Ageism and understanding yourself

For much of my life, I felt like I was the wrong age, or born in the wrong year, or just not the same as people my age. I would avoid telling people my age and relished the times that my grandparents’ near-blind friends asked my sixteen-year-old self if I was in college.

As I got a bit older and began undergoing the maturation discovery phase that is college and early adult life, I found myself acting like most people my age. I joined a sorority, shook off a lot of inhibitions (and gained some back, thankfully, after graduation), and began learning the balance of caring for myself and having a really great and memorable life. There were plenty of times I felt “mature,” probably due to the perceived independence of being on a campus and not in your parents’ home. But there would be spans of time when I would be a near-hermit, get really thrown into scheduling my part-time job, internship, and school and would avoid my social life. During these times, I almost felt estranged from my peers. This isn’t their doing at all: it was mine. I couldn’t reconcile having fun with being responsible.

Fast forward to today. I think I can officially say that while I’ve certainly not perfected my balance, I’m absolutely the closest I’ve ever been. Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned makes me comfortable:

  • My one-bedroom apartment is kept clean and tidy. For the most part, this is by doing small things regularly — not one big clean-up on occasion.
  • I put my financial health very high on the priority list. This has been the biggest struggle for me, surprisingly. Historically I’ve been very financially savvy and disciplined, but since my cost of living is so enormous in the Bay Area, I’m learning to dial down my “fun budget” to keep me happy.
  • My cat actually gets the attention he deserves, including lots of cuddles and actually cleaning his litter box. (I can’t believe I only did this once a week or so when he was little. Poor guy.) It’s little, but it’s got huge payoff.
  • I’m in a really, really good relationship that makes me want to keep myself happy in all other regards so I can keep the relationship happy.
  • Exercise is an absolute necessity to manage my anxiety. If I don’t exercise, anxiety reduces my productivity and makes me less rational and generally sends me into an unhealthy snowball-effect.
  • Thanks to a year with the best therapist in the world, I know a lot of “triggers” that set off my anxiety, including little things like being tired and getting overheated.

Age DGAF-er

Age DGAF-er now

And now, for the first time in my life, as I’m just a few weeks away from my 26th birthday, I’ve noticed that I no longer am quite as afraid to share my age. Part of that is because at a certain point age difference is not much of a factor when relating to others. A bigger part of my newfound age-acceptance, though, is knowing that exactly who I am is exactly right for me. I always felt like I wasn’t in the right skin from an age perspective, and instead of fighting the uphill battle of being the “right” age, I am the right me. At times I’m a little boring now. I don’t care. I love it. It’s perfect.

I’m a closet idiot, and other very true and verified facts

Fun story: I’ve been anxiety free for at least a month.

 

This isn’t like smoking. You don’t fall off the boat once and then maybe binge for a few months before remembering how much it sucks and resolving to quit again. (Note: I obviously have no idea what addiction is like.)

 

Anxiety is a come-as-she-pleases bitch. She senses a weakness in you — whether you have a low-grade fear of something happening in your life or you just haven’t been sleeping enough — and she attacks. You can’t breathe right; you lose even more sleep.

 

Have you ever, say, really needed to break off a relationship or get out of an unhealthy workplace? Once you left, you felt that INCREDIBLE RELIEF that doesn’t necessarily sink in right away. But, with time, you recognize the incredible relief it provides.


This guy relaxes like a cool genius. 

 

The last month without that ish, then, has been EVERYTHING! I made a lot of changes in my life, including the end of a job that a lot of people constantly ask about. I don’t even care that I have to answer questions about it constantly. I am happy and able to handle stress without imploding.

 

I know anxiety and mental health are such tricky topics, and that’s why I talk about it often. Just gotta keep it fresh, yo. You don’t have to live with that pit in your stomach or constantly feeling like YOU suck. Because you don’t. (Er, maybe you do, but that’s not anxiety then.) I thought I was clinically depressed. Then I talked to a kickass doc who snapped some sense into me and told me to make moves and take charge of my own happiness. And I did. And I am so happy.

 

Listen, a lot of things go into happiness. You really do need to sleep lots and eat well and exercise. You do. Science, bitch. But you also need to do things solely because THEY MAKE YOU HAPPY. I don’t know why, but that always seemed like such a weak and selfish motivator. I always thought I needed to be sacrificing for others’ happiness — or rather, what I perceived as their happiness.

 

When I was a kid, I remember once choosing what I wanted to do for my birthday party. I tried to make it whatever my guests would want. Then my mother said, “Why are you planning a party for them? It’s not their birthday.” BOOM. Relief.

To me, making myself happy means cleaning my apartment, sticking to a skincare regimen, and eating açai bowls approximately 5x per week. I exercise because I know I need it, and because after a lot of it, I realize I like it. Happiness is not always having some crazy plans. It is sitting on the couch and laughing with someone else. It’s writing a letter to someone without them knowing. It’s that surprise and smile you get when someone realizes you remembered something about them. Why wouldn’t I choose to do these things?


(No, seriously, I can’t get enough açai bowl.) 


I’m the last person so many people would ever expect to be speaking about happiness and fulfillment in the face of awful stuff like anxiety. I like to laugh, and I hate to get upset. This is how I apply my #FunkyFresh self to real-world, personal issues. I kinda like it. It makes me happy.