I think there may be an elderly woman trapped inside of me. No, I didn’t “resorb” my twin like Dwight Schrute from The Office did.
Not to my knowledge, anyway.
Technically, chronologically, biologically, genetically, and in all the other ways, I’m 27 years old. (I know what you’re thinking – I don’t look a day over 26 and a half.) But I’m convinced that the thoughts and feelings galloping around in my head seem to come from the brain of a much, much older person. Or, at times, a much younger person.
Now it sounds like I have an identity disorder. Let me back up and explain this in a different way.
I think my 27-year-old self is made up of all of the “selves” I’ve been at different ages. I still have a 22-year-old self, a 14-year-old self, a 9-year-old self, and so on. Probably even an infant self. All of the thoughts and experiences that occurred at each age have accumulated together to form my current self.
All of the ages are important, but for whatever reason, certain ages have taken precedence. I seem to mostly be made up of a 6-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 17-year-old, and, get ready for it – a 93-year-old.
Let’s take the 6-year-old me, for example.
At 6, I was smart and a bit bossy. I went back and forth between wearing my brother’s hand-me-downs and dressing up in sparkly princess gowns; I bounced from riding bikes to playing with my mother’s makeup. I never had good comebacks for my teasing older brother, so I often responded by just slapping him. I wanted to eat macaroni and cheese for every meal, and I was messy. I was happy.
That 6-year-old is still present in me. It’s not uncommon for me to have marker on my hands or food on my clothes. I’m still not good at generating witty comebacks when being teased – though, fortunately, I’ve stopped resorting to physical violence. I get excited about little things.
And when I’m getting ready for a night out, I can look at my new outfit and careful make-up –- and still feel like a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s things.
(And I still kind of want to eat macaroni and cheese for every meal.)
My 12-year-old self is also still part of my life, much to my chagrin. Years of braces, glasses, frizzy hair, and bad skin took their toll on me in middle school. I also had the long, clumsy legs of a baby deer, rendering me completely uncoordinated, with ill-fitting pants. I was so painfully insecure, and so desperate for someone to notice me.
Fifteen years later, my braces are gone, my skin has (sort of) cleared up, and I’ve traded glasses for contacts. I’ve grown into my legs, and almost never trip over my own feet. I’m more comfortable in my body, which I think is one of the upsides of growing up.
But put me in a dressing room, trying on jeans that are a smidge too short, and it’s amazing how quickly I can be catapulted back to sixth grade.
Back to a time when all of my pants fit awkwardly and I walked a little hunched over, as if that would make them less noticeable. (I’m telling you, if the school had ever flooded, my high-water pants and I would have been well-prepared.)
Back to a time when I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, to hide away from all the people I was just so sure were whispering about me. Now, anytime my face breaks out, or my just-straightened hair turns frizzy in humidity, or I fail miserably at something athletic, my brain remembers exactly how I felt at twelve. And it takes every ounce of willpower to not let it go there.
Seventeen-year-old me is equal parts idealism and sarcasm. Back then, I was hard-working and very ambitious; like all teens, I was just trying to find my way in the world. And I’m still trying to find it, to be honest. I still daydream about stumbling upon big successes, and I’m okay with it if that makes me seem a little naïve.
At 17, I also did not like to be told what to do. And I still don’t. Being micro-managed is just about my biggest pet peeve (second to slow walkers, that is). Not long ago, I dealt with an incredibly rude, sexist, and power-hungry person in a professional setting, and I could FEEL the 17-year-old in me dying to pop out with some sort of snarky, bratty response. She was clawing to get out, and it was not easy to stop her.
That snark will probably always be there. Sorry parents, you did the best you could.
And last but not least, the elderly me. I like to think of her as being about 93. I know that I technically haven’t reached that age yet, but I’ve always been a bit of an old soul, so I know a senior citizen is bound to be in there somewhere. Probably wearing a cardigan.
The proof for my elderly side? To start, I like to crochet. I like it so much that it’s just a matter of time before I start making house shoes for everyone I know. I’m also semi-convinced that a lot of the world’s problems could be fixed with homemade cookies.
And when I put on a shirt that is slightly lower-cut than what I’m used to wearing, I’ll feel adult-y and confident for about 10 seconds before peering at myself in the mirror and thinking, you look a little trampy, dear.
Sometimes, these different versions of myself go really well together. For example, the bossiness of 6-year-old me goes nicely with the dislike of being pushed around in the 17-year-old me. (If I let those two take power more often, I’d probably turn into some sort of dictator.)
Also, the 93-year-old me thinks the 12-year-old me is adorable, even with all that acne and frizz. But that doesn’t mean much, because the elderly me thinks everyone is adorable.
But sometimes the different selves contradict each other, such as when the 6-year-old me wants to be playful and goofy, and the 12-year-old me holds back in fear of judgment. Also, the elderly me always thinks I should go to bed earlier, and cook more nutritious meals; that one’s especially difficult, because the 17-year-old me is a night owl, and 6-year-old me just wants macaroni and cheese all the time.
I try not to root for one particular age over another. Each version of me has its own limitations, but also its strengths. The 17-year-old encourages me to stand up for myself and take (healthy) risks. The high-waters-wearing 12-year-old reminds me how to hold my head up, even when I don’t feel very good about myself. And when the weight of adult responsibilities starts to drag me down a little, the 6-year-old keeps me fun-loving, optimistic, and ever-youthful.