Friday, August 31, 2012

The Peter-Pan years?

At a party last weekend, amongst a group of people I had met only hours and minutes before, I declared my age to be 'twenty six and a half'. Obviously the declaration caused significant amusement to my new friends (well they may not be my new friends after that outburst) who thought the practice of counting halves probably should have stopped when my age went into double digits.

I was reacting to the charge from my friend Patrick that I was in my 'late twenties'. Shocked at this libelous accusation I proceeded to tell him my theory that the years 20, 21, 22, 23 constitute one's early twenties, 24, 25, 26 mid twenties and 27, 28 and 29 late twenties. I told him that I was currently 6 months away from being in my late twenties as I am 'twenty six and a half'.

For the past few days I have been trying to pinpoint the exact reasons behind my outburst, and my reluctance to be labelled as being in my late twenties. Of course, no one likes getting older. No one likes watching the appearance of the faintest of frown lines, finding their second (!) grey hair, having twinges of back pain.

But I think my reluctance stems from something slightly different. In a conversation over Skype with my friend Darren a few weeks back I declared myself to be in 'my Peter Pan years'. That day I had seen another Facebook announcement of an old school friend's engagement. I was delighted for her but it made me think about the fact that I am a long way off hitting some of those major growing-up milestones.

Don't get me wrong I am in no hurry to find myself engaged, or in a job with a pension and a parking space. I guess I am just struggling to get my head around the fact that more of my peers are in those situations. Whereas I am bouncing around Nairobi still telling people that I don't know what I want to do when I grow up and counting my ages in fractions. Have I, by moving here, stopped some of the inevitable processes of growing up? And did I do so intentionally?

But if I am really in my Peter Pan years surely I shouldn't care about the fact that the days are passing? That I am almost in my late twenties. That I am, in fact, getting older.

Despite some days mulling over these questions, I am no nearer to finding an answer. I am happy with where I am right now. I live in Nairobi, I like what I'm doing in terms of work, I have made some lovely friends.

So is Nairobi my Neverland? I guess I'll only really know when I leave. And I am not going to be doing that any time soon.


  1. I think some of those growing-up milestones are things that become rarer depending on your situation and interests - e.g. with certain careers/fields it's less likely you'll have a permanent pensionable job but that doesn't necessarily indicate 'not growing up' (oh, careers in the arts, you wacky things). Some fields lend themselves more to 'settling down'; and peer groups and cultural context definitely influence the marriage-and-babies ages.

    And then there's stuff that isn't necessarily a milestone but is an experience, and it's stuff that many people don't do - like living in a foreign country, say, which I think of as a very 'grown-up' or 'leading to grown-up-ness of some kind' experience rather than Neverlandesque. (I also think taking control of your destiny re: doing work that you like is a 'grown-up' sort of thing. Just sayin'.)

    So, yes. I'm not entirely convinced of how grown-up the grown-ups are, I guess, but I suppose it speaks volumes that I seem to count grown-ups as 'other people'. Twenty-six is totally mid-twenties, though. Yes indeed.

  2. I'm fine with people getting hitched, but when friends started applying for planning permission, that freaked me. Friends are building structures that will last for 100+ years. These are the same friends who thought it never got old to put grass in the hood of my jacket! Crazy.

  3. Claire (with an i) I completely agree that the milestones I mentioned, pensions and what not, are getting rarer for many of our friends and peers. Maybe I need to get my head around other types of milestones/markers of one's being a grown-up. I love your point about experiences being potentially better markers of the passage of time, you are so wise.

    Clare (with no i) Applications for planning permission, that is very grown up altogether as it is, like you say, so permanent.

  4. Any enthusiasm for including 27 in the mid-twenties bracket? Anyone?...