What exactly is a number? It’s an accurate reading or measurement of some kind, I suppose. Some sort of precise gauge for something, perhaps. But when it comes to age, what is a number supposed to tell us?
Recently, my internal clock measured out another birthday, reading out by the calendar, date, and time that I was officially 25 years old. A quarter century. Not quite 20 anymore, yet certainly not 30. And so I found myself wondering what, exactly, that stuck-in-the-middle number was supposed to mean for me. At first, it meant a bit of fear. I am still what some would consider fresh enough out of school, but I know full well that there is so much more yet to learn, both about myself and about life in general. And with that knowledge comes some intimidating questions. What will the next 25 years bring? Will I do all the things I’ve dreamed of doing? Will I travel the places I’ve always wanted to go? Where will I live? What will my relationships look like? As I finally turned the magic number of 25, my mind filled with so many more questions than answers.
Yet, with such unanswered questions came a different kind of awareness — an awareness that time is a gift. That if the first 25 years of my life could pass by in such a flash, the next 25 most certainly do the same. And not only will time bolt forward faster than a marathon runner at the sound of a race’s starting gun, it is also finite. It, too, has a finish line. Though I may not know when that finish line approaches, there will be one nonetheless.
Suddenly, those unanswered questions swirling in my brain were not so much intimidating as they were enticing. They became an invitation for self-discovery, an offer to get to know myself on a level much deeper than I ever have before. They called on me to study myself for once, to pour over my goals and visions, my hopes and fears, my motivations and my challenges. To realize that I have examined and analyzed the world around me so much that I can forget the worlds that exist within me.
What matters today is indulging that self-discovery and accepting that invitation to explore who and what I am. What matters today is knowing that I can shape the next 25 years of my life in whatever way I choose, ensuring that I honor who and what I am.
Numbers can be complex. They can seem absolute. They can appear inhibiting, locking you in and pinning you down to its precise meaning. But when it comes to age, I’m beginning to realize that what matters most is ensuring that the number does not paralyze — the number is the catalyst for more examination, more discovery, more still to come.