I’ve become somewhat convinced that I’m doomed to be forever “out of step” with where someone of my age — whatever it is at the time — is “supposed” to be.
I’ve been aware of this since I was a kid. While I had some friends in my peer group — many of whom are still friends today, and some of whom are even attending my wedding next month — when I was younger, I always found myself gravitating towards people who were older than me.
There were a few reasons for this, depending on who the person in question was, but mostly it was due to the fact that I never quite felt like I “fit in” with my peer group. I wasn’t into football, I didn’t know much about popular music — I was mercilessly mocked for my first ever album purchase being Oasis’ Definitely Maybe literally a day before (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory came out — and I was into things that were seen as a bit… I don’t know, specialist? Nerdy? Music (i.e. playing and composing, rather than popular) and computer games, mainly — and while I did have some friends who shared at least some of these interests, I always found myself wondering if I was a bit more into these things than they were.
And so it was I found myself being able to relate somewhat better to people who were a little older and less susceptible to that bugbear of adolescence, peer pressure. My brother’s girlfriend at the time — some ten years my senior — helped me discover a love for tabletop and role-playing games through Hero Quest and Space Crusade. Certain friends of my parents proved to be more appreciative of my musical skills than my peer group. And I always wanted to hang out with my brother and his friends whenever they were around — even though I was also aware that I was the annoying little brother.
I find myself comparing how I was then to how I am now, and realise that I am now in almost the inverse situation: just recently, I am finding myself relating to and getting along with people somewhat younger than myself rather than, again, my peer group.
At thirty-four years of age, there’s less in the way of “peer pressure” in the same way there was at school, but in a way it’s still there in a more insidious form. People I know are getting married, buying houses and even having kids — I’ve done two out of those three things, and don’t have any intention of doing the other in the immediate future — and there’s always this slight undercurrent feeling like I should be more “grown up” than I am.
Part of this anxiety comes from my woes in the job market over the years. Of my past employment, I was made redundant from one, signed off sick with stress from the next, bullied out of the one after, quit before I killed myself with the following one, made redundant again with the one after that, screwed over at short notice with the one after that and ultimately, again, bullied out of another job, partly as a result of my depression and anxiety issues. So it’s fair to say that all that has mounted up somewhat and made me feel more than a bit inadequate and “behind” where I “should” be at the age of thirty-four.
In a way, though, I also don’t want to “grow up”. I love the things I love, and I feel like the things I’ve discovered I love most recently are things that speak to me pretty much more than anything I’ve been into in the past. And exploring those things a step at a time has brought me into contact with a variety of new, exciting and interesting people whom I’m keen to get to know a bit better, as they seem to kind of “get” me. Or, at least, “get” the stuff I’m into.
Thing is — and I don’t know for certain, but have strong suspicions — these people are quite a bit younger than me. Oh, they’re not schoolkids or anything like that, I hasten to add — most are in their early to mid twenties, I believe — but I am conscious of it. And I’m grateful to them for — so far, at least — accepting me for who I am and not giving a shit about my age as much as I apparently do.
So is all this a problem? I couldn’t say. It’s just been on my mind a bit recently — I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. Ultimately I can’t help but feel that doing things that make you happy and sane are more important than the things society says you “should” be doing at any given age. And so, until I find myself in a situation where it’s simply impossible to — and I hope that day never comes — I plan on staying just the way I am for now, and see where life takes me from here.