Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Welcome, 1989!

 

If you’re like me—and apparently, to my surprise, you are, every one of you—you find yourself rather surprised that we are now entering the year 2015. Indeed, this date sounds unfathomably and weirdly futuristic, and suggests we live in Skypad Apartments, work for Spacely Space Sprockets, commute to work in aerocars, and have a robot maid named Rosie. Or in a less Rosie future, HAL is telling us that the mission is too important to allow Dave to jeopardize it. And yes, roll that one around in your mind a bit. Because that was supposed to happen in 2001. And it is now—

No. Stop. It cannot be. It is still 1989. And you cannot convince me otherwise.

I have a very dear friend whom I’ve known since I was 19. And stop, again, right there, because—as we remarked when we spoke on the phone the other day—that means we have known each other for 27 years. And this means we knew each other well before I was born, because I am 22. But we met when I was 19. So the math is not quite adding up.

Stick with me.

My friend went on to become an extremely successful psychotherapist. He’s one of the few members of that profession, by the way, to whom I would confidently send a friend who is in emotional distress and expect something good to result of it. In a field littered with cranks and quacks, he is neither. He’s deeply thoughtful about human nature, remarkably insightful, and above all, totally no-nonsense. It’s not, after all, an accident that we’re still friends after 27 years.

Nor is it an accident that in his midlife (which is an odd thing for him to be in at the age of 19), he trained to be a magistrate. It would take some time to explain that term, but suffice to say it’s a judicial position that originated in a 1327 Act calling for “good and lawful men” to be appointed to “guard the Peace.” Today, such good and lawful men determine punishments in cases of theft, criminal damage, and public disorder; and send cases such as rape and murder to the Crown Court for trial.

When I say “no-nonsense,” I mean this: It would be a grave error for a mugger or a drunk driver to petition my my friend (or “Your Worship” as he would be known in that context) for leniency on the grounds that he’d had a troubled childhood. My friend has really heard it all, on that score, and he is not the least impressed.

So when he makes an observation about human nature, I tend to take it more seriously than I would most people’s casual thoughts on the matter. He’s seen it all, and he’s studied and considered it carefully—and this from many different angles. Thus when I said rather casually that while I knew I was 46, it really didn’t feel all that different to me from being 22—or at least, not as different as I expected it would—his was more than a casual response.

He said that this is what everyone feels. Everyone. Literally.

He’s looked at that question quite closely. Everyone he has asked—and he has asked many people—feels that time somehow stopped, in some important way, in their mid-twenties. Children and teenagers feel they’re the age they are. So do people in their early twenties. But after that, the passage of time stops making sense. People find themselves shocked that they met 27 years ago, even though nothing about that should shock them, because they did indeed meet 27 years ago. Yet that seems so weird. And how could it be 2015? I am willing perhaps to believe that he and I met many years ago, but I refuse resolutely to believe we are in the year 2015.

I wondered aloud why this was so. My first thought was that of course I’d prefer to believe it was 1989. What a great year that was, after all. The Berlin Wall came tumbling down. We all spoke in total earnestness about the End of History. I was a young woman surrounded by young men—and surrounded by five times as many of them, too, because Balliol College had only recently begun admitting women, and these in rather small numbers, as something of an unwelcome experiment. I earnestly believed there was an important connection between my ability to do the sorts of things that resulted in my being there and some rosy outstretched future in which I’d surely be able to earn a living—and that part I just took for granted—and a greatness of some indeterminate but certain sort that surely lay ahead of me. The details of the future were vague in my mind (beyond the idea that we’d be jetting to work in aerocars and I would be very wealthy and successful and so would the rest of the world), but I was sure it would all be good. What wasn’t to like? So of course that’s why my sense of time got stuck there, I proposed.

No. I was wrong, he said. He had asked this of people in their 40s, their 50s, their 70s, and their 90s. They almost universally said they felt themselves to be of an age somewhere between 23 and 29, and almost never offered an age over 30. He was clear: He had surveyed in his clinical work a great many men and women who had not one good reason to feel nostalgic about that time of their lives, neither personally nor in terms of general global events. But that was always where their sense of time got stuck.

He suspected the real reason for this had something to do with brain development He wasn’t sure how it worked, but reckoned that as the brain matures into its fully adult state, it stops processing “time” the way a younger brain does.

Interesting, I thought. Interesting enough to make me wonder: Members of Ricochet, how old do you feel you are?

And what year do you feel it is?

In any case, happy new year, Ricochet! May this year bring you joy, peace, prosperity, fecundity, and every success you wish and more. Me, I plan to celebrate tonight.

I’m going to retire early for a quiet evening with a nice cup of tea and party like it’s 1989.

There are 60 comments.

  1. Stad Thatcher

    Claire Berlinski: Interesting, I thought. Interesting enough to make me wonder: Members of Ricochet, how old do you feel you are?

    I still feel like I’m a teenager. Even though I’m on the verge of geezerdom (my wife says I’m already there), I still feel like the teenager with a chipped front tooth (since repaired) and very long hair (since cut), going to high school and trying to score with the girls . . .

    Whenever my old friends and I get together, we all agree that we still feel young at heart, even though we look like hell. I can’t do much about my body, but I hope I never grow old inside . . .

    • #1
    • December 31, 2014, at 11:25 AM PST
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  2. Painter Jean Member

    I once remarked upon this very subject to three priests — I happened to be working in the sacristy at the time — and one of them, a very wise and learned man, lifted his index finger triumphantly and said, “Ah hah! That is because the soul is immortal!”. I have pondered that comment, from time to time, ever since.

    I still feel as if I am in my mid-twenties, though hopefully I have gained some wisdom in the subsequent decades.

    • #2
    • December 31, 2014, at 11:30 AM PST
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  3. Pilli Inactive

    Still making the same mistakes as I did in 1976. I must be 27.

    • #3
    • December 31, 2014, at 11:51 AM PST
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  4. Petty Boozswha Member

    I was at the barber’s a while back and he asked, “what can I do for you?,” I absentmindedly answered “make me look like I’m 28 again.” He said that would be tough for $15 bucks but I guess that’s where my prime was and that’s who I am in my mind’s eye. Wish it could be so.

    • #4
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:22 PM PST
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  5. Kephalithos Member

    Claire Berlinski: Members of Ricochet, how old do you feel you are?

    Eighty-seven.

    (In truth, I’m nineteen.)

    • #5
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:27 PM PST
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  6. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Could it be that most of us were still feeling the glory of our first real accomplishment (escape from school) while all of the really bad life mistakes and limitless potential lay before us?

    I laugh when the millenials and teens look at me like I’m an old man because in the blink of an eye they will be wondering why all those damn kids won’t get off their lawns.

    • #6
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:30 PM PST
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  7. Mike Rapkoch Member

    I think it was Jack Benny who said “age is a matter of mind; if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter.” I don’t mind, but the matter is breaking down.

    • #7
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:30 PM PST
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  8. Bob Wainwright Member

    As you age, each year is a smaller and smaller percentage of your entire life. When you’re 6, it’s one sixth of your entire life. When your 40, it’s 1/40th. So it’s no wonder that time seems to speed up. So inside every 70 year old is a 19 year old asking “What happened?”

    But that’s subjective. What I don’t understand is why fashion and styles in clothes and hair etc. are not that different now than in 1989. Can you think of any other 25 year period in the last century where that was true?

    • #8
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:30 PM PST
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  9. Morituri Te Inactive

    I recently took an online survey called something like “What’s your mental age?” It said my mental age was 28. I said, “Yup, that sounds right.”

    On the other hand, I think there is a fundamental shift that happens in middle age, summed up by Jung’s statement that “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” In our late 20’s, most of us are living a life whose values or pursuits are centered around others: marrying, having children, taking care of our families, impressing those who can help us move forward, and embracing conventional notions of virtue and success. Then somewhere in our 40s we begin a process of disillusionment and reevaluation, in which we paradoxically both let go of our ego involvement and begin to live more for ourselves than others.

    I don’t think this is necessarily a contradiction. I don’t think we become new people in middle age, so much as begin to explore and develop our true selves, which have been in thrall to external ambition. Ironically, we may feel younger, fresher than we did in earlier years, freed from some of the burdens we bore then. Perhaps we don’t so much stay 27 or 28, as return to the younger selves we denied then, with a deeper sense of what is really important.

    • #9
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:38 PM PST
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  10. Randy Webster Member

    Bob Wainwright:As you age, each year is a smaller and smaller percentage of your entire life. When you’re 6, it’s one sixth of your entire life. When your 40, it’s 1/40th. So it’s no wonder that time seems to speed up. So inside every 70 year old is a 19 year old asking “What happened?”

    I’ve had the theory about each year being a smaller part of life than the previous year for a long time. I think there’s some truth to it.

    I worked in a physical occupation for a long time. It’s hard for me to separate the way my body feels from how old I feel.

    • #10
    • December 31, 2014, at 12:41 PM PST
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  11. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Coolidge

    I guess I also feel like I’m in my late 20s or early 30s, although next year I hit the half-century mark.

    This illusion extends to the mirror, by the way. When I see myself, I don’t see a man who is almost 50. I see a man in his 30s. I have friends who are younger than me, and to me they look like old men. Some of them even act like old men.

    Part of this, I assume, is because I have young children, while other men my age are starting to have grandchildren. Young children keep you young. Perhaps I should see about having another.

    About five years ago, I was mistaken for my oldest daughter’s grandfather, but I think that lady was senile. Nevertheless, just to make sure that never happened again, I started buying the Just For Men Beard and Mustache Dye by the caseload.

    Growing older myself isn’t so bad. But seeing my kids grow up is heartbreaking. I miss the little girls they were. I’m gonna track down Father Time and punch him in the head.

    • #11
    • December 31, 2014, at 1:20 PM PST
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  12. Mike Hubbard Member
    Mike Hubbard Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I feel like I’m 34, and that’s the age I happen to be. Part of the reason is that I’m not healing like I did in my teens and twenties. After a recent surgery, the doctor told me, “Mr. Hubbard, you’re not young and invincible any more.”

    I replied, “I’m fine with being middle aged and invincible.” Fortunately, the doc didn’t sentence me to another surgery for that one.

    Depending on how tonight’s champagne hits me, I might feel 89 tomorrow. And the year will always be 2004.

    • #12
    • December 31, 2014, at 1:29 PM PST
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  13. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    From an old post shared elsewhere (sorry for the length, but it fits the topic):

    I feel as old as I have my whole life. The world I perceive through my eyes changes frequently – and often dramatically – with the passage of time. Landscapes once as open as the expanse of nature are turned over to the migratory expansion of man, while old haunts are either paved over or left to rot. Faces I see begin to reveal lines once hidden, whereas the young seem ever younger in comparison. I even look in the mirror with puzzlement, because what I see is a disconnect between what my mind says and what my eyes see to be the impact of time.

    I am as old as I have been my whole life. When I was a teenager, I constantly wrestled with the meaning of manhood, the meaning of being an adult and the nature of the boundary I presumed I would have to cross to finally and fully become “grown up.” Yet I’m beginning to wonder if such a boundary even exists, or, if it does exist, whether I will ever reach the border and cross it. Because despite being a husband and father, despite being fully employed and owning property, and despite carrying the burdens typically associated with being an adult … I’m still not sure that I’ve “grown up.”

    Is it a case of arrested development? So many of the insecurities I had at 12 I still have now at 43. The uncertainty and obsessions that have driven me all my life still drive me. Coming to faith in Christ changed some of that, but every time I stop to take measure of myself – of who I am, or who I am becoming – I feel less sure that I will ever arrive at that place of wisdom that I imagine to be the hallmark of an adult. What does that even mean?

    The world I perceive is constantly changing, but who I am seems to be unchanged, from behind these eyes anyway. Or perhaps that’s not true at all, and I am changed and still changing on account of life’s many experiences, but am just unable to see it clearly for myself.

    Or maybe still, this whole notion of being a grown-up is a false construct. What we are, we are. Perhaps wisdom, as a measure of … something … only has meaning when it is placed in context, to compare or contrast.

    I am as old as I’ve always been. And perhaps there is nothing really wrong with that. Maybe, I just … am.

    • #13
    • December 31, 2014, at 1:29 PM PST
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  14. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Coolidge

    My grandfather was blessed — or cursed — with a sharp mind into his mid-90s. It annoyed him deeply that his body was failing while in his mind he was still a young person. He would frequently grumble to me “It’s hell to get old.” And he fought the aging process for as long as he lived. And given that he almost hit the century mark, I’d say he put up quite a fight.

    • #14
    • December 31, 2014, at 1:29 PM PST
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  15. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive

    I’m 49 and feel 49. Maybe because my field, computer science, remains resolutely a young person’s game. I’ve been around long enough to have acquired what I call “Anne Rice vampire ennui,” which basically means if you survive long enough, you get to see humanity make the same mistakes over and over and over again. I somehow have ended up doing two public speaking gigs at two events in three years with a partner who is 16 years my junior, and in the planning for the last presentation I get the impression that I actually worried her with my comments about not being able to wait not to do this anymore, that I do the public speaking to put a kind of stake in the ground—”want to know what I think about topic X? Watch this recording of our presentation”—because I want to move on and not keep talking about the same stuff all the time.

    I want to stop.

    I think a key feature of feeling old (however you define that term) is that. Wanting to stop.

    • #15
    • December 31, 2014, at 1:51 PM PST
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  16. Randy Webster Member

    When you’re young, you just naturally think that if something bad happens, you’ll heal. I’m getting to the point where stuff happens that’s going to be with me the rest of my life.

    • #16
    • December 31, 2014, at 2:19 PM PST
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  17. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire,

    And a lovely 22 you are. There is only one way to deal with HAL. Please excuse me for a moment..”OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS HAL..HAL..HAL!!”

    Whew! He’s always the same with the Daisy Daisy.

    Claire I have to go. This one’s just for you.

    Happy New Year!,

    Jim

    • #17
    • December 31, 2014, at 2:22 PM PST
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  18. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My mother has been saying she feels 29 for as long as I can remember. I was born when she turned 40 and she’s currently… much older than that. You didn’t think I’d be giving away my age now, did you?

    I’m 29, since you asked.

    • #18
    • December 31, 2014, at 2:43 PM PST
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  19. Joseph Stanko Member
    Joseph Stanko Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I guess I’m not the only one who can identify with this song then.

    • #19
    • December 31, 2014, at 4:44 PM PST
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  20. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire Berlinski: Indeed, this date sounds unfathomably and weirdly futuristic, and suggests we live in Skypad Apartments, work for Spacely Space Sprockets, commute to work in aerocars, and have a robot maid named Rosie.

    Apropos of nothing, there’s a fan theory that The Jetsons and The Flintstones took place during the same period of time. The theory is that rather than taking place in prehistory, The Flintsones documents the lives of those left to eke out survival on the surface of the planet after the global ecological mutogenic disaster which brought back the dinosaurs and gave animals the power of speech.

    Supporting data points include the fact that we never see the ground during The Jetsons, and that the Jetson family and the Flintstone family have been depicted meeting each other.

    In other words, when people complain that we don’t yet live like the Jetsons, I like to counter that we should count our blessings.

    As to the original question, I feel about 30. Old enough to know better, but young enough to not worry too much about having enough saved for retirement. Also, I’m good with computers but no longer have the reflexes to compete in online games. As such, for me, it’s about 2006.

    • #20
    • December 31, 2014, at 5:30 PM PST
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  21. blank generation member Inactive

    Apropos of nothing, there’s a fan theory that The Jetsons and The Flintstones took place during the same period of time. The theory is that rather than taking place in prehistory, The Flintsones documents the lives of those left to eke out survival on the surface of the planet after the global ecological mutogenic disaster which brought back the dinosaurs and gave animals the power of speech.

    Supporting data points include the fact that we never see the ground during The Jetsons, and that the Jetson family and the Flintstone family have been depicted meeting each other.

    I didn’t know Colorado abutted Canada. Strong chemicals up there.

    I haven’t given much thought about which age I am stuck in. Based on my musical preferences I am 22/23. Since I don’t give much thought to stuff, I must be 22/23.

    Correction: I must be the 22/23 me.

    • #21
    • December 31, 2014, at 6:31 PM PST
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  22. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I felt about 28 until I was about 60. I still think like I’m 28 but I feel like I’m 70 after a good days work.

    • #22
    • December 31, 2014, at 6:36 PM PST
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  23. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    I had a nice, arthritic 60 going by the time I hit 16.

    • #23
    • December 31, 2014, at 7:09 PM PST
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  24. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Claire,

    I tried to appeal to the better angels of your nature to lighten your spirits. However, I fear you may be under the spell of this Crown Court fellow. Sure I know how impressive they can be especially when they can quote The Interpretation of Dreams verbatim. You must realize that all is not how it seems. The following documentary can give you some idea what these ‘totally no-nonsense’ fellows are capable of. Please study it carefully.

    I am here for you Claire.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #24
    • December 31, 2014, at 7:33 PM PST
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  25. Profile Photo Member

    Monty Python are like donuts. There’s nothing they can’t do.

    • #25
    • December 31, 2014, at 7:47 PM PST
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  26. Joseph Stanko Member
    Joseph Stanko Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am stuck in my mid-20’s. I still live in the same apartment I moved into shortly after graduation (with most of the same furniture), I still have the same job, little has changed in my daily routine for 16+ years. I associate adulthood with home ownership, marriage, raising children, and since I haven’t hit any of these milestones it seems unremarkable that I’d think of myself as still transitioning into adulthood.

    So to learn that people who have passed these milestones still feel the same way fascinates me. I wonder if this has always been true, or if it’s somehow a product of modern culture?

    • #26
    • December 31, 2014, at 7:51 PM PST
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  27. Cal Lawton Member
    Cal Lawton Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Flying cars, you forgot to mention that by 2015 we’re supposed to have flying cars.

    • #27
    • December 31, 2014, at 9:11 PM PST
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  28. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m slightly older than my teeth and slightly younger than my joints.

    • #28
    • December 31, 2014, at 9:32 PM PST
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  29. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Upon reading your friends comment that all people feel stuck in their twenties, my first thought was, “probably because that is when brain development finally stops”. It was gratifying to see your friend shared my suspicion. A theory as to why you may stop recognizing time after reaching adulthood is that the changes you undergo during development are so vast that they are hard to overlook or ignore. Cognitively speaking you are not the same person at the age of 10 that you are at the age of 20. Your preferences, understanding, attention span, even physical capabilities are vastly altered. Not until you begin to suffer serious mental degeneration will you ever encounter such vast personality dynamics, and such deterioration (thankfully) is not a guarantee.

    This also I think explains a phenomenon that only adults can engage in, which is having friends of significantly different ages. Normally as children it is virtually impossible to be friends with any one more than a year or two older or younger than you. But, as adults we often make friends that are 10 or even 20 years older or younger than us. Probably because developmentally and cognitively we are all within the same range.

    • #29
    • December 31, 2014, at 9:38 PM PST
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  30. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Inside every old person is a young person screaming “What the hell happened?!” (I’m 52).

    • #30
    • December 31, 2014, at 9:44 PM PST
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