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The Perfect Age
Many of us can't wait to be the perfect age; but what exactly is that age? Is it the age when we will finally find the right one and get married, or when we can legally drink alcohol, or is it when we are settled with families of our own later in life? For every individual, it is a different age and a different dream waiting to be fulfilled. However, once this age finally arrives, it quickly disappears and we revert back to being unhappy.
Have you ever noticed how when you are young, you cannot wait to be old, but once you are old, you yearn to be young again? Why are we never fully content with the "now" in our lives? I remember when I was younger playing with my older cousin. It was in the late eighties, which meant the Madonna craze was in full force. She and I would dress up in our parents clothes and pretend to be twenty-something-year-old Madonna. Similarly, my brother used to dress in my dad's suits and pretend to be a businessman going to an important meeting. At such young ages we could not wait to be older, like our parents.
Another common childhood game is "house." Girls must remember having a fight with other girls as to who will be the father. No girly girl wanted to be the guy. They want to be the mommy and wife, pretending to cook and take care of the kids. At such a young age, kids look up to their parents and desire to imitate them. This is a classic example of not being happy with the "now."
Yet another stage in life where kids want to be older is in the middle school age. Many people hate middle school because it's such a difficult time. People are maturing and trying to figure out who they really are, while in the meantime they make some dumb friendships and some good ones. I know at my school, during seventh and eighth grade is when a lot of kids try cigarettes, drinking, and other drugs. Smoking cigarettes is legal at eighteen, and drinking at twenty-one. Drugs are not legal at any age, but supposedly it is something that an older person would try.
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Who can overlook those fun years of high school? High school is supposed to prepare you for college, or so they say, but in reality it does little to prepare you. The only way it helps is by introducing you to the same people you have known your entire life. Cliques in high school do not change, as they are the same people you have seen your whole life throughout school. Academically, most high schools try to help you mature so college will not come as such a shock. In this sense, a maturing of age is almost forced upon you, and for a lot of people, it takes more than just four years to mature.
The college years- so many people reminisce about these years when they are older. When I tell people that I am going to college, nine times out of ten I get, "oh I remember college...I wish I were there now," amongst other similar reactions. Sometimes when I talk to people they just keep telling me story after story about some of their college experiences and what I should and should not do. It is nice having a helping hand, however sometimes I would rather figure things out on my own.
Most people have only good things to say about college. These are years that many people would love to relive if they were ever given the opportunity. College introduces people to freedom. There is no curfew, no rules (though there are some of course), and it is up to you to balance work and fun. It is an introduction to the real world and responsibility. These are things that high school kids, especially seniors, cannot wait to experience.
What about life after college; is there anything to look forward to then? You have to then get a job, perhaps try settling down in a house or apartment, and even find that special someone. The post-college years can prove to be stressful for many people. They have to use all those skills they learned in college in the real world, like responsibility and balancing work and play. But it can be very beneficial once you find the right person, the right house, and you know what you want to do with your life.
Skipping a few years ahead, you may reach the ever so dreaded midlife crisis. A midlife crisis is defined as a period of emotional turmoil in middle age characterized especially by a strong desire for change (Webster's). You have a job, a spouse, some kids, and a house with a white picket fence. What is there to look forward to now? Getting older? All your fun years seem to be diminishing faster and faster and nothing changes- you yearn to be young again. You miss the freedom of just hanging out with friends and doing nothing in particular. People deal with midlife crises in a variety of different ways.
Often movies depict the changes that occur within a person, as he grows older. A somewhat recent movie that demonstrates an older man's second wind in life is "Father of the Bride: II." The main plot is that George Banks, played by Steve Martin, has a daughter and wife who are both pregnant at the same time. George was going into a midlife crisis, and reacted by coloring his hair lighter, and selling his house to move to the beach. In the process of his rejuvenation, he and his wife conceived another child.
A real life example of a man going through a midlife crisis is the father of a friend of mine. He is in his late forties, and is dying to be twenty-one again. He traded in his 1999 Ford Mustang for a 2001 model- just for fun. The he bought the CD, "Pulse," which was advertised on television. This CD contains such hits as "Beautiful Life" by Ace of Base, and other early nineties dance hit classics. This CD was probably not made for people in their forties. He also goes to the gym daily, for hours at a time (Wood).
Many parents deal with midlife crises by dressing in the latest styles in an effort to remain young, hip, and with it. I know of some mothers who wear bell-bottom jeans and only the latest designer names. Not all parents are like this, however, mine, for example, are not at all interested in the latest styles. Personally, I do not dress that trendy, and my father does not like half the clothes I wear. He is very old-fashioned when it comes to the latest styles. Anyone wearing baggy pants is automatically labeled "an idiot," according to my father. These reactions are another sign of age, but it is a different type of sign.
My father never hit a midlife crisis, but he is, and always will be, young at heart in several ways. The first is that he acts like a little kid a lot. He watches cartoons and is as happy as a duck playing on the lawnmowers at Home Depot. He is also young at heart because he does not accept change very well at all. He grew up post- World War II and he lived through Vietnam and all other kinds of historical events of the sixties and seventies. He unfortunately, still has some of his shirts from the seventies and tries to wear them, but my mother never lets him out of the house.
He has a lot of old-fashioned ways in that sense. He hates a lot of styles now and would rather wear jeans and a T-shirt everyday than the clothes they sell at GAP. He did not "love" any of my prom dresses because they were not puffy, elegant, ball gowns that were classy in the forties and fifties. However, my dresses were not super modern either. His age is shown by his reactions to changes in social patterns. I find that people of my generation seem to be more understanding of people's differences, whether it is sexuality, clothing, the music they listen to, or any other factors. I often yell at my father when he criticizes or generalizes about people because of something as simple as they hair color. This is a big distinction between generations.
Age will always be a touchy subject to many people. When you are young, you are proud to say you are eighteen or twenty-four. But older people are hesitant to say they are forty-six or fifty-two. In this day and age, fifty-two is not even that old. People are living to be so much older now than ever before. Every day and ever year of someone's life should be a great experience to make your whole life fulfilled. It is true that some years may be more exciting than others, but that doesn't mean you cannot try new things to rejuvenate yourself. Midlife crises should not exist. I feel that if you are starting to feel old, than you should find a new hobby, sign up for a dance class, or go to the gym and lose a few pounds, if it will make you feel better. With age comes wisdom.
I have my own personal goals that encompass this issue with age, and I guess I will never know if I am able to fulfill these goals until I reach that age. A dream of mine has always been to be married relatively young, hopefully by twenty-six. I have always wanted to travel a lot with my husband, possibly for years, before we decide if we want children. I do not want to have children past the age of thirty-three. Actually, as of right now I have no desire to even have children, but I am sure that will change in a few years. I am waiting for my perfect age to arrive in six or seven years. Until then, I am living the college life and loving every minute of it. Remember, you only live once.
Andrea Priest holds the copyright to this essay.