A younger friend recently asked why I (and many others my age) make so many comments about being old. After some thought, I realized a big part of this was related to experiencing specific meaningful life stages during the pandemic.

In 2019, I could (and often did) stay up late at parties, survive on very little sleep, and run on my own willpower alone. I didn't usually need to think too hard about any of this in terms of trade offs, and thus had the ability to be way more spontaneous about it all. If a friend invited me out, I could say yes that night, with no planning ahead, and have a good time.

Then lockdown hit, and everything shut down. During this time, I got divorced, turned 30, and made a bunch of other huge life changes. In normal times, I probably would have started to see my stamina decline. I would have noticed at first that my body would hurt more the day after a night out. Then I'd start to notice myself losing energy earlier and earlier. But things didn't play out this way.

Instead, we were isolated, slowly watching culture change, with Gen Z gaining more control over social and pop culture as we learned to live online as they always had. Harry Potter wasn't cool anymore, side parts were cringe, and it became clear how out of touch we were.

When things opened up years later, many of us found ourselves suddenly unable to keep up with our past selves. It feels like going out until 3 one night, and the next night, needing to leave at midnight. Suddenly we were no longer growing, but aging.

So when I call myself old, I'm not saying that my best years are behind me, or that I feel I'm nearing the end of my life. I think what I actually mean (and should be saying) is that I feel emotional whiplash from moving out of young adulthood into regular adulthood. It feels like I was robbed of the transition between the two. I wish we could have peacefully handed the baton off to the next generation, rather than waking up one day and finding it gone.

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I feel emotional whiplash from moving out of young adulthood into regular adulthood. It feels like I was robbed of the transition between the two. I wish we could have peacefully handed the baton off to the next generation, rather than waking up one day and finding it gone.

I'm maybe five years younger than you but I feel much the same way. Before lockdown I felt like I was just beginning adulthood — I'd been out of college for less than three years and graduated pretty young, so in most workplaces or social situations I was one of the youngest people around. The social scene I emerged into after lockdown was full of people who seemed a lot younger than me, like they were everywhere, and I felt older both because those people were looking up to 'my generation' and because I was jaded as fuck. I don't feel like my best years are behind me or that I'm nearing the end of my life, but I do feel like those younger people are full of a hope and energy that feels incredibly distant to me. 

30 is indeed roughly the inflection age, when the usual liberties one was able to take earlier with their body and mind are no longer consequence-free for an average person. If this transition was during the two plus years of covid, it makes sense that this gradual process feels like a discontinuous jump.

Contrary take: I'm in the same age range as you, I also made big life changes during the pandemic, but I feel like I've been experiencing aging at a constant rate. 

Potential explanatory differences: I came out of the pandemic in slightly better physical shape, and I'm not too connected with the social zeitgeist, so the rise of Gen Z wasn't salient.

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