Treading water between young and old

What I find so funny is that once you get solidly into your twenties, your horizon of people you deal with on a daily basis expands so widely. Think, high school, you deal consistently with people who are within 2 or 3 years of your age. The same is true in college. But once you leave college you have co-workers, fellow students (if you’re still in school), landlords, neighbors, your insurance agent, your doctor. You are thrown into society and you become just one of the many people that take up the daily energies of our race.

I find this transition endlessly fascinating, as I find myself with my feet in each end of spectrum of people. Just the other day I worked at a debate tournament, and I was working with a student of BU on the one hand and a roughly thirty something year old bachelor. I was talking with the BU student about his Friday night plans; he had various parties to go to and was eagerly telling me about his plans. The older person I was working with was telling me about his apartment that he had just moved to. One had no social standing in the world; he was in school just living it up. The other was the leader of an established organization who was looking to start a family.

And there was me. I could listen to the plans of a frat boy and joke around with him (mainly about girls), and I could sympathize and, in a vague way, sympathize with the older man who wanted to start a family and consecrate his impact and experience in this life. I am 25 years old and in the perfect middle between these two worlds. I have way too much work to be concerned about a social calendar’s worth of parties, but I sometimes get drunk and chase girls, and on the other hand, I don’t really care about housing other than to say I need a roof and a bed, but I can also see how certain things have to change as my responsibilities grow and change. At the end of the night, I went home to my middle ground. I drove this BU kid to his party (I had a car, another indicator of my older life stage), but I didn’t go home to read my mail or tidy my house. I watched a movie and played some video games, but the symbolism was just right for my middle status.

Then there is the hilarious differences and similarities between these two worlds. The older man recently lost weight and is trying to date pretty aggressively and he talks to me about that sort of thing with the refined air of an adult but I couldn’t help thinking he was saying the exact same things as the BU kid, just in different language. He was, as I have done many times, scheming about how to find things to do and people to do them with.

After a while though, I think age becomes very unimportant because some themes emerge out of all patterns of life so powerfully, and that is the need to find people to be around, if for no other reason than to shoot the shit.

Saturday night I got two text messages while at a party (with people my age thank you very much). One was from a 42 year old asking if I was coming clubbing with him for his birthday. Couldn’t make it. The other was from the older man I was working with and he wanted to know if I could come watch football with him on Sunday at a bar. I couldn’t go, because I had more work than I’ve ever had before, but I knew he would take my response as a snub, but I tried to make my regret clear (I wasn’t that regretful that I couldn’t go, just a little bit).

I turned both of these older dudes down, but I saw in their text messages the same semi-nervous stakes that accompany all text message: hang out with me, I need a friend. As I said, I turned both of the offers down, because I’m just not that old yet, but will there come a time when I’m older and alone and need friendship? Where will all my friends be at that moment?

They’ll probably be ensconced in their lives, mixing duty with pleasure and pain with freedom, balancing  a family, house payments, critical responsibilities that society depends on (many are becoming doctors), and just plain frivolous bullshit.

Aging can be a scary thing to do alone, and so I think it’s no wonder that many people get married in their mid-twenties. That time is a precarious position between adolescence and obsolescence  and no one wants to balance on that high-wire alone.



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