I’ve been 23 years old for almost half a year now, and I think Blink-182 was on to something.
On one side of it, 23 is a lot of years: I have a college degree, a job with a paycheck, and more than one nice pair of pants. I pay taxes*, I make budgets, and I can drive three and a half hours to a writers’ retreat all by my lonesome. I have come far enough in life that there exists a place where I used to be, and find myself giving advice to people (plural!) whose present situation is my past.
Most critically, though, I write books. Have written, am writing, whatever—I have picked a career and God-damned if I’m not in it for the long haul.
But on the other side, 23 is so little. I sleep in my childhood bedroom. I don’t pay the heating bill. I can’t rent a car. I get called “young lady” by my so-called peers in the business of book-writing as they dispense advice in a patronizingly royal we: “We can’t give up! We all have to keep writing!”
Lady, I know. I’ve kept writing since I was 16. You want trunked manuscripts? I’ve got six. I might have been born yesterday but that doesn’t make me stupid. It doesn’t make me some kind of wunderkind, either; I’m not trying to posit myself as an under-appreciated prodigy here. I don’t want to whine. I just want to work.
Back in the days (daze?) of employment-hunting, my mantra was this: if the worst thing they can say about you is that you’re too young for the job, then the best is yet to come. Time heals all ills, and no more so than when you’re afflicted with youth.
My point (or my hope, or my belief) is this: age should be neutral. Your work and the quality thereof is the only thing that counts and the only thing you should count on.
Last night, my mother and I were commiserating over our respective places in time. “You’re closer to the beginning of your life, and I’m closer to the end,” she said, one of those double-edged statement that cut at each of us in opposite ways. I said what I thought without thinking about it and spit out one of those dumb-but-true truths:
“We’ve both got tomorrow. That’s all you need.”
*or, okay, I will have paid taxes as of tonight. This is why god invented e-filing.