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?