When I was 18, I graduated from high school with no idea of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go afterward. My top-choice colleges hadn’t accepted me, and I wasn’t interested in my safety schools. Frozen by indecision, I spent what I called my “limbo year” serving coffee to the un-caffeinated white-collar working masses in the early hours, and taking yoga classes at night. My yoga instructor said something that has stuck with me since: “You’re only as young as your spine feels.”
I had a moment during every milestone, every life change, that I was “growing up.” I moved out of my parents’ house at 19. I lived on my own when I was 22. I got a “real job” when I was 23. I got married at 24. I started a business when I was 25.
And yet now… I don’t feel grown up. Any time I look back on these reflections, it’s like it happened to some other person. She pays the rent. She covers her own health insurance. She cooks meals, balances the budget, has her own credit card, knows how to drive, can apply mascara. Who is this woman?
Sometimes, I see myself as others might see me. I sing along to NSYNC in my car (loudly). Whenever I get into an elevator with a mirror as part of the wall, I always stick my tongue out at my reflection, like I’m five. I collect sparkly nail polish and reward myself with cookies after a heinously bad day. I still have acne, which makes me wonder if people gauge my age as “teen” instead of “late twenties.” I got carded when I went to see Black Swan.
I’m 27 years old and some days my spine sags and I feel like I’m 47; some days my spine feels spry and limber and I feel 17.
How is one supposed to feel at 27? What is the “right” way to feel? to act? to be?
I have no answers and I suspect there are none. Even my friends who are my age, who have children, act the same way I do. They hold down jobs, they take care of their lives, and they raise their kids, while blasting NSYNC and eating cookies and sometimes acting like kids themselves.
It’s just something I’ve been thinking about as my life is prepared to move forward again, as I reach another big milestone. We are only as young as our spines feel.