Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Final Days of My Youth

“I’ve been worrying – that my time is a little unclear.
I’ve been worrying – that I’m losing the one’s I hold dear.
I’ve been worrying – that we all live our lives, in the confines of fear 

And I, will become what I deserve.” 
The Fear, Ben Howard

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve become acutely aware that my 31st birthday is quickly approaching. This time last year, I had a countdown until the big 3-0. This year, I’ve been caught off-guard by a looming uneasiness about changing that ‘0’ to a ‘1.’ Usually the idea of aging, or stating my age, is met with a degree of pride and confidence. But this newfound reluctance of my fast approaching birthday, left me questioning, what, exactly, the issue was.

I have probably spent far too long searching for the answer to my question re: my soon to be upgraded age. There didn’t seem to be any reason for the negative sentiments I had for my birthday. That is, until I was reading an article for work on youth in Uganda, and realized Canadian youth ends after the age of 30.

This was the only picture I could find where I'm "crying."
Let's pretend the tablet is my disappearing youth...
Photo Credit: Aaron Wolf
The idea of my youth being over scares me slightly. Partly because I’m pretty sure this means I have to act a little more maturely, but also because I’m just not ready to accept being a full-fledged adult.

In a recent conversation with a friend about a project I’m trying to get started, the topic of my life abroad came up. I shared with her about my love of living in different places – especially here in Uganda – and that I thought my family feared I’d never go home. But part of that, is also my own fear that I won’t come home. For visits, yes, but I mean for the long run. And this is directly related to an ever-growing sense of guilt and responsibility to be at home, and also to the lyric found at the beginning of this post.

The thing is, for as much as I love life outside of Canada, there is a massive part of me – one that consumes more of my energy and thought than warranted – that feels like I shouldn’t be living the life I want, because I should be at home helping out and settling down (i.e. getting married an having babies). This, of course, I know is ridiculous …but, society.

The pressure to conform to what “most*” women do is overwhelming. I’ve noticed this more and more as I get older. It first really set in when I started my undergrad at age 26. Suddenly I felt panicked to complete my education in full so that I could get going on my career before I was too old to find one. However, this relaxed over my first year. When my Mom died, it resurfaced again. And now, to my surprise, I find it back, once again. But the funny thing in all of this is that marriage and baby making isn’t something I’ve ever really desired to achieve in my life, nor is it something my family questions me on. So why the pressure?

The truth is, I don’t know. My sense of responsibility has increased since my mother passed, but it’s also when I’ve really started to live. I’m continuously encouraged by friends and family – particularly my brother – to chase after every opportunity. Sure, there is often sadness upon departure, but the support far outweighs this. I shouldn’t be facing this constant dilemma of shooting for that project/accepting that contract, or making sure my family at home is being taken care of. And this is why that lyric speaks to me so… the scariest part of living away from home is the fear that those I love may not still be there when I return, or that I will lose sight the things that afforded me the opportunity to achieve what I’ve been and continue to be working towards. But I also know these last few years have allowed me to embrace it all, instead of focusing on the fear.

My Mom always used to say “honesty is the best policy!**” "you've got two legs and a heart beat!***" “There’s no time like the present!” And she was right. So, rather than focusing on my concluding youth, I’m going to be focusing on how that youth has put me exactly where I am today.

-the Orange Canadian

*Even though statistically women are doing both of these things later in life if at all! See: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2014002-eng.htm
**…wrong Judy-ism.
***another incorrect Judy-ism.

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