Before the next story there is something you should know about me. I’m mostly under age eleven.
I’ve got ten years of experience being over the age of eleven, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert.
I may be twenty-one now, but to be honest I’ve got more experience living at other ages. I was actually a three year old for a full year, so I’m really more of a toddler than a legal adult if anyone is counting. I’ve got a year under my belt at a handful of others too: seven, fifteen, eighteen, just to name a few. If you add up all my ages I’ve got the life experience of a two-hundred and thirty-one year old. Although, I don’t think it works that way.
I think it’s more like a team of ages all working as one, each handling different responsibilities. But, some people seem to believe they do have two-hundred and thirty-one years of experience. They parade around pretending to know things, acting all mature, making snide comments about other people’s maturity when they feel uncomfortable, whenever their take on life is threatened. They are frequently mistaken for tired dinosaurs. They’re usually wearing dull sweaters, checking their emails, or doing things that they hate to build up their resumes. Occasionally you’ll see them posting five page singe-spaced complaint essays onto forums and blogs. You’d think that after two-hundred plus years they would know that no one gets past the first paragraph. Yet, few seem to realize that thinking yourself mature is the first warning sign of something eerily childish.
And it’s not true. Don’t believe them. No one is two-hundred and thirty-one to the best of my knowledge, save maybe some red wine, antioxidant guzzler in Italy who stopped counting at one hundred. If so, I’d like him to post something on a public forum. He can write about pride and such, and how no one should be acting quite the way he acts.
There have been times when I too have felt like a bicentennial man. In those moments I was a bumbling fool behind a thin mask, nothing like a real bicentennial. The mask cracks and falls down with even the slightest heat or pressure. In a sense, I applaud those who keep it on all the time. It takes lots hard work to maintain the bicentennial image. Recently I can’t comprehend this age-old attitude, because I feel more like a three year old. And I’ll tell you first hand that this is far better.
At times I feel twenty-one also, but like I said, these ages, they work as a team. Many times they bicker and fight for who gets to be boss. Sometimes the twenty-one year old wins because he thinks he is pretty smart and was recently given the right to drink. Sometimes the eighteen year old wins because he is on top of the world and knows it. At times the nine year old wins because he always knows what he wants. And once in a while, the three year old wins, because he’s just plain stubborn. When all fight, none win, and I’m just confused. When they work together—that’s when I really live.
When I had lived just one year, I made known my needs and wants to others honestly and directly. When I was three, an ice cream cone lit up my eyes like a million dollar paycheck. Simple joys were consistent like breathing and overwhelming like a tidal wave. At five, Indiana Jones inspired me to do brave things and Michael Jordan couldn’t help but make me dream. When I was seven, loyal brotherhood sent me flying from a towering snow mound at recess, landing on the class bully to wrestle him off my best friend. “That’s my friend!” was reason enough to do anything. By the time I was nine I liked a girl. One smile was sufficient to take captive my little noggin for weeks. The eleventh year got me in trouble for laughing with my friends in class every day. That one still happens on a regular basis—only trouble is a disgruntled frown and somehow not worth it anymore. At thirteen I went to school and four different sports practices in one day. I couldn’t imagine being mentally exhausted. By fifteen the beauty of the world was coming alive and could not be avoided wherever I looked. At seventeen, I craved things wild and free, and did not miss any opportunities to go streaking. Nineteen showed me how to wrestle with questions for deep truths that I could never fully understand. Twenty-one just happened, and I’m discovering hope that crashes and bends and lives and breathes.
I wasn’t very mature through those years and I’m still not the most mature by common standards. I’m not so sure I ever want to be. More than appearance or maturity or anything else, I desire to maintain all the things that made the previous ages beautiful. These ages have not died in me; they have not died in anyone else. They have not morphed into something else. They are buried beneath anxious expectations, waiting to be free. We’re a little bit of every age, each year diluting the ones before it and contributing something beautiful of its own. Don’t let those ages fade away, and if you ever see me streaking across campus know that I’m not letting them fade away either. If sometimes I don’t seem mature its because I just don’t care. I’d rather chase something real.