Time is a construct. Right? Past, present and future, or seconds, minutes and days — all the units and the progression we perceive is just that: our perception. Heck, daylight savings isn’t a thing that’s intrinsic to the universe, right? It’s a construct we’ve agreed upon to keep our working lives less miserable and dark. I mean, there’s “spacetime,” which seems legit, in that it fuses our understandings of space and time into one solid 4 dimensional chunk where everything that can or will happen is just a thing that exists that we can’t grasp. I think. I’m not going to explain anything more than that because I was a film major, not a physicist.
What I’m really trying to get at is that age, like time, is also a construct. Sure, if we’ve agreed that a year is a unit of time that is measurable then we can go ahead and measure them and determine how many units of them a person has spent walking around on this space rock we call home. But what those numbers MEAN is a whole other construct. Today I declared that, at 34, I was middle-aged, and I was roundly castigated by the other Overlords. Look, I don’t know exactly where the line in the sand is drawn. Does it have to do with the center-point of life expectancy? Because that’s a shifting target. What will “middle-age” be when we’re all looking forward to cryogenic freezing? And if it is based on some center point, how many years around it do we count? Personally, I feel pretty solid about when I consider my childhood years (and I consider being a teenager part of the “kid” period — I didn’t at the time, but I definitely do in retrospect). The years of 18-21 was some weird no-age time that I don’t remember enough to bother defining further. And then the rest of my twenties was all “Young Adulthood” with massive fucking quotation marks — sure, I was on my own and paying my bills and shit, but I was hardly very mature. I was basically still a student, only I was studying “having a job” and getting solid B grades at it. It was all spilled iced coffee across open-concept shared desks and bags of chips for lunch.
But now? Who the fuck knows. I never expected to live to see my 30s, yet here I am. So yeah, I’m calling it middle-age, and that’s my choice. Feel free to be a late-stage child into your 50s if you want. It’s all a construct anyway. What does it matter? You do you.
The same is true of generations. We have a pretty firm grasp on what constitutes a Baby Boomer, because we’re the ones making this shit up and enough time has passed for us to agree on the limits. But the boundaries around the more recent generations — the X, the Y — get more muddled. And of course there’s the dreaded Millennial generation, which is a punchline wrapped in a conundrum. The Internet seems to say that people born sometime in the 1980-1982 region are the start of the Millennial generation. And then fast forward 15-25 years and that’s the end? Or something? The weird part is that Millennials, as a generation, encompass both the last people to remember what life was like pre-internet (or at least pre-widespread, in-home internet) as well as those folks who are young enough to have never known life without Amazon shopping. It’s not a cohesive generation in that respect, and maybe those lines will be reinterpreted later on. But as an early stage, pre-internet, never-used-Snapchat Millennial who, as mentioned, considers herself to be middle-aged, I figured I’d offer some free advice to all the younger Millennials out there. Advice about getting old.
Because it’ll happen to you too, my wee young friends. Oh yes. Time is a construct that will fucking mow you down, no matter how popular your “personal brand” is.
So, what can you expect as you age? What are some telltale signs that you’re *GASP* getting older? Well, to paraphrase Shelley’s famous poem: “Look on my Life, ye Millennials, and despair!” Here are some things you can look forward to, based on my own experience:
- Retirement planning. It’s a thing, and you’ll do it. Unless you’re an investment banker, “stocks” and “bonds” and “funds” and shit will be something you will start to brush up on later in life. Because it’s not like we can rely on Social Security when we get to retirement age. If “retirement age” is even a thing that exists in 30-odd years.
- Hangovers. Ok, fine, you’ve probably heard all about how hangovers get worse as you get older, and instead of being something a couple of Tylenol and a sausage, egg, & cheese can cure they become a multi-day epic journey of recovery and self-care. But did you know that hangovers also get more unpredictable? First they happen when you mix different types of alcohol, so you learn to stick to just one. It’s a wine night, or a whiskey night, or a beer night, but the streams don’t cross. And then… hangovers just happen. Unpredictably. Maybe it takes a whole bottle of wine. Maybe it takes a single beer. You’ll never know. Every drink is a gamble.
- You know what else will happen for no reason? PAIN. You’ll wake up some mornings, and maybe it’s your neck or your knee or your back that has you staggering around all stiff and awkward, like Pinocchio caught somewhere in between wood and real-boy flesh. But something will hurt, and you won’t know why. And even if you can pinpoint the cause, it will inevitably be pathetic. Like “I turned my head and oops — there’s goes my neck” stupid.
- You start to make your own bone broth from scratch so you don’t have to pay those big bone broth bucks. Maybe you’ll even take up canning. Not that you have the time for such things, or that it will really be cheaper, but it’s a skill you can learn without accruing more student debt — and then consume afterward!
- You start taking your skin care seriously, because every product purchase has you weighing your options: are you trying to fix the zits you still get, or are you hoping to address the wrinkles you’re starting to get? Because oh yes, you will have both.
- There is no greater personal indulgence than going to bed before 10pm, for no reason at all, with a book or a show or a game pulled up on your tablet.
- There is no greater personal failure than getting to bed later than 1am (2am if it’s Saturday night… BUT ONLY SATURDAY NIGHT)
- “Grocery shopping” will become an acceptable response to the question, “So what are your plans this weekend?”
- Your metabolism slows down. And even if you are the most avid, fitness-conscious person, you’ll start running or spinning or gymming just a little bit harder. Or, if you’re me, you’ll sporadically look up yoga videos online and try them, then be sore for 3 days and lose motivation for a month. And it won’t be because of your weight or your health, or at least not really. Deep down, it’ll be because you’ve assembled a closet full of carefully curated “finds” discovered at thrift stores over a course of many years, and if you go up another size you’ll have to start over. And let’s face it — you’ve got a retirement to save for, you can’t afford to be investing in a whole new wardrobe.
- Your hair will start to go gray. “Duh,” you’re thinking. “That’s what hair does.” Well, sure. You expect to find gray hair on your head. But just wait until you find it creeping into the hair in other places… I mean, it makes sense that it WOULD, if you think about it. But have you ever thought about it?
Since the internet is a fickle, perverse place, I’m sure some non-Millennials clicked into this article, ready to “Well, actually” me about every point. So I’mma let you finish, but I KNOW ALL THOSE POINTS APPLY TO EVERYONE. Sure, the window dressing may change, the tablets and the broths and the lack of Social Security. You maybe start getting wonky hangovers or wanting to go to bed early sometime in your twenties, or your thirties, or your sixties — it doesn’t matter. “Generations” may be invented, and the linear progression of time may be only a trick of perception, but we’re all getting old. People have literally always been aging. And the only difference between Ozymandias, King of Kings, and Millennials is that we’ve got an internet presence that will never decay. Our Works standing alone in the desert of the future will be tweets about the return of pumpkin spice season, eggplant emojis, and the term “swole.”