The youngest age you can possibly be at any time in your life is 22.
I was browsing my CDs last night and came across a mix I made way back 2002. It wasn't so much the songs on the mix (an odd assortment of Jimmy Eat World, The Jayhawks and Reba McEntire), as it was the date. It was a mix from March of 2002, five whole years ago.
I thought back to five years ago.
Now, this isn't one of those truly nostalgic posts.
This is one with the wisdom of a 26, soon to be 27 year old.
You will never be younger than you were at 22.
At 22 (or 21, with change, as the case was for me), the whole world is in front of you. College graduation has just happened or looms ahead. You have started a crappy post-college job that you will leave in six months. You're in grad school. You've gotten a shady apartment. You have only just started to hang out with your college friends outside the bounds of pre-established events like socials, formals, and football games. You're feeling rather grown-up about attending your first cocktail party (though it will be the most grown-up party you ever attend, save those thrown by your eventual employer when you're 40...after this year, everyone will stop trying to be adults and will have parties that suit them better than wine, crackers and cheese. You will play more poker, drink more beer and laugh harder than you ever imagined you would after graduation).
You're either the youngest person in your office or the most over-qualified baby-sitter anyone has ever encountered.
You may be about to get engaged to your college boyfriend or girlfriend. But you have no idea what marriage means.
Or you're bitterly single or completely ecstatic to have the world at your feet.
You are so, so young.
You are younger than you were at 16. At 16, you were a grown child living at home, getting more and more responsibilities, learning to drive, going out on your own with your friends, saying to no to a few family gatherings. You were entering adulthood.
Now, in an office full of forty and fifty year olds, you're a child again.
The women in the office will comment on your outfits, or your weight, or both. The men will do the same.
You are tired of trying to find your place in the world, but you've only been at it for three months...less if you just got back from your post-graduation trip to Europe or India or China or somewhere else equally not home.
You may be lonely.
You may be jealous of both your still in college younger friends and your slightly more settled older friends.
You miss your parents, but you're not quite sure how to tell them that.
Or you live at home and you just miss being eight and satisfied with your life.
At eight, you had your own world, and you weren't so worried about the future. You had your small duties and responsibilities, and you were older than when you were six.
You will never be as young as you were at 22.
One day, you will wake up and realize that you're not 22 anymore, but you're still young. Maybe you've got a job, a significant other, a house, a child...any or all of the above. But you're still young. The fact that you are still young at 24, at 25, at 27...at 30 means that you were unbelievably young at 22.
Then one day, you will feel curious about the music you liked five years ago, and you'll realize you haven't changed all that much.
But that you kind of miss sharing a room with someone.
And you actually miss getting up to go to class.
And you know you'll never be that young again but you somehow are lucky enough to still have the whole world in front of you.