Title picture: Painstakingly drawn artwork by the author
I work out at a local university’s gym. The facility is pretty nice, but it crowds up pretty fast, so I always go there early in the morning. There’s a nice sweet time range just after the ROTC cadets have cleared out, but before most of the regular students are even awake, where the gym is pretty good and empty. Given that this week is Thanksgiving week, I expected that the gym would be even emptier than normal. This morning I noted that so far it really hasn’t been any different from a normal week at my usual workout time. This surprised me. Looking back to when I was in college, I thought, “back in my day, everyone just skipped the few days before Thanksgiving.” Then I realized that I’ve apparently gotten old enough to use (or at least think) the phrase “back in my day.” (I’m 29 as of this writing.)
I’m not saying 29 is old, but you know what: I do already feel old sometimes. I’ve annoyed people older than me by expressing that sentiment. My wife is 31, so she probably doesn’t want to hear that. I’ve also claimed to feel old around my 40-something parents, who definitely don’t need to hear a 29 year old say that.
Here’s the thing: feeling old is relative. Sure, I can have my grandmother praise me for lifting and moving something that’s about as heavy as my shoe and feel like a young, virile Adonis. But I can also look at the 18 year old freshmen in the campus gym and feel old. They sure as hell aren't looking at me and seeing another student, even though to me college feels like it was only last month. On top of that, I'll feel positively ancient compared to some energetic, hyper kid running and screaming all over Walmart.
Granted, I’ve been saying I feel old for most of my 20s already. I don’t really know why. I’ve speculated that perhaps, since I have an insane long term memory (some would call it a signature trait of mine), the total number of readily retrievable memories in my head is already equivalent to someone much older than me. That theory is based on not a single shred of psychological research or evidence, and would probably cause psych academics to laugh a bit and feel better about themselves. In my experience, half of academia is a bunch of posturing in order to hide the fact that you fear your colleagues are all smarter than you.
Either way, I thought the phrase “back in my day,” and it feels weird.
Oh, and if you celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving!