Milestone Miscalculation: Age vs. Expectations

I tend to stress more over non-monumental birthdays than over the traditional milestones. Twenty-one wasn’t that big of a deal in my mind. But twenty-two? It gave me that ohmygosh-I-am-so-old-that-21-is-no-big-deal feeling.

I turn 27 next week. I’ve been thinking about 27 a lot over the past few months. I’m pretty sure 27 means that I am in my late-20s. I’m really comfortable being in my mid-20s. I am also really comfortable with the idea of being 30. I can imagine my 30-year-old self. She’s mature. She’s fabulous–she’s maybe had a baby but you couldn’t tell by the hot bod she’s sporting. She’s wise, strong in her walk with Jesus, comfortable with who she is faults and all.

However, I think that near-perfect 30-year-old in my mind might be the problem. When I think 27, I don’t smile and think to myself, What a lovely woman I’m becoming! No, I think, Great, three more years until I face the disappointment I will be to myself at 30. Pressure’s on.

It’s like when I turned 16 and I thought I would be so much cooler–with the confidence and cup-size of all the 29-year-olds that play heavily-scripted 16-year-olds on TV. At 16, I noted the difference, felt like I’d been duped into having high expectations, and moved on. I imagine I’ll do the same at 30, but that’s not doing much to alleviate my 27-year-old performance anxiety.

The reaction older people often give to twenty-somethings when we talk about aging is, “You’re not old. Just wait until you see what old is. Relish your youth, your supple skin, your strong bones, and your iron stomach!” And then they look longingly at your fistful of curly-fries and pop a few Tums.

But the thing is, twenty-seven is the oldest I’ll ever have been. Compared to all the other ages I’ve been, twenty-seven is old. I am totally aware that 27 is younger than 40 and 93, and I’m not at all upset about getting older. I’m not mourning the slow and painful loss of my youth. I am wondering how to navigate the murky waters of becoming someone other than the person you thought you’d become.

Have you ever felt pressure to be awesome by a certain age? What did you do when the day of disillusionment came?

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6 thoughts on “Milestone Miscalculation: Age vs. Expectations

  1. Turning 30 was unusually hard. I had this picture in my head what a 30 yo should be like – and I so did not match it. For a good month, I struggled with why my 30 didn’t look as cool as other people’s 30. Until I realized, my 30 is way awesome. And that I needed to embrace what my 30 looks like, because it’s mine, unique and special, and better than what I could have ever really expected 30 to be.

    • Why is it that 30 is the age that one must become perfect? I used to think people dreaded 30 because they felt like life was over and that they were old…but now I imagine they must’ve been feeling a lot of pressure and disappointment.

  2. I had to smile as I read this. Twenty-seven was definitely the hardest birthday that I have ever had! I wasn’t really sure where I was going in life at that point. I felt that I was no longer “young”. Twenty-seven is a real adult. Being an adult wasn’t the problem, I love my adult years way more than my teen years. I liked how you put it, it’s the mourning of the passing of your youth. I was leaving my youth and didn’t really know where adulthood was going to take me. (That did change pretty quickly that year, but I didn’t know that as I approached my birthday.)

    I’m not very encouraging, but I guess the encouragement is that even now 14 years later and two big milestones under my belt, 27 still stands out in my mind as the worst.

    Happy Birthday a little early! You are an amazing woman. Thank Jesus for that!

    • Yes, that “I’m an adult but I don’t know where I’m going” feeling. I assume that a sense of direction eventually comes–that is encouraging, too. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone in my 27th birthday crisis!

  3. I went through that when I was in my late 20s and about to be 30. You are still figuring out who you are. And that’s okay. I think as long as you are growing and trying to live life to the fullest, you will not get stuck in the comparison game. You are you. Believe in yourself and enjoy each age. I just turned 40 and feel better and more alive than I did in my 30s. Glad you started blogging again after Quitter. Look forward to more from you!

  4. I went through something similar two months ago when I turned 26… and the day after I found my first grey hair. It suddenly hit me that I was closer to 30 than 20, and closer to having to have everything done from my 30 before 30 list.

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