Thirty-seven is not old! I can imagine a large percentage of the readers of this blog indignantly saying just that when they read the title of this post. And whoever thinks this indeed is right, of course. But one judges by comparison. And when I moved to York I was immediately welcomed within the circle of the first-year PhD students. And they are the best friends to have! But I am more than 1.5 times as old as almost all of them. And that makes me sometimes consider age.
Does age matter? Well yes, one changes with age. Is there something wrong with having friends of a rampantly different age? No. Does it sometimes complicate things? Yes. For instance; sometimes I have to be boring and old and leave a pub at a reasonable time; not only does my body react to alcohol a bit more than it did some 15 years ago, but I also feel the breath of time in my neck. Life’s too short to spend a morning hung-over! And I am quite aware of my contract being rather short; I need to get myself another job. I have to publish, to network, to develop my science communication skills! And in order to do that I can’t squander too much time in a pub, and I sure can’t squander my time by feeling miserable in bed until 2PM. And I’m not saying my York friends are a bunch of party animals with total disregard for the future; one of them already has a postdoc-like working schedule, with late evenings and working weekends and all. But overall I notice I sometimes can’t keep up with the social life.
Sometimes it’s not them running ahead, but allowing me to slow down; I am a middle-aged woman living like a glorified student. And people of my age often float into a world of mortgages, children, lease cars and whatnot. And I don’t want to go there (yet?) and it’s nice to have friends that feel the same way. And proper grown-ups with permanent jobs and good salaries also often fall into two traps; one is of taking things for granted, and the other is the sense of entitlement. My uncertainty about the future already quite deals with the first one, and I don’t think I’m too susceptible to the second, but having lots of friends on the bottom rung of Academia helps keep things in perspective.
Age is not only how much time you’ve had to develop your career, or how hung-over seven pints make you. It also gives you time for contemplation. And I sure benefit from thinking things over. When I look at my mid-twenties friends, I sometimes compare them with my younger self. And I think every single one of them is more balanced than I was at that age. I much prefer being 37 to being 24. As far as I am concerned, things just keep getting better! I have matured mentally, but I still look like a twenty-something (which regularly annoys me) and I’m a stronger runner than I ever was (if I may average out the last few years), so I don’t suffer from the effects of aging one hears a lot of complaining about. I only get the benefits! And what else did I get? Lovely friends! What more could one wish for. Oh yes, that next job...