Realizing that age is not just a number.

I have vague recollections of my childhood, from when my birthday would come around, and I would switch ages from something like 13 to 14. My parents would give me a cake and they’d say something like “You’re getting so old now!,” and I would blush and downplay the whole ordeal.

And that is because going from 13 to 14 means absolutely nothing. There’s not one single thing about your life that changes at that time. Okay, maybe your voice will hit a high note at some point while you are talking to somebody, which admittedly can be embarrassing, but it’s hardly a life-altering experience. And perhaps you’re now legally allowed to watch Are You Afraid of the Dark?  on Nickelodeon unsupervised. High five!

But somewhere along those birthdays, and somewhere along those celebratory cakes, you grow older. You hit your late teens, and then your 20s, and then beyond.

Once you hit 25, age is no longer just a number. I know people love to recite the cliché phrase, “Age is just a number,” but in all honesty — and excuse my language for all of the kids out there who read my blog — those people can go fuck themselves.

Age is way more than just a number.

When I was 15, I went to my doctor for a checkup, and my biggest concern was the type of band-aid that I was going to receive. Now, at 25, I sit in my doctor’s office and my concern lies with what type of life-ending disease my doctor will tell me that I have.

When I was 18, I could spend a night drinking alcohol with friends, and wake up the next day feeling like a million bucks. At 25, I spend a night drinking and the next day I feel like a rusty penny that’s been sitting on the edge of a New York City sidewalk that has been stepped on by 8,000 people for two consecutive weeks.

When I was younger, I could go a 6-hour car ride without even the mere possibility of having to make a bathroom break. Presently, if I can go a night without having to wake up and go to the bathroom then it is a giant accomplishment.

Also, the fact that the term “colonoscopy” is something that I have to at least think about, well that scares the ever-loving shit out of me.

At 25, people have changed the world. Not many — but some people have. Excuse my negative tone, I am certainly not writing this particular blog with the intention of frightening people, nor am I regretful of the life choices I have made at this point. I am simply acknowledging the fact that age is kind of important.

I am not entirely sure when it happens. When you’re 22, and even 23, you’re still kind of living your life masquerading as a teenager. You pretend that nothing has changed, and you party, and you don’t take your job seriously, but then all of a sudden you become 24, and 25. At that age, heartburn isn’t something you just wave off as commonplace. Instead, you think to yourself, “If this felt a little worse, I might die next time.”

And yes I am aware of the fact that I am still a very young guy. A 40-year-old would look at me and consider me a “kid.” And thank god for that. On a side note, I’ve decided to stop capitalizing “god,” mainly because I use the term as a figure of speech, and not an acknowledgement of Christ Almighty, because I choose not to force religion on people. That’s another realization that comes with age.

When I was 19, I considered it “waking up early” when I woke up at 11. If I can sleep past 11 now I feel like I’ve missed the entire day. I also genuinely become tired at around 10:30 at night.

Two Sundays ago, I feel asleep at 9 p.m. I was so tired that I closed my eyes and just happened to fall asleep. The worst part is, when I woke up from the slumber at around midnight, I wasn’t even mad that I missed the entire night. I wasn’t upset that I slept through Sunday Night Football, or the live recorded airings of Showtime’s Dexter and Homeland. Instead, I was happy with the rest that my body so sorely needed.

My 19-year-old self wants to come back and kick my ass. I know it. Right now, in an alternate dimension, he is standing right next to me, invisible, and giving me the finger while shouting obscenities. He’s probably also juggling and playing the harmonica at the same time, because when you’re 19, you’re still young enough to learn things. At 25, if you haven’t learned something by now, you probably never will. I know a lot of people learn to play the guitar once they reach their mid-life crisis, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Again, I still know I am a young guy. 25 is nothing. There’s still whirlwinds of shit that I have yet to experience. And yet, with age also comes a lot of benefits — independence, wisdom, accolades. It’s not like there’s nothing to look forward to.

But at the same time, every human being has their own Dorothy-like moment, when they take a step back and say, “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” Well, I’ve never been to Kansas, nor will I probably ever (seriously, what the hell is there to see in Kansas?) but my realization is that I am no longer a spring chicken anymore. Every action has a consequence. Every teardrop is a waterfall. I don’t even know what that means but Coldplay wrote it so it must mean something.

With acknowledgement comes understanding and responsibility. Some might be ready for it and some might not be. But all I know is when that calendar rolls around, and that one day a year comes around that happens to be my birthday, the mood has gone from celebratory to somber. Every birthday goes from “Let’s get drunk!” to “Let’s all get together, because there’s a realistic chance we may never do it again!”

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It allows you to fully appreciate a moment. Maybe I will take a second look at a sunset, and maybe I will actually double-check my credit card bill in an effort so save every penny. And perhaps I will start taking aspirin in the morning to prevent a depletion of my internal organs.

There’s plenty of upside that comes with the maturation process. Either way, it’s inevitable. Benjamin Button is not real. We all become older and we all go through the same life experiences. The only thing we can alter is our attitude, and how we handle it. Might as well do it with a smile on your face, right?

And on the 1/365 chance that a given day happens to be your birthday, and people are surrounding you with a birthday cake, alit with candles and a decorative number symbolizing your new age, and one of your coworkers who just happens to be named Millie approaches you with an unnecessarily huge grin on her face and says, “Age is just a number…”

Please do us all of a favor by removing one of the candles and shoving it directly into her face.

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