It is one of the greatest tragedies in my life that every time I’ve fallen asleep, I eventually wake up. It’s not that I’m riddled with angst and would rather spend eternity in a comfortable repose than be tormented by the slings and arrows of outrageous–and often just over the line–fortune. And it’s not that I have so little to look forward to that I wish I could just sleep through life because I’ve actually got a lot of a lot of great stuff to look forward to. It’s because whenever I wake up, I’m treated to an undeniable observation: I feel older than I should.
In terms of adult lifespans, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would quite accurately say I’m still young, hot off the presses, even in the prime of my life. I’m 23, and I think those people would be right, but why doesn’t it feel like that? If I’m young and vigorous and in my prime, why did it take me weeks to get my legs back from a hike? Why have I had a hangover last two days longer than twice as much alcohol used to bring me. Why do I absolutely need to sleep every night when, just a few years after being able to hike, drink, and skip sleeping for days with no consequences?
I think I know the answer. There were consequences. I haven’t exactly been good to my body for the last 6 years. If I were a teacher and my body were the students, I’d have 5 failing, 3 would have left and never come back, and the rest would be passing but crying about how hard it is every night. Now I have to deal with the consequences of my bodily curriculum, and that means rolling out of bed every day and feeling like I’ve slept in a cement mixer.
I complain a lot, and I’ve complained about this exact early aging thing to some of my friends who are a few years older than me, and their responses all inevitably fall into the category of “Ah, you’ll be fine! You’re young and will bounce back. I remember…” And what I’m beginning to articulate is that they’re kind of right and kind of wrong, which leaves me wanting to yell back “No, I’m young, but I don’t get the perks anymore! I remember being younger, and it was amazing, but I don’t work like that anymore because I fucked it all up!” If my body is my temple, then I moved in and started treating the place like I was a rock star with authority issues and an unlimited credit card. In my temple, I smashed the furniture to pieces, polluted the ponds with toxic tinctures, nailed the windows closed, and the closest I ever got to mopping was rolling around on the floor in a big fluffy robe. I’ve sacked my temple in the name of college and bad habits, and now I feel older than I am.
I feel like I’ve created for myself a new stage of human development separate from adulthood. I call it “Oh no, I fucked it up,” and it is characterized by a sudden, forced realization that you probably were in the prime of your life, but you brought it to a harsh, synthetic end through horrible habits and necessary-but-unnatural priorities. My natural aging process didn’t plan for college or grad school, so I aged as if I’d spent the last few years being chased by a tiger because all school did is simulate intense stress for a little over half a decade.
And here I am. I’m writing this while sitting on the edge of my bathtub because I just don’t have it in me to stand up for the duration of an entire shower. I slept 8 hours which is 4 times more than I used to, and I could easily go back to sleep and try to break my 26-hour record. But instead of slipping back under by big soft blanket and rolling back into a pleasant dream, I’m going crawl into this shower, blast myself with scalding water, look down at myself and say “Oh no, I fucked it up.”