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I have a problem with the way the world works, with the way your age limits your choices and decisions for long enough till it doesn’t matter anymore. The amount of time humans have lived where age stops being a factor for considering intelligence or competence, which would be around 24 years, also coincides with the age where most of your important life choices have already been made. By the time age stops mattering, there’s nothing you can do about it to make the fact an advantage. Your academic pursuits have already been achieved, most people know what they’re going to do in the future, you’re smart enough to start functioning in society, and that’s that.

But what about the spacious extracts of time before we reach that age? Right from when we’re mewling on our mothers to drinking at a pub, there’s a flood of incoming directions from others about what we’re supposed to do. Everything is determined by others in infancy, childhood and teenage years. Those others can be parents or peers, but the arrows of stimuli are there to poke and prod you with too much information and directive.

Which is great! Without it we’d be nothing. Kids are stupid and weak, and they need all the help they can get to find their little place on this gigantic ball of rock plummeting through space, before the icy spectre of death catches up with them. Puerile mistakes have to be made right, and childhood is a time of learning. But till what extent, and till what time does that affect each one of us individually? It’s very easy to look at a group of people, in this case, kids, across the seas of time where each kid is a droplet in an ocean of mediocrity. But how does that translate, when each morning we wake up with a very specific set of tasks to do, and a very specific set of choices to make?

This month I travelled the United Kingdom extensively. I travelled to England, Scotland and Wales, from Cardiff to Brighton to Inverness, I can say I’ve seen a lot of that tiny little island. And I enjoyed every minute of it. The cold frosty air combined with dreary rain and gusty winds would freeze me to death, but I enjoyed it. Juxtaposed with old and young, the British have had a long time to get their country in order, and it’s great. Everything works, even the buttons on the sidewalk, surprisingly.

But this age dilemma was brought to the forefront in Edinburgh, where everyone dressed really well.

Case in point.

Case in point.

Everytime I’d watch an episode of QI or Never Mind the Buzzcocks or some equally ridiculous British comedy show I’d feel bad that I didn’t know the answer to one of the questions, that I’m not as eloquent as Stephen Fry, or I’m not as funny as Jimmy Carr, or that I’m not as cool as Noel Fielding.


Pictured: cool.

That time in Edinburgh, I was in a McDonalds, and there was this person with a beige overcoat and weird 4th movie Harry Potter like hair, with neon orange converse shoes and a maroon jacket, with typical hipster glasses. Everyone else was in a suit! In McDonalds! I wanted to be like them, to wear suits or a beige overcoat, with an identity attached to myself that bears in striking embossed letters a signature to who I am; to show that I belong to a group. And then I realised that I was not in fact, wearing a suit, and I’d probably never be like that Edinburgh hipster even if I tried.

I thought long and hard about little things like this. Why don’t I have all these things which so many other people have? Why is my internet so slow? Why can’t I go to this girl’s house? It only made sense, didn’t it?

But then slowly I realised that age has a lot to do with it. And that age 16, while most people in the world are learning what dirt is by licking it and learning the difference between ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’, here I am writing about it. A life is such an immensely long time. In all cases, life is the longest thing that ever happens to you. And to the world, whose endless lifeless slumber has continued for 4 billion years, and to the universe, who’s done the same thing but for 13 billion years, you are but a tiny blip in the canvas of time. Seemingly happening and withering in a spark, just like all the others. To them, it’s all the same. But for us humans, it’s years and years of agonizing torment and repetition before we even get to decide what we want to do for ourselves. And that’s what bugs me. Either life should be a lot shorter, so that we don’t spend the first 25 years whiling it away when we could be doing something productive, or we need to be able to be independent a lot earlier.

Follow Upamanyu Acharya:

IIM Ahmedabad MBA 2021. My hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words. This is my personal blog where I write on topics ranging from blockchain, to leadership skills and the consistency of jam.

One Response

  1. Sumer

    You remind a lot of Calvin you know that.
    ….and of Fats Walls from the Casual Vacancy.
    Anyway, cool article – the teenage blues in a paragraph I suppose.

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