Columns, Opinion

Wake Me Up Boston: Birthdays and age

Last week was a special one for my family. Both my little sister and my grandma celebrated birthdays back-to-back, concluding with a weekend of joint festivities. Although their birthdays are a day apart, their age differences are a bit more than that — naturally so. Ironically enough, at the age of 17 and 89, my sister and grandma have striking similarities. In my eyes, they defy the boundaries of age, something I find to be rather constricting in our society, which views age as an indicator of inevitable milestones that have to occur at a given time of growth.

My grandma is the definition of a youthful spirit and has proven time and time again that she refuses to accept her 89 years of age as a limitation on what she can accomplish. She is a fully-functioning driver who knows her way around town, a queen in the kitchen cooking elaborate meals for holidays and family get-togethers and an avid mahjong and cards game player. The list goes on and on. Yes, she has even grappled with Facebook and Snapchat and kills the emoji game on her Android. Don’t worry, everyone — my grandma has an iPad and Mac desktop, so she can remain a well-rounded technology expert in this world of constant innovation. She doesn’t like naming favorites when it comes to brands.

Most importantly, she has a special lust for life that has kept her refreshingly and beautifully young, always of the optimistic mindset that every day is a day worth being happy. When women weren’t viewed as worthy of entering the workforce, my grandma worked as a seamstress at an evening gown store. When women were generalized as having no legitimate skill or talent besides homemaking, my grandma created art through sculpting and sketching. When women weren’t expected to receive a secondary education, my grandma went to college at the age of 50. My grandma hasn’t lived a particularly easy life but chooses to look past the dark times and ignore the temptation to succumb to the negativity. Instead, she focuses on all the reasons she is lucky to be alive and well. In her words, she is “blessed.”

My sister, at her age of 17, is another shining star of a human being, with the mind of a mature adult and a heart of gold. She is knowing beyond her years, carrying a sense of incredible wisdom that is surely unusual to find in a high schooler. The right thing to do and say comes naturally to her, and she can address almost any situation using logic and a calm demeanor. Like many other juniors and incoming seniors in high school, she now approaches the pinnacle of college application season, touring university after university over the summer to make sure she exhausts all options and finds her best fit. Also typical of a junior is the SAT process, which she takes on with a vengeance for success and nothing less. She plays singles on her high school’s varsity tennis team, gets together with her friends in her free time and recently learned how to drive.

Yes, she possesses all the normal traits of a 17 year old encountering the phase society has planned for her at this age. In my sister’s case, she has no choice but to conform to the boundaries that come with her age in order to keep up with societal standards and what is deemed the proper course of development for success.

Except, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if my sister refused to accept the plan laid out for her and established her own guide on how to live as a 17 year old opposing the traditional facets of schooling and everything else that comes with being a teen. I’m not saying that my sister shouldn’t continue the path she is on, rather, she shouldn’t let her age limit her ability to live a life of freewill where every milestone is predetermined. Neither should anyone, especially college students who are still figuring out what that path even is. At the risk of sounding cliché (I’m sorry, I have to say it), everyone marches to the beat of their own drum. If we just accepted this fact, I think we all could live a more fulfilled life.

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