Being Young but Feeling Old

On my 18th birthday I felt pretty bad. Even though everyone was telling me that it was a special date, and that I am supposed to be excited about it, I was confused, anxious and depressed.

I felt old.

Not in some bittersweet, teen-angst sense but in a very real, existential way I felt that my life is slipping away.

So how can one feel old when he is young?

Feeling old isn’t just about failing health and a flabby body. It’s about not having a future. Old age is a time of little possibilities, of no potential for change, of memories but not imagination, of little enthusiasm or hopefulness. When most of your life is left in the past, the future is a gloomy perspective.

That’s how I felt at 18. How’s that possible for someone who was about to graduate school with excellence and win an admission to a prestigious university? Being focused on achievement and career, I engineered my future – university, mandatory army service, career in hi-tech, a car and a house. Success in life in four easy steps. The only problem with this future – it lacked adventure, openness to new possibilities, the joy of discovery and the courage of not knowing what to expect. Instead of a great unknown, I was weighted down by the banality of the future. No wonder I felt old.

Today, at 32 I feel younger than when I was 18. I feel that my life has never been more open to possibilities, full of  enthusiasm, anticipation of an adventure and the courage to imagine how life can develop in dozen of different ways. I am married and expecting a child, but instead of being bogged down by settling down and the prospect of entering a routine I feel free to choose my future. The credit goes mostly to Oxanna, whose love, infectious joy, fascination with life and the unwillingness to be tied down to one place bind and fuse with my desire to explore what life has to offer.

When I hear nostalgic notes in friends’ memories of past days, it seems to me that it’s not the past that seems so attractive to them, it’s the lost future. The future as it once seemed to us – pregnant with possibilities, potential and fascination.

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