As a child, the best way to not make "mistakes" and to maintain your "innocence" is to make no decision at all. "Just go along with society's plan, and everything will be ok." But that strategy begins to fall apart when we re-join the rest of society after school. In the real world, that world we "protect" our children from, you don't make a decision, someone makes it for you and you're screwed.
After all, what is a child other than you, in the present moment, without the lessons you've learned, the perspective you've gained, the "maturity" of your life's experience?
The truth of this is indisputable. You know it, because you feel it. I've never met an older person who didn't feel like their youth was just yesterday. It is ludicrous to delay "growing up" until "adulthood" because adulthood itself is the definition of growing up, so too is delaying the transition into wisdom equally as absurd.
Why do you have to be old and grayed to be sage? Why can't a young man who has gone through many hardships, experienced many triumphs, and discovered meanings in life that his many of his elders have yet to happen upon, not be wise simply because of his age? Why can't a young woman, who has experienced the life-altering experience of childbirth and having another human being completely dependent on her not be considered "experienced" because she did so at a younger age than her contemporaries?
Your life is a continuum, not a series of chapters. When you embrace this, you live in the moment with gratitude for the grace of your past experiences. The inalterable reality of your past, good or bad, has prepared you for the choices you get and are capable of making today. Your past performance has no bearing on your future because in the past, you didn't have the experience that you have now. Who knows, that last "mistake" might be just the one you needed to grow into the person who will break through.
My advice to anyone who struggles with their age, whether they think they are too old or too young to do something is this: you aren't defined by your age, you are defined by your experiences. You are still that youthful, energetic soul that gazed, expectantly, into the mystery of your future. And, if you choose to be, you are already that stoic soul who can reverently reflect upon your past and appreciate the experience as the ever-evolving recipe for you ever-transcending paradigm.