I’m anxiously awaiting the day when age no longer matters. For too much of my life, the number that represents the number of years since my birth has dictated others’ opinions of my capabilities.
One day in fifth grade I lamented to my mom about how bored I was in school. I used to fake sick (sometimes my symptoms were real, but they were manifested psychologically) just so I could stay home and read or write or do ANYTHING that was more interesting than learning basic map skills or long division in a classroom with kids who were completely disengaged.
My mom suggested that skipping sixth grade was a possibility. I was certainly smart enough, and I was also mature socially. It would’ve been a natural enough transition, too, because my elementary school had blended classrooms, so I would just move along to junior high with my sixth grade classmates who were moving up.
The idea started sounding better and better as the days went on, and my parents attended many meetings between the principal, my classroom teacher, and the TAG coordinator. Eventually I was approved to skip sixth grade, and I entered junior high the following fall.
The switch confused some of my classmates from elementary school, and they weren’t shy about asking: “I thought you were in fifth grade last year?” “Wait, you’re in junior high now?”
When I explained about skipping a grade, a lot of them were impressed. “So are you just, like, super smart?” is a question I’ve had to answer uncomfortably too many times in my life. Some were more critical, though, and there are two people I have never forgiven for their words.
One insisted on referring to me as “a sixth grader living in a seventh grade world” in an attempt to alienate me from my older peers. Another blatantly told me that he didn’t think I deserved to be in seventh grade, as if he, who earned his class standing simply by being born a year earlier than I was, deserved it more than I did.
Not only am I a year ahead in school, but I also have a summer birthday, meaning that I’ve been up to two years younger than my classmates since entering junior high early. Despite that large gap, my age doesn’t really stand out. I’ve always been tall, and people frequently tell me they would’ve never suspected my youth because I don’t act any differently than my peers.
That being said, we live in a society where a number dictates a lot, and that has made my young age inconvenient at times. I was the last of my friends to be old enough to drive, I won’t be of drinking age until after I graduate from college, and I often have to ask my parents to fax legal documents across the country because I can’t sign them for myself.
I live in an age limbo where a temporary number is completely extraneous yet highly relevant to my identity. Someday I’ll emerge from this bizarre in-between state, but for now my coping strategy is to alter my own perspective to see my young age as something that makes me unique. And it certainly seems to be working.
This post is part of the Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years.