By the time you read this, it will be my 25th birthday.
Also the first birthday LITERALLY IN MY ENTIRE MEMORY OF MY ENTIRE LIFE that I have not felt some angst about being a year older.
When I was a teenager this was a nameless angst, but by the time I got to college I could put my finger on it and it was named I Am Worried That My Lack Of Blinding Success By This Age Means I Am A Talentless Hack Who Should Let Her Dreams Be Like Dust In The Wind.
Which is, I now realize, evidently ridiculous -- but that is incredibly hard to see for a certain kind of person, a certain kind of person I most certainly was, the kind of person who sits around in coffee shops the first week of her freshman year of college lamenting that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at 19 so what's the point of even trying.
Fortunately, the side of me that tries without realizing it (we can call this the "rational side") is small yet mighty and now, at the lofty age of 25, I can see that this side of me has propelled me along and will continue to propel me along as long as I get out of my own damn way.
It's my birthday so I can write about whatever weird half-baked shit I want. And today that weird shit is two things that have interested me recently: The popular HBO television show Game of Thrones, and the wonderful world of modern-day royal-watching.
(One of these is easy to admit that I like; the other regularly makes people unconsciously back away from me in bars. Strangely, the latter is not the one of the two that involves graphic depictions of beheadings.
In any case, I could expound on each of these at length but I'll restrain myself to talking about what connects them. Namely, systems of inherited power that depend on a majority buy-in to maintain. Like any sort of royalty or nobility or Powerful Families thing.
These systems seem completely archaic, particularly to American audiences, which is why they are best observed in past-seeming environments like Game of Thrones or in their decay (which appeals to our sense of democratic righteousness) as in Downton Abbey.
BUT as the thriving monarchies of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Thailand, etc etc demonstrate, they are very much still alive in the present.
It increasingly seems to me that what holds these systems together in a time when they make little sense is a respect for age. A sense that age makes you wiser, better, more capable of representing a country, or of leading a people. Sure there is youth and beauty in any given monarchy, that's what heirs are for. But that's why they are heirs. Not fully seasoned yet.
When a monarch like Queen Elizabeth II (or her counterpart in Denmark, Queen Margrethe II, who seems completely awesome) celebrates an anniversary of 40, 50, 60 years on the throne, what is really being celebrated is not just the passing of time but also the accumulation of it in one person. The sense that there is at least one person who has borne witness to time as it rushes by the rest of us, who are too busy to notice.
It's a beautiful way to think of aging. It's like how you see as you grow older a new purpose of friendship, because all of your past selves live in your friends and theirs all live in you.
That's how people grow up.
The song: Morrissey, "That's How People Grow Up"; 2008