You Are 22 Going On 23

Today is my birthday. It is another year marking the fact that I have survived the worst the world has yet to throw at me. It is quite amazing that I am still here to see it all unfold. Today I turn 23 and face another long, arbitrary period of time with which to mark a percentage of my life.

What is shocking to me is that, with all I’ve been through, that I am only 23. Whenever people try to guess how old I am they always guess high, and usually closer towards 28-30 than 22. I guess this is because I have “old eyes” as I have been told before.

When I was in 2nd grade I remember teaching the librarian and teachers how to use a real search engine and not HotBot. It was then that I became an adolescent by realizing that adults & parents didn’t have all the answers.

This trend continued throughout elementary school, and even got me into trouble when I gave a kid a paperclip to pick a lock knowing that no 5th grader could pick a master-lock with a plastic paperclip. Why did I give it to him? Because there was nothing wrong with that act, when I tried to explain this to the principal his reaction was to treat me, not as a rational human being, but as a petulant child (granted I was in 5th grade) and have me suspended.

I was lucky enough to be placed in an accelerated learning program for 1st grade that jump-started my brain and put me in the advanced classes every year where I learned to think critically, and more importantly, think for myself and by myself. This helped me take an AP History exam without ever taking the class and scoring sufficiently well on it because I took the time to study on my own as a sophomore in High School.

I took those skills, studied up on the school systems of two states, and found out a way to graduate from high school a full year early without any extra classes. Why? because school was holding me back, and the kids were terrible to me.

It was then in college where I took some time to be “normal” and not jump ahead but that lasted for all of 2 semesters before I was already fast-tracking myself because I felt ahead of the curve. During that time I also struggled with coming out and figuring out how to stay alive, how to build lasting friendships with bits & bytes of people.

I found a job in the down economy of 2009 in a flooded market of DC, worked my way into a position that I loved at the company, and then used that position and experience to get a job at one of the most amazing companies I have ever seen, filled with brilliant people. I also work with clients who are serious influencers who I see on TV or in the Washington Post or Politco at least once-a-week.

…. and almost none of them know I’m just 22 right now.

I have contemplated & toyed with the idea of just starting to tell people I am 25 when they ask. But then I realize one crucial thing. I have done all of this and I am 23, but Mark Zuckerburg is 27, and Daniel Radcliffe is still 22. CharlieIsSoCoolLike is 23-ish, and Representative Aaron Schock is only 30. The same thing for countless other awesome people that have gone before me. Compared to them my accomplishments are garbage, and it is in that bittersweet light that I proudly stand up and say that I am 23 today, and glad to be just where I am.