“You’re so mature.” “You’re old at heart.” “You’re only 18 [21, 23, insert current age]?! You seem so much older.” Between my mom, other family members, friends in college, & coworkers, these are all phrases I’ve heard quite consistently throughout my life. The vast majority of the time they’ve been meant as compliments (I think), though as a teenager naturally I found such comments a bit upsetting because they seemed to highlight exactly how uncool I really was. However, I also realized that the very things that made me uncool at the time were the exact things that would make me successful later in life. (I suppose the ability to realize that really was a mark of maturity.) Once I was in college such comments bothered me a bit less because once you’re out of high school being cool stops having so many rewards while being intelligent, well-read, & capable of carrying on conversations of actual depth become much more important characteristics, all of which I was (& am) proud to possess.
In any case, of late I’ve noticed a bevy of articles on Buzzfeed, Thought Catalog, & other such websites about the reality of adulthood after college, your early 20’s vs your late 20’s, & signs you’re nearing 30, etc, etc. A former coworker of mine posted such an article on her Facebook yesterday: http://viralpoop.com/30-signs-youre-almost-30/. Reading this article made me recall all the times I’ve been called “old at heart” & the mixed feelings these types of comments always create. As I read the list of “30 signs you’re almost 30” I realized once again how many of these things are true for me & more importantly how many of them have been true for me for YEARS now. Perhaps some of it has to do with being an introvert who has always preferred casual nights at home with friends to wild nights at loud bars & crowded clubs. Or perhaps I really am just “old at heart.”
Whatever the reason for this, I’ve decided to embrace it. Being old at heart might mean I get invited to fewer bars, clubs, & parties, but it also means I have a solid group of close friends whom I can truly count on in good times & bad. Being old at heart might make me boring in some people’s eyes, but it also means I have a good career & am financially savvy. I might be out of touch with popular music, but if you want to veer off the beaten path, I’ll be happy to introduce you to a long list of lesser-known but extremely talented musicians & bands. I might own the world’s oldest I-pod (I refuse to upgrade until it breaks because I see no need to replace something that works just fine), but I also own dozens of actual CDs which I am always happy to lend to friends so they can discover awesome new music. Being old at heart means I am ghostly pale in the winter & have tan-lines in the summer, but my risk for melanoma will be a lot lower than all of my cohorts who zap their skin in tanning beds or forego sunscreen on a regular basis (not to mention when I do hit 30 I’ll probably look a lot younger than they will). I will never wear skinny jeans & cannot stand almost every major fashion trend of the past few years, but the clothes I do buy are classics that will stand the test of time & can be worn for years to come. (And if boot-cut/flare jeans aren’t classics, then I truly do not give a damn. I’m rocking them anyway.)
I’ve often heard it said in life that the things we criticize about ourselves the most or the things we feel most self-conscious about are exactly the things that make us fascinating, unique, & beautiful. For example a friend of mine once told me that he had always felt self-conscious about his nose. The ironic thing was that I had always thought his nose was exactly what made him uniquely attractive. As another example, I’ve always been self-conscious about the fact that I’m eternally clumsy, always tripping or dropping something. However, my coworkers affectionately call me “Clumsylina” & tell me how endearing my clumsiness is. I also feel self-conscious about my hair at times. I hate styling it (or having anyone else style it) because sitting in front of a mirror fretting over my appearance has always struck me as an absurd waste of time. Therefore I sometimes worry that my hair looks unkempt & fear that I give off an “I don’t care” vibe when really I just hate fooling with it. However, the reality is that I get more compliments on my hair than on anything else appearance-related. (Apparently having naturally wavy/curly-ish hair is a blessing that I’m only just starting to appreciate.) If you want an example in the media, consider Jess on Fox’s New Girl. One of the most common descriptors for her character is quirky, thanks in part to her unique outfits, her naiveté, & her propensity for turning anything & everything into a song, & at times she is quite self-conscious about these things. Yet it is exactly these quirks that Nick can’t resist & that attract audiences across the world to watch the show.
The point of all this is that it’s often our quirks, even our supposed “faults,” that define us, that make us unique & exciting, & that attract others to us. Perhaps being old at heart is my greatest quirk & instead of being embarrassed by it, it’s time to embrace it & realize that being old at heart doesn’t have to mean I’m boring. It’s just who I am, & I like myself this way. Therefore I am going to embrace it, & the next time someone calls me “old at heart” I will smile & thank them for the compliment with no second thoughts. And if I do have second thoughts, I’ll remember this blog post & why I wrote it.
How about you? What quirks about yourself make you self-conscious but make others love you? Has anyone ever called you old at heart? If so, how did it make you feel?