“What’s the Best Age to Be?”

by Sarah McLaughlin '23 on February 16, 2023

Editor's Column

Don’t Grow Up Too Fast

When I was five years old, I filled out a journal that asked the writer questions about herself, her likes and dislikes, and her dreams for the future. One of the questions was, “What age do you want to be most?” I remember writing down 22. My mom asked me why I picked that age, and I responded, “Because then I will be done with school forever.”

First of all, I just turned 22 last week and I’m still in school. Second, if I could write my answer to that question today, I would probably write five. Sometimes I miss playing with American Girl dolls, reading Junie B. Jones, and making “books” out of construction paper and crayons (but not the part where I stapled my finger). I wish I could tell my past self to spend more time playing capture the flag outside and less time messing with fonts on Microsoft Word (trust me, you have to do plenty of that now for The Cowl). Between bossing around my younger siblings and trying to convince my mom to let me read books above my age level, I was always so focused on trying to be older than I was. Only now do I wish I could be younger again.

Now I’m faced with job applications, credit card bills, car loans, and a future too uncertain to be outlined in simple questions and answers. I’m sure that little journal asked me what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m sure I wrote that I want to be a writer, and though that’s still true, I didn’t know when I was five just how much of a logistical challenge that dream would pose. It’s much more complicated than stapling together a few sheets of construction paper or designing a cover with WordArt. Being in your twenties is, frankly, terrifying.

But maybe instead of wishing I was older or wishing I was younger, I need to try just being 22, and all that it entails. Maybe that means finding success, maybe that means making huge mistakes. Maybe that means landing the perfect job after graduation, or maybe it means trying a few things out before deciding what’s the right fit. At least it means being thankful for everything I have now that I didn’t when I was five—good friends, an education, the ability to style my own hair (no more headbands), and being able to read whatever books I want, too. 

I was a pretty easily entertained child. I didn’t ask to be a professional ballerina or fly to Mars. All I wanted to do was create things and share stories and see other people enjoy them. I wanted to learn all the world capitals and know the multiplication tables and be able to read the books my mom liked. Maybe if I could tell my five-year-old self anything, I would just say to keep doing those things you enjoy, because when you’re 22, you might not have as much time for them. You’ll turn out fine. Although your mental math might be getting a little rusty.