Today I make twenty-four and if I am not in my mid-twenties then no one is. It actually came to me that if I told you I was in my mid-twenties, you could easily assume I was twenty-seven. Pretty old eh? But try convincing my father of that.
One time I was talking with my father when the conversation turned into a debate about whether certain elements of our culture were not in keeping with modern lifestyles. I offered an example of the way we greet; it is laborious. There’s like three greetings in one and a lot of humming and cooing in between that I’ve never mastered up to this age. So every time I try to greet an older person in vernacular, I leave them perplexed at my ineptitude in the art.
And we’ve had many such debates, like whether one is better off going to a vocational rather than a regular school or whether there is any upside to Trump being president. And almost every time we have them, my opinion is less valid because I am young, ignorant and inexperienced. In fact, I once heard that I thought the way I did because of my youth but that I’d know better when I got older.
I am older now, I know better and I think differently than I did then. For example, when I was 17, I thought I’d like to get married early, make a home and raise kids properly. And that that had to be the greatest contribution I’d make to advance mankind. Now, I don’t care for much of that happening for me even though I appreciate the contribution that good parents like my own make towards society. But the question had always remained for me, when will I be old enough?
When was I old, wise and experienced enough to make the really important decisions pertaining my life? When did I cease to be a boy and became a man? I think it was when I started making decisions with substantially high stakes. When the decisions I made would determine which career would make me miserable for the rest of my life, whether or not I’d inadvertently assume responsibility for another human being for about the next thirty years of their life and which lifestyle disease would eventually kill me.
I am suggesting that being old enough has more to do with the magnitude of responsibilities you have than with how well you execute these responsibilities. I am more as old as I am required to be than as old as I’d like to be. Therefore, I’d think of myself a twenty-four-year-old with no prospects or plans for the future not as a boy because I am irresponsible but rather as an irresponsible man because I am a twenty-four years old with no prospects or plans for the future. As such, having the responsibility of a magnitude that is usually bestowed upon those that are old enough should afford me the license and audacity to self-determination.
That said though there is something castrating about being a man without a job and still living off of his parents. And I guess it’s only fair that since it’s their money they also get to call the shots. What I do however is that in every situation that I am allowed to decide, I take the responsibility as an adult; like I alone are to blame for the mishaps that may ensue. Now here’s a toast to old age, wisdom, and experience.
Featured image: Sandile Shezi, South Africa’s youngest self-made millionaire was only 23 years old when he caught the media’s attention in 2015. In the picture, he delivers a talk at University of Cape Town, 2016. Image by Sam Bears from here