My office is down the road from the high school. Adjacent to my office is a bike path which I've been using for many years, walking some of the time and biking more recently, for exercise breaks during the work day. The bike path goes behind the high school sports fields, so as I go by, I regularly see the teenagers out doing whatever it is they're doing. Right now, there's a new year starting, and they're back after the summer.
It's easy to get the sense that it's just the same kids back after the break, and of course, 3/4 of them are the same kids. And as the years go by, it always seems like it's the same kids. Everything looks the same. They look the same, they dress the same, they act the same, they do the same things. It feels remarkably consistent.
So it's easy to forget that I've been going by that school for so long, that some of the kids I'm seeing there now could be the children of kids I've seen there before. That's the shocking conclusion I reached today: I've been working at this office almost 17 years, so if there's a 14-year-old I passed today, I might well have been walking by that high school the day he was born, and it's feasible he was born to someone who'd graduated from that school within the three previous years. Plenty of people have their first kids before the age of 21.
I feel pretty much like the same person I was when I started with the department, though. I don't feel like I'm in a significantly different phase of my life than I was then. So it's easy not to feel old. When I have realizations like this, or the far more common (and less impactful) ones that take the form "You weren't even born when <some important event in my life> happened" (it used to be "when Star Wars came out" but time has advanced far past that now), the only sense I get of being "old" is an intellectual, mathematical one. Logically, I know I'm 43, and that 43 is pretty old, and I'm supposed to be having a mid-life crisis and all that, but I just feel like I'm in the 18th year of my 25th year.
Not even realizing that the teenagers that stared disapprovingly at me today could be the children of teenagers that stared disapprovingly at me from the exact same spot really changes that. I wonder when things like that will start making me feel old, rather than just realizing I am old.