Age ‘Packages’ Are Bullshit

Photo by Marta Rastovac on Unsplash

I love perspective shifts. They’re like little surprises — I never know what it’s going to be or when I’m going to get it, but it always adds something special to my day.

Where did we all get the idea we’re a number? When? How did this happen?

Right now, I’m 40. And being 40 comes with a ‘package.’ All ages inexplicably and invisibly come with a package. It’s what is expected of you at that particular age; what you’re supposed to be doing, who you’re supposed to know, where you’re supposed to have been, and… on it goes.

Come again?

We human beings love labels, don’t we? It’s how we organize and make understandable all the stuff that makes up our environment. And labels aren’t an inherent evil. They’re very quite useful. Just not when, I think, we boil ourselves down exclusively to them. That’s when we take the tool and start beating ourselves over the head with it instead of constructing something helpful.

So I’ve just fed fuzzbutt (my cat) and I’m about to have a shower, and my thoughts are ricocheting like greased lightning around my skull. In betwixt the fear of no one will ever be willing to hire me and this isn’t how my forty was supposed to be and how is forty supposed to feel? I still feel seventeen… it hit me like a semi going seventy pulling triples.

Hold the phone.

Yeah. How is forty supposed to feel? What’s it supposed to look like? When did I become a damned number? Who decided this?! The important question: Why the hell am I listening?!

Like timelines, age ‘packages’ are bullshit.

Timelines and age packages are based on the expectation of linearity. Neat, tidy, and in a straight line. Predictable and repeatable. Exactly as planned.

Someone, somewhere, at some point, decided this was normal. Which means this is acceptable. Which means, by default, that anything non-linear, anything punctuated equilibrium, anything done out of order, is abnormal. Which means, by default, it’s bad. It’s unacceptable.

Newsflash: Non-linear is different, not wrong.

(And I’ll almost certainly get back around to dissecting that on another day)

You know why this age-expectation thing really is most irrational? Because none of us know how long we truly have. We like to think we do, we measure it out like we do. We end up boxing ourselves in, pressuring ourselves, restricting ourselves, fitting ourselves into ‘packages’ — all so we can fit it all in on the timeline, by the right age.

The saddest part is we almost never consciously choose this. It’s something we pick up and that is instilled in us just by virtue of being a human in a human society. We inherit it every bit as much as we inherit our physical genetics. Just like our heartbeat and our breathing, it runs involuntarily, in our subconscious, until with this earth we part.

Some people might call me middle-aged. Am I? I could die tomorrow of a heart attack. Or I could live to be one hundred twenty-five. From that perspective, in neither case am I middle-aged. Why, then, should I live exclusively by the expectations of it, define myself by it; let my goals and dreams and desires be dictated by that?

I think when we’re living, without the weight of external expectations (especially when we’ve not, with self-awareness, thoroughly examined them): we’re reaching, growing, learning, doing. We’re free. And when we’re free, this is when we progress and succeed. We thrive. This is when the impossible becomes possible. In a sense: when you don’t know what you can’t achieve, you’re capable of achieving anything.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right,” — Henry Ford

And I know we can’t entirely escape it. And I will concede that some of the expectations are not without use as a general guideline. I just think we need to develop the self-awareness to consciously choose for ourselves what works for us and what works against us out of those expectations, and question even if those expectations have a valid purpose at all.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln

I am going to start consciously living as a person — a whole being — and not a number. I’m going to simply live.

From now on, I’m not (just) forty. I’m alive.

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Until next time… don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!



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Diemut Metz

Diemut Metz

Curated life lessons, philosophical noodling, and exercises in perspective shift — through the eyes of a world-weary, but all the better for it, goth.