Age and Expectation
There’s something unprecedented about time. It’s an intangible concept that is not completely true or false. It means, says and creates a different thing, in a different place to each and every person. Even within a single timezone, we are all running at different times; some of us have too much and most of us have too little. And with this concept of time comes the even stranger concept of ageing. If we measured time simply by the length of daylight we’d age slower in the winter and faster in the summer. We’re ageing five hours ahead in London and five behind in New York. Age is fundamentally an abstraction, but like time it’s very much a truth. Ageing is evident in physicality, spirit and mentality. As we age we grow, (and idealistically) learn and intelligently develop. But also like time, age means something divergent to different people, places and cultures. 25 years old in one culture may mean married and settled, while in another it’s a time for building the foundations of which to settle on, getting home at 6am after a night out, or dating as if it were an occupation.Which raises the subject of expectation and age.
“It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe
With every age comes an expectation. Hopes and dreams are built on the future and more often than not age. We’ve all said or heard variations of ‘I want (blah blah blah) by 25/30/40’ etc. We base our life around goal post and milestones, which are subsequently based around age; these goal posts are the platform for which we direct our development and progression, but goal post, milestones and expectations may also present limitations. A sense of direction may be the driving force that encourages you to focus at school, to put in the extra work for a promotion, to date the right people or attend that party. Direction is nothing but good, but high expectation can act like restricting blinkers; when expectations aren’t met direction can become stunted, it may also feel fruitless. Of course, direction is driven by an expectation of what will be gained once goals are achieved, but where age is concerned life is certainly not coherent and so to some extent expectations shouldn’t be too. Of course, an aimless life is as restricting as one that’s meticulously scheduled by the hour, day, month, year and age, but perhaps a subtle sense of aimless allows life to be experienced to the fullest.
Age is not anything but a number (definitely pre eighteen years old), but age in adult years is theoretical. By theory, in the western world, we should have careers by 30 and children by 35, and of course, this differs for men and women due to the pleasure of patriarchy (hopefully sarcasm can be read), and these expectations steer and in some ways limit the choices that we make. If someone believes that they must be married by the age of 30 they may settle for someone simply because they’re 27 and ‘still’ single, if someone believes that they should move out of their parent's house by 25 they may stay in a dead-end 9-5 rather than pursuing a dream career. Expectations may also weaken self-esteem. It’s easy to believe that you are inadequate when life doesn’t meet the expectations and benchmarks that are built around a vain obsession with the number of years of which we have lived. The strange thing about age is that it is constant and predictable unlike most things in life, and placing predictable markers on each mountainous 'milestone' that we reach is both perceptive and perverse. Perhaps the perfect equilibrium of age and expectation is to base little merit on either while acknowledging that the present is gently nudging our future existence.