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My Reflections on Age

By Jai Relan

I turned 16 a couple of weeks ago and while going through the painstaking process of updating my age on every platform I have a presence on, I had a disconcerting eureka moment—I take a lot of pride in my ‘young’ age. For example, in my own eyes, my achievements are less impressive as a 16-year-old than when I was 15.

Not to say that I haven’t achieved anything between my 15th and 16th birthday, but sometimes I question whether my additional achievements within the span of this one year can compensate for the ‘disadvantage’ that being a year older brings. Think of it as an XY-plot where the Y axis represents some kind of index of my achievements and the X axis is time. I have looked critically at the slope of this curve for each passing year and fussed over the ‘steepness of the slope’ I have been able to achieve.

I’ve been thinking a lot about if and why age is a defining factor for me. On one hand, the fact that I’m 16, being a ‘kid’, is the reason quite a lot of people have not taken me seriously. On the other hand, for those who value my achievements, the fact that I’m 16 is something that makes what I’ve achieved even more impressive. In fact, a majority of teenagers I’ve met on LinkedIn, Twitter, and in professional settings have quite explicitly stated their age in their bio/headline.

‘18’ seems to be an inflection point! I’ve noticed that until the age of about 18, most teenagers wear their age as a badge of pride but the moment they cross 18, they just drop it like a hot cake from their profiles. Beyond 18, it feels as if you’re on an even plank as anybody else.

And so, every birthday, I open my profiles and, with a sigh, append one to my age feeling that my profile is less impressive than before. Although the primary aim of this blog is to document a question that I’ve been grappling with for a while, I understand that many of you may feel the same way as myself and are also searching for answers. In my own continuing journey to reach closure about the connection between achievements and age, here are some suggestions that I believe are worthwhile for the both of us to try out:

1. Celebrate every achievement, no matter how big or small. Whether you have successfully started your own small business or scored a great grade on an exam, bring on the celebration! This is a great way to recognize the value in all of your accomplishments.

2. Recognize your family and friends’ successes! Maybe your younger cousin learned how to ride a bike for the first time, or your dad got a long-awaited job promotion. Whatever the situation is, honor other people’s achievements! You can write a congratulatory card or even show your love with a big hug. Perhaps engaging with your community’s accomplishments can help you see the value in all accomplishments.

3. Document your achievements outside of social media. Sometimes, online platforms can make us feel poorly about our greatest achievements. Comparing an old classmate’s stellar LinkedIn profile to your own might make you feel as if your greatest success isn’t great enough. So, why not start looking at your accomplishments outside of social media? Create a document for or start journaling about your achievements and the processes it took to get to each one. Seeing your amazing progress on its own can be the best reminder of your worth!

4. Recognize that every person is at a different stage in their lives. Some people have the resources to create a non-profit at 13-years-old. Others may have the financial means to attend the best college in the world. The bottom line is that we might not have the access to achieve the same efforts as our peers. And that is totally ok! If we are trying our best with what we have, what more could we ask for?

5. Understand that age is just a number. Stop thinking about how old you were when you achieved X. Instead, why not take pleasure in celebrating the accomplishment itself, irrespective of age?

As a closing thought–all I can say to myself and you is that, at the end of the day, view your personality in its absolute terms and don’t use age as a factor in determining your worth!