Last week, I found out that Jill Scott was 28 when she wrote and released her first album, "Who Is Jill Scott", and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I remember listening to that album as a teenager and marvelling at the nuances of Jill's (now signature) style, thinking wow, I can't believe this is a debut album! But the thing is, I'm now 28 myself and contrary to what that teenager thought this age would be like, I don't feel as grown up (or indeed as womanly) as Jill sounded to me back then.
We tend to put so much emphasis on what age we reach certain milestones. It starts from birth - mothers talk about how many weeks old their babies are when they first smile, when they crawl, when they walk, when they talk. This just continues throughout our lives and is something we're mildly aware of until the day we reach an age where a milestone is supposed to pair up with us, and it doesn't. That's when realisation dawns and the real insecurities start to plague us. For a lot of girls (I can only really speak for girls), this is probably around puberty, when their peers are experimenting with boys or even losing their virginity.
I've always been a bit of a late bloomer and I have this theory that I'm living my life at least 5 years behind the 'norm'. I was the last one of my childhood friendship group to kiss a boy, to have a real relationship, to drink, to move out and although I've caught up a bit now, I'd still say I'm the least mature of the bunch. Because of this, I became very aware of how much 'age' dictates what is expected of us, rather than personal preference or emotional readiness.
I understand that there are different stages of "ready" in everyones life and the point where milestones are met varies greatly on an individual scale. That's just science and as an intelligent being, I get it. On an emotional scale, however, you can't help but feel somewhat inadequate when you're in awe of someone else's triumphs or successes, then realise with a twinge of something that could be envy that they're either younger than you or (sometimes worse) that you're both the same age.
It's so funny that when a manager at work is younger than us, we immediately start to evaluate their accomplishments and mark them up next to our own, all because their age has sparked a feeling of inequality within us. I'm definitely guilty of this, to the point where I didn't even want to do a good job because I felt so indignant at the fact that I had to answer to this person that was younger than me. It seems so silly in hindsight, because maybe they worked harder than me to get to that position, or maybe that's what was meant for their life and my opportunities were different. Either way, it doesn't matter. The fact is that it wasn't the skills, nor the talent or even the attitude of this person that made me feel that I shouldn't be working under them. It was their age.
We've come to hold success to a higher standard when it is achieved in youth, but why should a person feel any less proud of their accomplishments if they achieve them aged 40 than they would if they had got to the same point aged 20? It doesn't always mean that they lacked the skills they needed at 20, it usually means they had more opportunity or were in a better position to succeed at 40.
This thing about age is another one of what I like to call, the "they say's". These are the rules we apply to our lives because this omnipresent "they" says that's how it supposed to be. Just like with marriage.
Yes, I am married now, but as I've stated many times before, I didn't think I would be anywhere near to being married at 28, so I can completely relate to my friends who are counting down the days to their 30th birthdays and wondering where their Mr. Right is. Of course, there is a good explanation as to why historically we feel we should be married before 30 and that's obviously the biological clock dilemma. However, in a day and age where women are conceiving well into their 40's and with multiple fertility, donor and adoptive options available, why are we still hung up on marrying ourselves off before we've even grown into women?
I don't know about you, but I'm not sure if I'll feel more womanly by age 30 and I'm certainly not ready to be anyone's mother just yet. The fact that I feel this way at 28 but someone who's 20 can feel completely ready to start a family should be proof enough that age (like Aaliyah said) really is nothing but a number. Just like with learning to walk and talk, we all reach these stages at different times and although we might be ready physically at similar ages, we're not always ready emotionally at the same time.
According to the "theys", by 28 I should be married with at least one child, a homeowner, and a successful career woman with a decent amount of savings in the bank.
In reality, at 28 I've only got 2 out of those 5 (depending on who you ask) and while I'm set to achieve some more of those things in the next year or so, I can guarantee you there'll be even more milestones yet to achieve once that list is ticked off. What we can accomplish in our lives is never ending but if we put a constraint as fluid as age on our abilities then we're doing ourselves a huge disservice.
I'm willing to bet good money that although Jill was writing and releasing that amazing album at 28, she still had many insecurities about her progress in life and was working on ways to get to higher ground. To be able to write an opus of that standard when you're 28 is huge, but I'm sure there was a point where she wished she could have done it sooner, or worried that she might be too old to break into the music industry.
What I'm getting at, is that it's really, totally, completely okay if you're not at the point in your life that you thought you would be at this age. You have so much more to achieve, and who cares what age you are when you do it. The important thing is that you do it, and you enjoy doing it.
Although the hare does win the race, the tortoise still passes the finish line and just like that tortoise, we'll all get there eventually. I know I'll be the first one to cheer on your wins, regardless of how old or young you are when you make them.
Can anyone else relate? As always, talk to me in the comments!