One month and a day ago, I turned seventeen years old, and on my birthday, I was nervous. Instead of celebrating that I was year older, I was preoccupied with thoughts about all the fun experiences I missed in my younger years. I think most people go through a phase like this, where they question their choices, but they usually experience this phase when they’re in their 40s. Thanks to the fact that I’m a very reflective person, I’m going through this phase right now when there’s still time to do the things young people do.
Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with acting older than I am. I say “struggled” because the way I act makes me feel disconnected from my peers, in addition to already feeling detached from those much older than me. What exactly do I do that makes me feel older? The biggest thing is my hesitation. I am a fairly nervous, cautious person. It doesn’t get in the way of my living a nice life, but I certainly feel held back by my mind. I fear conflict and falling short of perfection. As a result, I carefully filter every word I say and avoid relationships that could brew conflict. The second main reason why I feel older than my peers is because I’m around people far older than me more often (or at least I grew up around people much older than me). I’m an only-child and in the summers, I’d mostly spend time at my dad’s office. It’s at his office where I taught myself to code, but it’s also were I developed my social skills, and as a result, the way I speak and act naturally differs, in some ways dramatically, from my peers.
This discontent is the reason I started taking acting classes this summer and am now involved with the theatre program at my school. I thought I could learn how to act more like my peers, and in all honesty, theatre has been kind of helpful. I’m slowly feeling more confident about everyday interactions I have and am better able to adapt how I act based on who I’m talking with. But my issue with age is far from solved.
There are things I regret that I didn’t do when I was younger and I still hold myself back from doing now that I know I will regret in the future.
And my hesitation is still rooted in a lack of belonging. Despite the progress I’ve made with the acting classes and my involvement in my school’s theatre program, I still often feel like I’m very different from my peers. What makes things even more complicated is I don’t know if I want to be like my peers. I now feel like I know how to communicate and be like my peers, but I don’t know if I like acting that way. Do I want to listen to music that I don’t prefer? Do I want to dress in clothes I think are ugly? Do I want a girlfriend who is attractive but I don’t really connect with? The answer may seem like an obvious no, but I’m really not sure. Is the experience—just living and being a kid worth it? Or would I be missing more by sacrificing my individuality, although being myself makes me feel isolated?
Like most things in my experience, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. But right now I’m at a loss as to what that middle way is.