A younger friend recently asked why I (and many others my age) make so many comments about being old. After some thought, I realized a big part of this was related to experiencing specific meaningful life stages during the pandemic.
In 2019, I could (and often did) stay up late at parties, survive on very little sleep, and run on my own willpower alone. I didn’t usually need to think too hard about any of this in terms of trade offs, and thus had the ability to be way more spontaneous about it all. If a friend invited me out, I could say yes that night, with no planning ahead, and have a good time.
Then lockdown hit, and everything shut down. During this time, I got divorced, turned 30, and made a bunch of other huge life changes. In normal times, I probably would have started to see my stamina decline. I would have noticed at first that my body would hurt more the day after a night out. Then I’d start to notice myself losing energy earlier and earlier. But things didn’t play out this way.
Instead, we were isolated, slowly watching culture change, with Gen Z gaining more control over social and pop culture as we learned to live online as they always had. Harry Potter wasn’t cool anymore, side parts were cringe, and it became clear how out of touch we were.
When things opened up years later, many of us found ourselves suddenly unable to keep up with our past selves. It feels like going out until 3 one night, and the next night, needing to leave at midnight. Suddenly we were no longer growing, but aging.
So when I call myself old, I’m not saying that my best years are behind me, or that I feel I’m nearing the end of my life. I think what I actually mean (and should be saying) is that I feel emotional whiplash from moving out of young adulthood into regular adulthood. It feels like I was robbed of the transition between the two. I wish we could have peacefully handed the baton off to the next generation, rather than waking up one day and finding it gone.