On being an “old adult”

I started this blog to write about young adult and children’s literature from the perspective of someone who is neither a young adult or a child. But I feel compelled to say (strictly so my readers can decide whether or not to identify with me, of course, not from any anxiety about getting old. ahem.) that I am not, technically, that old.

Do you have a part of you that still feels like a teenager/college student/twenty-something? I remember when I was a teenager, and my older cousin (in her 40s) told me that a lot of the time she still felt inside like she was 18. And I was amazed. Grown-ups were grown-ups. You know, old, and grown up, and, well, old. But now that I am grown up and, you know, old, I totally understand what my cousin was talking about.

Interestingly, my inner young adult has gotten a little older – in college she felt like a high schooler, and then for a while in my 20s I would see college students and have to remind myself that the reason they looked so bizarrely young and unformed was because they were young, at least compared to me. Now I am 32, which is hopefully still well in the first half of a long and healthy life, but despite the fact that there’s a part of me inside that still feels full of the possibilities of her early 20s, I am definitely, solidly, thoroughly, no longer a young adult.

I was never one of those kids who couldn’t wait to grow up. I loved being whatever age I was, occasionally holding nostalgia for times gone by (through Freshman year of high school I maintained that 7th grade was the “best year ever”). And now that I’m in my 30s, it’s not that I’m resistant to growing up, I just, haven’t, quite. I am fortunate enough to not have a job that requires me to look professional, so I slouch around in jeans and hoodies and Pumas and dye my hair and carry pink plastic accessories with kitties on them. I get my work done and I pay my rent and care about the world and all that, but I love to come home and crawl in bed and read a book about trying to fit in at a new high school or investigating the mysterious construction site next to the junior high or trying to juggle a boyfriend, homework, and psychic powers.

One of the things I do for work is to work with teens. And I see over and over again that, in the same way I couldn’t conceive of a “grown-up” having any part of her that knew exactly what it was like to be a teen, adults have a very hard time grasping the clarity and wisdom with which young adults perceive the world around them, and the depth and intensity of their emotions in reponse to what they experience. The very best YA books understand that to be a teen is not to be naive, or self-absorbed, or stupid. To be a teen, or a child, is to experience things with such newness, and such brightness, that it shines a light on what we come to take for granted. It highlights all the things that over the years we may come to accept, or forget, or simply cease to notice. And in this way, YA literature is our literature, the story of our whole world.

And also it’s just really fun. And silly. And fantastical. And clever. And a great read!