Some people complain about getting older. Joints creak and pop. Arthritis pinches your knees when rain is in the air. A gray hair is an alarm clock that must be slapped quiet with dye. Some people like recycling years, “I’m 20 for the 30th time this year, a new record!”, for example. The idea of aging has always been feared. There are so many pieces of literature or films where the villain wants to stay young forever. People want to steal a sip from the fountain of youth if it means that they don’t have to go to a 20th high school reunion.
I am 23 years old now. That is 23 times the Earth has revolved around the Sun for 365 days. It has helped shed some light on my ideology on age.
As the years have passed I have aged like a fine wine. Not like a pinot noir, even though I could go for that right now… I mean, I have aged mentally. I have aged into myself.
When I was younger, I was shy. I was extremely shy. I did not like speaking to people I did not know. When I was called on to read to class I mumbled into the text book. The class would laugh at my whisper sputtering about Rasputin. I would pull myself closer into the text in the hopes to become a segment of the book’s spine. I was bullied from the age of 10 to 16 because I was quiet. It’s easy to pin something on someone when they refuse to speak. It’s hard to whisper over laughter and jeers. So, I stayed quiet and wrote stories during my classes.
When I was younger I could not tame my anxiety. I was also about 10 years old when I was diagnosed with it. Anxiety was a creature I could not face. It was this invisible force that crept up on me and made my heart race. I was pinned down by it constantly. If I was bitten by something, I asked if I would die. I accidentally swallowed a piece of confetti at a party once and was picked up earlier than planned because I could not stop worrying about that one piece of plastic. So, I stayed at home or only went out with a family member because there was safety in numbers and how could I die when I was with them?
As I have gotten older, I have thought about these moments. I once thought that they took up my whole life. I was once worried that I had just worried everything away. I was clay at one point. Lifeless, cold, and gray because of silence and anxiety. But over time, the block of expressionist mud began to shift and morph.
I started attending theater camp and joined my high school’s theater troupe at 14 years old. A slab of my muteness got sanded down over the four years. My voice got louder and rose over laughter during improvisational exercises. I moved onto college. I took my talking and banter with me in my suitcases. My anxiety started to recede as my independence bloomed. I got into stand-up. Yes, the anxious mute shares stories in the hopes for people to laugh at her awkwardness. Instead of trying to disappear I savor the laughs. I celebrate them. I love them because it is because of something that I have said or done.
Over time, I began to see the signs of when my anxiety would begin to stalk me. I learned to inhale and exhale the thoughts away, like blowing out candles, snuffing out each light gradually. Because of my practices with anxiety, I hold a friends hand, I am a comforter that blankets them until they can relax.
As I have gotten older, this fine wine has not only fermented but has shared the bittersweet twang of my history with others who want a glass.
I am a voice. I am a laugh. I am a piece of advice. I am a presence. I am an assurance. I am your friend.
As I get older I know the elements listed above will only shine brighter and be louder, louder because I will not be able to hear so well in the future from all of the laughter.