You know you’re old when your idea of a good sale is five cents off toilet paper, when the thought of new groceries makes you salivate more than all of Pavlov’s dogs put together, or when it’s four in the morning and your skin is encased with cold, needle-like icicles because you refuse to turn on the heater and pay extra for PG&E.
It was my birthday on Sunday and according to the cashier at Trader Joe’s, I look even older than I really am. After carefully examining my reflection beneath the blinding radiance of no less than eight light bulbs, for no less than eight minutes, I noticed something unusual…
The face gazing back at me looked frighteningly familiar. As evidenced by the matching bags beneath our eyes, the parentheses wrinkles enclosing our lips and the stress-induced grouchiness which often dominates our temperaments — the similarities between me and my mom were growing with every passing second.
I never wanted to adopt the habits of incessant foot-tapping, hair-wrenching, fingernail-biting and eyebrow-knotting; I had always hoped to happily bypass any collagen-destroying manifestations of old age and anxiety.
But there I was, on day 6,935, half-crazed with sleep-deprivation, pacing about while scribbling to-do lists, carrying more responsibilities than a see-saw has children or a bathroom scale has pounds, and doing all I could to manage my life as a (nearly) independent woman.
I feel old. I certainly still act like I’m eight when I have the free time to do so, but that time is becoming increasingly sparse. I am almost afraid to sit here typing at my computer, because if I get too consumed by work, I may inadvertently take that final step into adulthood — a dreamless land of cold efficiency and dull prudence.
So in the midst of my 19th birthday, I found myself entangled in the angry whirlwind of a mid-midlife crisis.
Then I received my presents: stickers, bubble-wrap, a cute mini tea set and Pokémon cards.
My friends and I ended up maniacally jumping on the bubble-wrap, playing hide-and-seek and games of worst-case-scenario, having staring contests and watching animated movies.
I think we succeeded in reversing the clock. It felt nice to temporarily forget college stress and have some good, anachronistic junior-high fun.
Of course, it’s impossible to permanently avoid the responsibilities that come with your false, misleading and unnecessary numerical age. Some days you’ll just have to sit down and get your work done before taking a break is even plausible.
Nonetheless, it is not the quantity of your breaks, but their quality that matters. So rather than spending your free time washing the couch with your drool as you stare mouth agape at a mundane television screen, why not rediscover your poor, neglected Lego sets that are gathering dust in forgotten corners?
Better yet, you can go to Target and spend a glorious hour browsing for toys. The games and contraptions for children nowadays are even more exciting than the ones available when we were kids!
The circumstances of your life — your duties, your residences, your relationships, your dreams — will rarely remain constant. But even though life may be hard to reign, you always have the power to retain your youth if you so please.
When the shock of older age hurls you off your feet and spins your thoughts into a terrifying tornado of Doom, make sure to stand your ground and clutch the nearest stuffed animal available for comfort.
So even if your excitement for free coupon books rivals that for presents on Christmas eve, even if you find yourself visiting Costco just to indulge in free samples and escape the sorry scorn of a refrigerator as empty as your starving stomach, you must not lose hope!
While college might attempt to impose upon you the effects of age at an alarming pace, for now you are certainly capable of shoving them aside. Good luck!
Make ZENITA feel important by telling her your secret eight-year-old pastimes at firstname.lastname@example.org.