The Irrational Fear Of Getting Older And Growing Up

Posted on 6 min read
It’s 4:15pm on a grim Wednesday afternoon, two days before my birthday. Two days before my hope of growing up gracefully is tested again. I’m ensconced under a blanket, fringed in by four walls and deafening silence. It’s taken me approximately 4 hours to shift from my stationary position post pain palliating bath and even then, I’ve just ended up downstairs; scrolling aimlessly through social media, staring at the ceiling, wondering when my unproductive conduct is going to unravel into prolific fulfilment and when the weather is actually going to feel like summer.

It’s mid June and if there wasn’t a mnemonic timestamp chiming from my smartphone I’d be inclined to think we’ve reverted back to December. in retrospect, I kind of wish we had. It would produce a fresh chance for me to make an effort in growing up and sprouting towards the spiritually enlightened disparity of life around me, rising awakened enough to gain proper perspective – because I turn 26 in a matter of double figured hours and I feel like I have nothing to show for it. It’s just another day. I’m miserable and consuming my daily dose of denial. In hindsight, it’s not just 6 months of the year I feel I’ve successfully wasted; it’s a titanic chunk of my entire existence and I’ve dived right into the non-anchored pool without an inflatable aid.

They say it’s normal to forebode a birthday once you pass the mid twenty mark but is it normal to have the constellations of your fully fledged body safely settled in a lair of wonted vanilla humdrum whilst your head is somewhere in the clouds of youth and desire to start over? With every year that passes I question my purpose floating above my growing up ghost life. What it means for me to be here right now celebrating my birthday with a cheapo Aldi cake and add-ons bought from my own rusty pocket as a wide-eyed single woman still living at home and failing to meet the substandard requirements of society. It’s in my hands to alter the safety blanket familiarity into a flourishing future and yet here I stay, sifting through the ordinary because branching out to the bookmarked chapters of independent stories which move on to become best sellers is smothering.

I’ve spoke about it before but to me, growing up with the prospect and pressures of adulthood really is terrifying. You have that girl you went to school with married with two children, a steady career, a car, a mortgage, and a lifetime plan. Then you have that wayward stranger scavenging for a tenner and getting plastered every night. You’re expected to have it all together but there’s no coaching lesson on growing up, on autonomy or responsibility or the planes of loneliness. There’s no advice on what to do when the path you pencilled into your secret diary when you were 8 years old collides with a car crash of events turning tradition into topsy-turvy. You reach sixteen and are given the liberty to roam free and experiment with creating your best and most strongest self. Except, I skipped that stage and made a beeline to the hammering exit shielded by a wall of glass that shattered into shards year by year.

I’m officially leaving the 18-25 category and I still don’t feel as though I’m moving any closer to a clear vision of what I want my endgame to consist of. I’m four years from thirty and I still don’t feel like I fit in or belong to the conventional constitution. Often I think, perhaps that could be down to early trauma; the malady of physical and mental illness crafting a butterfly effect. That my formative years were stolen from me; emotionally and figuratively, and that’s delayed my thirst to use a birthday as a motivator to growing up, a stimulating opportunity to press reset and allow the seeds to bud again. Then I think, maybe that’s just the way I was built – with one foot already lodged into a sullied grave.

It’s funny because sometimes I’ll strike one as ahead of my peers whilst simultaneously lacking the sobriety of empiricism. A decade ahead with the way I was forced to mature through hardship “designed” for the older generation (like you can ever prepare for what life throws at you no matter what stage of growing up you’re at) but a decade behind for the rest of it. Those years take its toll and it’s an act of congress to regain longevity. Pain has weathered my state of mind and yet I’m not at the same place as other twenty somethings. The girl who wants to rely on her mum to phone the doctors for her as she curls up into her maternal lap on a burn out is the same girl who remembers she’s not getting any younger. I never really have figured out how to balance the two and I’m not sure I ever will.

The digression in the journey to manufactured and measured maturity impales me with whiplash. Swarms me in a nebulous cyclone of dizziness and aching bones with a hissing of background noise cocooning my every sense. It’s like I’m a helicopter waiting to board but circumnavigating the landing area. It’s as though I’ve never gotten off the ground properly and spread my wings. I feel chronologically out of order and waning into the wilderness.

The panic doesn’t surface and settle as a VIP guest until a milestone of growing up approaches. It’s always there lurking in the shadows of my silhouette but it’s not buoyant until that sudden realisation hits. When I’m laid in bed at night questioning my guarded choices and pondering about what lies ahead. When relationship statuses of acquaintances are upgraded. When there’s a snippet of fortune from someone younger than me, an adventurous soul with irrefutable experience and a proven photo diary of themselves officially growing up and moving up the ladder. Or when I’m partaking in a fictional hyper-fixation in lieu of introducing myself to the real world. It’s in the realms of expectations and the vessel of commitment and the poetic blink of an eye.

As the latent linear line travels with the looming of the hereafter, I worry. I worry about my vulnerability never getting closure. I worry I’m never going to love myself enough to let anyone else in. I worry my intrinsic value is non existent.  I worry every twelve month period that passes is a diminished possibility and it becomes more onerous the longer I leave it. I worry the older I get the less likely I am to perfect my wishes of finding someone who accepts me and having babies and getting married. I worry it’s too late to reverse the sign of the times. I worry about the scientific fact that at 26 I’m cruising closer to death with a vast plunge but how can I decline when I feel like I’ve not even lived? Are these my permanent layers now?

Truth is, I don’t know. The stakes are high in my self-slaughtering judgement but there isn’t an instruction manual or a survival guide to growing up and it’s not imperative to keep a record on holistic properties. I don’t know for sure whether this is the case for others either. It may seem visible on the exterior but I don’t think being maximum amounts of level-headed without faltering is even possible. You can’t always have it together bossing through life, surely? That’s what adulting is, right? Social media masks a great deal and I need to remind myself I could place a bet on the majority of people having had periods of falling apart and win the jackpot.

My life doesn’t end because I don’t meet the customary. It’s not a write off. The earth is spinning on its axis and the rain’s still teeming down. Maybe I will parallel the darkness but I’m still blowing out my candles. I’ll play it by ear. I’ll desperately grasp on to that limited time slot but I’ll refocus the dread onto a tonic that will allow that fear to dissipate. Like a celebratory pizza or waking up to lovely messages from my friends or just simply living.