On roughly a daily basis, I have a crisis about my age. You see, I feel quite over the hill. Far, far over the hill. I’ve got an aching back and sore wrists and I’ve never gotten a book published. I look at my whole long life and think, “Aubrey, you’ve accomplished nothing. Better throw in the towel.”
Thing is, I’m 26.
I know. IknowIknowIknow. Twenty-six is young! I graduated college only 4.5 years ago (note that my earlier comment about accomplishing nothing means that I don’t consider college an accomplishment. Figure that one out for me, would you?). I started writing seriously only 3 years ago. And yet…
I FEEL SO FREAKING OLD.
There seem to be a whole lot of really young YA writers these days. Maybe there always were and I just wasn’t following the industry then. But there’s nothing to make you feel old like reading about a 20 year old getting a three-book deal. I’m jealous not so much of the book deal, but of 20 year olds who have their shit together enough at 20 to know they even want to write a book. And then to do it. And do it well enough to sell it. It’s sorcery, I tell you.
I’ve accepted that I’ll never be the 20 year old with a book deal because A) I’m already 26 and B) At 20 I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. So, I’m 26, and I know what I want to be. Now what?
Now I set unreasonable and arbitrary goals of course. Come on, you do it too. “I want to accomplish X by age Y.” “I need to meet my future spouse by age Y if I want to have kids by age Z.” “If I start a grad program now, I’ll have my degree by age Y and maybe pay off my loans by age Z+18.” Life doesn’t last forever. It’s normal to try to plan what age you’ll meet certain goals by. I need to assume that I’ll have to meet all my goals by age 100 if I want to meet them ever (yes, I’m giving myself a generous 100-year life span. Don’t burst my bubble, please).
This is normal, but not necessarily helpful. In fact, it’s super unhelpful for me to feel like an “old writer” at 26. And to tell myself I’d better give up writing if I don’t have a book on shelves by 30. And to feel like a loser for not having made a name for myself.
It doesn’t even make sense. I know almost nobody in their 20s who’s happy with their job. We’re all working really hard so that maybe, possibly, one day, we’ll have the careers we want. I’m in good company.
Besides, what won’t I be able to do at 50 that I’m doing now? I’ll still eat cookie dough and read children’s books and play board games. I’ll still write books, and they’ll probably be 1,097,532x better than the ones I’m writing now, because EXPERIENCE. I might be published, but I’ll still have unmet goals and panic that I won’t meet them all before I die.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go try to finish my 2014 reading challenge of 52 books. Because arbitrary goals, you know?