I’m Not 23

Growing up and getting old is a part of life and its beauty, although I have a weird feeling about turning 23 next month.

I’m an Aries in all its splendour, born at the very beginning of April and in the blooming of Spring. I usually need a few months after my birthday before I get used to my new age anyway – when I turned twenty I kept saying I was eighteen or nineteen when people would ask, not because I was clinging to it, but because it would come out naturally and was the age I felt I had. Yet this year feels a little different.

Some would laugh, but 23 is so young! And it absolutely is; the question here isn’t only about youth, but about how some people, including myself, have an odd sensation about celebrating another birthday this year.

I turned 22 last year during lockdown, and to be honest, it was a pretty crap and lonely celebration. It didn’t feel adequate as well, as if my life had stopped at 21, partying in my favourite club in Southampton with some of my best friends a couple of weeks before the world got shut down. We all know how 2020 went, but I’ve been luckier than most: I had a normal and beautiful summer, met new friends, shot films and have done everything I could to keep living and experiencing despite the situation. Yet overall, it was a frustrating, draining, and confusing year. Now March is right around the corner and my 22nd year was swept away in the blink of an eye. I was talking with friends and acquaintances about their feelings on the matter, and they too didn’t feel like turning a year older. An old friend and I recalled a memory from the last year of college « four years ago » we both said, « five » corrected someone else. It was as if an entire year had partly been nothing but a strange dream.

Many young women around me expressed their frustration about not being able to live their youth as they wanted to. Are we really the age we’re supposed to be on paper? Well, it’s a symbolic number, and to be honest, 23 sounds pretty great, but I don’t want to put expectations on myself anymore to be or feel things I can’t feel yet. It’s okay if I keep saying « 22 » for a bit when people ask my age. We hear a lot about hustle and success, but what about living what we have to live and staying true to ourselves? What if being a 23-year-old girl today (or 18, 19, 26…) wasn’t supposed to be weighed down with its list of expectations that can’t meet the reality of the world we live in anymore?

Some days I feel like a teen. Some days I feel a little more grown-up. I’m not 23. Yet. Or maybe 23 means something different to me. Maybe it’s not only about the pandemic but about owning back what’s yours and defining yourself in a way that makes you happy.

Maybe I’ll turn 23 this summer on the coast, or when bars re-open, with a pint in my hand and my friends chatting around the table, or when I’ll be back on a plane, or when watching the sunset with someone I like; anytime that will feel right.

23 is the age of many fictional role models I had in my teenage years and I always knew this age would suit me and bring me closer to the young woman I want to become. But if this society, your peers (or yourself) are putting too much pressure on yourself about being grown-up (whatever that actually means) I hope I can remind some of you that your silly, young, passionate self matters and is wiser than you may think. After reflection, I’m looking forward to making 23 the best age I’ve ever been yet and a new chapter to my boiling, furious, coming-of-age story.

Image courtesy of Sergei Solo.

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