What’s Your Chronic-ological Age?

I have 5 grey hairs on my head.

Correction: They are white.

Yep, for some reason, my genetically gifted markers of Aging skipped right over the Gandalf the Grey phase and jumped headfirst into born-again Gandalf the White territory.

My initial reaction to this finding?

I am waaaay too young for this. I mean, it must be some unfortunate miscommunication in my melanin producing glands because I’m only…

Wait.

How old am I?

Chronological age is weird. Personally, I feel like what we think of as “chronological” age should really be called “societal” age, because all of the things we think of as happening at a certain age (example: Being “over the hill” at 40) aren’t caused by the number itself, but by the societal implications we’ve attached to it.

If you ask around enough, or read enough articles online, you realize that as much as the powers that be want us to think that every 18, 21, 25, 30, 40, 45, 50, etc. year-old is more or less the same in terms of what their life looks like, it couldn’t be less true.

I have a pretty small social circle, but among us the variation of what “25/26” looks like is gigantic. Some of us are married and have kids, some of us travel around the country for work, some of us went to college, some of us didn’t, some of us live in our own houses, some of us live in our parent’s basements, some of us are unemployed, some of us have our dream jobs, some of us blog about chronic illness twice a week…

In general, no one realizes this when you are 16. When you are 16, you think that everyone’s life is, or should be, pretty much the same. You think that if your life isn’t like [fill-in-the-blank] then you are hideously different and it is the End of the World.

Luckily, we get to grow up a little, and hopefully, around age 25-35 you catch up and realize that it is a whole lot of bologna to think we should all be at the same place at the same time.

(Side note: Am I the only one who thinks we should be phonetically spelling baloney by now? I mean really, Webster’s. Declare it already.)

People get to have their own lives, their own ideas and ideals for that life, and whether or not you have checked off society’s never-ending check list for your age group is not going to make or break you.

This is a huge relief for everyone, but it’s especially nice when you realize it and apply it to a Chronic Life situation.

Because, special spoonie that I am, I get to have my chronological age, my societal age, and my CHRONIC-ological age.

Chronics have their own timetables. We just do. Chronic time moves differently than non-chronic time. Some times are slower, some times are faster, and some times feel like they didn’t happen at all. Personally, due to health crises of monumental levels, I have pretty much zero memory of the year 2008 and most of the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. (Apparently, consciousness is essential to memory making.) So, in a way, I need to shave at least 2 years off my age, because they didn’t really happen…at least not for me.

Also, strangely, there is a phenomenon among people who have experienced “heavy” things (emotional, traumatic, etc.) in their lives, in which psychologically, some part of them gets “stuck” in that time period. It takes a lot of time and effort to get unstuck from wherever that left you. For instance, it’s not uncommon for Chronics to get psychologically stuck in the year they got sick.

Personally, some part of my brain/mind/psyche/spiritual experience (did I cover all my bases there?) is going to be 13 for a long time. It’s like someone pressed pause, and I’m waiting for my life (high school, “normal” growing up experiences) to begin.

Now, let’s NOT get weird and take that statement literally. (As in, DO NOT TAKE THAT STATEMENT LITERALLY.)

It’s not an overpowering feeling, just a slight tug at the edges of my mind that occasionally makes me feel like I am living Jennifer Garner’s part in the quintessential chick flick 13 Going on 30. Like, I woke up today in 2015 and I’m not altogether sure how I got here. My Chronic timeline doesn’t line up with the standard Roman calendar system.

It’s not just an aging backwards, Benjamin Button sort of thing, as it can go the other way too.

There have been really specific times in my life when I have felt that I don’t line up with my real age because I feel so much older than it. My mom used to say I was born 30. (All this mention of 30…here’s hoping when I actually get there, it lives up to the hype.) My maturity level was off the charts even as a little kid, and I didn’t really have much use for the societal conventions attached to say, age 5. I was too busy trying to find someone to competently discuss feminist archetypes in Disney fairytales with me to be fingerpainting. (*EXAGGERATION* but only a little 🙂 )

This aging forwards was also hit by the Chronic-bus, because, as many of you know, we end up dealing with a whole lot of <stuff> beyond our tender-hearted years when Chronic illness comes into play.

So how old are we really, Chronics? How old is old enough for grey hairs? How young is young enough to still find comfort in stuffed animals? Are you “too old” if you go to bed at 9pm or “too young” if you leave for a party at that hour?

DOES ANY OF IT REALLY MATTER?

My chronological age is 26. My CHRONIC-ological age is 110 and 13 at the same time. My societal age is probably closer to 18. All of it makes sense, at least to me.

And those white hairs? No way am I going to pluck those suckers out. Apparently, the universe has decided I’m old enough to have earned them.

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