I remember dreading my thirteenth birthday.
Not only would I officially be a teenager, I wouldn’t be able to order from the kids’ menu at most restaurants. While most people in middle school were in a rush to grow up – to start wearing bras, experiment with makeup and shave their legs, I was busy collecting beanie babies. I had crushes on boys, but rarely interacted with them. I guess I qualify as a late bloomer, and that’s something that seems to continue throughout my life. I’ve always felt like I’m a few years older than I’m supposed to be.
At my middle, high school and college graduations, I felt way more nostalgic for the past than excited for the future. I always wanted to stay in the place where I felt comfortable instead of moving on to somewhere new. That’s why I was scared to turn 13. Being a kid is easier than venturing into the scary place where your so-called friends are cruel to you for no reason, the school is divided into groups of cool and uncool people and suddenly everything you do is being carefully watched and scrutinized – or it least it feels that way.
I turned 27 recently, and while approaching 30 is certainly not appealing, a lot of my old insecurities have seemed like less and less of a big deal as I’ve gotten older. When I was in middle and high school, I was super-paranoid about being seen alone at the mall because that would mean I didn’t have any friends. Now? I really don’t care. I do all of my own grocery and clothes shopping because I am a self-sufficient adult. I can buy a skirt without asking my friends if it looks good on me first, unlike the cast of Mean Girls.
After my father died, I used to hide inside the waiting room of my therapist’s office, not wanting to be seen by anyone driving or walking by. I didn’t want anyone to know I went to therapy or had any kind of issue that made me less than perfect. Putting on a charade of perfection is emotionally exhausting, yet so many people still do it. I’m not embarrassed to ask for help anymore. Asking for the help you need, whether it’s for your physical or emotional health, is a mature and responsible thing to do. I’ve talked about different therapists and anxiety medications with my friends and family, and it turns out that many of them take medication and see a therapist, too.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is to have friends who are good people rather than friends who are somebody else’s definition of “cool people.” I had a lot of bad experiences with my friendships. Today, if there is someone I want to hang out with, I don’t care if other people don’t approve of the way that person looks or dresses. Having supportive friends who can make me laugh is so much more important. The prospect of being seen with the “wrong people” does not embarrass me anymore.
Maybe I’ve matured, or maybe I’ve just hit the maximum number of embarrassing moments each person must experience in his or her lifetime. After all, my neighbors already think I get diapers delivered to my apartment. At 27, I can confidently approach a cash register in CVS staffed by an attractive guy and pay for Pepto-Bismol and a large box of tampons with a straight face. I’m still not sure which it is. Getting older has given me the freedom to become more and more myself. I am someone who is funny, sometimes fawkward, and 27 years old. For now, anyway.
Related: Why geeks make better adults than the in-crowd [Yahoo]