Sixteen, I mean, fourteen. Oh, fifteen

15 Jul

As of recently, there’s been a lot of confusion on my part about my own age. I would’ve thought that I was above this by now, seeing as it’s something that I haven’t been feeling for years, but apparently–not. Being fifteen feels like I’m in a limbo between semi-adulthood and adolescence, and it is. Sixteen is the wondrous age where you can learn to drive, get a license, get a job, and–in some countries, drink. At sixteen, opportunities that have remained closed for you at the age of fifteen finally open up. As overrated and exaggerated by the media as “Sweet Sixteen” may be, it’s the first ‘coming of age’ that teenagers go through and the only one that will come without the full burden of responsibility. Sixteen is the age where you can argue that you’re an adult and yet still deny responsibility by saying that you’re just a teenager. Perhaps it is the only age where you can enjoy the benefits of both adulthood and adolescence at once.

Being fifteen is excruciating. For someone who’s surrounded by sixteen, seventeen-year-olds–and many who are older still–and can’t really feel the difference, it’s a blow when you realize that you’re the only one in the team who can’t get a job at that local fast food chain. It doesn’t matter if you could do better than half of the people who apply for the post, or that you can serve customers in five different languages. Nobody would care if you had a goddamn customer-attracting superpower. (I give this example regardless of the fact that I doubt that I would be any good in the service industry). Fifteen is the awkward age of “almost sixteen”. And to most people–and this impression is reinforced by the law–there is a tangible difference. Fifteen, apparently, is somehow “too young”, “too immature” and “too irresponsible”.

It seems to me as if people (especially here in China, where those under 16 in most cases cannot work legally) are placing emphasis on age rather than the level of maturity and competence. While children and teenagers (high-schoolers in particular) have the opportunity to work part-time doing odd jobs or delivering papers in the Western world, they are made to study day and night here in China. It’s hardly a wonder that the teenagers shaped by Chinese education are less competent in jobs and practical, real-life situations, and that therefore fewer companies accept them. Dis-similarly, once they are in college, students are considered much more competent, and doors open left and right to welcome them. Again, I might add, with no regard for their actual abilities. The “college” situation is not unlike the one with age, where young people are judged by factors outside of their capability and aptitude rather than the other way around. To me, this all looks twisted and wrong.

If the previous paragraph made as little sense to you as it did to me, let me put it this way: Societies, especially in the Eastern world, should stop looking at people for where they study or how old they are instead of what abilities they possess. Work experience is almost unheard of among local Chinese high school students, and threads regarding this topic on the Internet started by youths are often dismissed with a “go study hard” (“好好学习,天天向上”). Even though age can sometimes be an indicator or proof of education and knowledge, it isn’t everything.

For me, I no longer feel the old thrill of having birthdays. That ended a long time ago. Gone is the “I’m 10! Not 9, but 10!” excitement, and in its place is something that would probably be best described as jaded apathy. Age is a burden in one’s life; a mere cause and target for society’s ageism. Perhaps the very concept for age was invented for this purpose of (no matter how implicit) discrimination, or maybe it’s just a D-Day tool for us to count down our years.

I’m sorry for all this ranting you have had the misfortune to come upon. These ageist laws are just pissing me off to no end. In the meantime, though, I’ll simply continue to correct myself every time I assume that I’m sixteen. Or fourteen, for that matter. Fifteen just doesn’t suit me.


11 Responses to “Sixteen, I mean, fourteen. Oh, fifteen”

  1. V. July 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    Oh, forget it. It just gets worse when you’re sixteen. It just means more time for school, maybe work and less for everything else. And one of the first things you’ll learn is that even as people pile on the responsibility you write of, you’ll want less and less of it. Too often you feel that your responsibility, to schoolwork, to a job, to anything, doesn’t actually mean anything to yourself if its not enjoyable, which when referring to work or school, is unlikely.
    When you turn sixteen, remember that others expect way more from you, sometimes in unreasonable ways. In the end, there won’t be much to enjoy from the benefit of being an adult.

    • AwesomeAim July 15, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

      Maybe that also comes with the IB. I mean, most people in my class are 16 or above… How much you enjoy the extra responsibilities also depend on your own hobbies, etc. I would say that having to meet expectations is better than others having none of you at all. After all, it’s a form of a sign of trust. Hmm, my opinion.

  2. tamofawesome July 17, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Dude, Bu. Would you let most of the fifteen-year-olds you know anywhere near a job? Age is not the only indicator of maturity, but it’s the most ubiquitous and therefore convenient. Remember, child labor laws were made to protect children from working twelve hours a day in some factory somewhere.

    • AwesomeAim July 20, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Maybe not most of the fifteen-year-olds, but their lack of competence can also be attributed to lack of experience. You can’t be exactly sure that 100% of 18 (or 20)-year-olds are mature and responsible, either. Besides, child labor and work experience is quite different.

  3. Alaast K. July 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Age doesn’t matter, age matters. I don’t know. Rather, I don’t really care about it at this moment. Sometimes though I do use it to get a basic idea of the maturity level range. What I REALLY think doesn’t matter is the debate about it.

    Mostly I feel jaded about birthdays too. But I think it’d be cool if we have a ceremony for becoming a certain age (like coming-of-age ceremonies). Too bad that tradition was wiped out after 文化大革命.

    Also, 15 is an important age for me, because I confirm my faith in my religion and become a Youth.

    Okay I guess all that I said were just random babbling. Sorry.

    • AwesomeAim July 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

      Totally–assuming that the ceremonies are cool, of course. (Somehow I’m thinking motorbikes, hardcore 80s or something’s rock music, champagne…). And you’re right; certain cultures and religions place emphasis on certain ages. Hmm, overlooked that.
      I remember liking being 13 because people thought the number was unlucky. Actually, I like odd-number ages better now. I’m looking forward to 17…ugh, I don’t know why I can’t/won’t settle with 15.
      No, I’M babbling. Uh-oh.

      • Alaast K. July 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

        That would be because you’re currently 15.

        Really, I don’t think it’s wrong for religion to place some emphasis on age.

        And about the ceremonies, nonono, completely wrong idea. Think more about new robes, and incense.

  4. AwesomeAim July 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    …Like in fantasy novels? Oh–and did not mean to imply that it’s wrong. It isn’t, not in this context.

    • Alaast K. July 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

      No! In old China! Gosh that is a completely wrong interpretation of what I said! xD

      • AwesomeAim July 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

        Oh, that would be nice. As long as there aren’t painful rituals to prove that you’re manly or whatever.What’s wrong with me today? *headdesk*

      • V. July 23, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

        I do not believe there are any such rituals in Chinese culture, ever. Of course, you can endure the ceremonies of the Klingon Day of Honor, which involves the Ritual of Twenty Painsticks, engaging in combat with a master of the bat’leth, and transversing the sulfur lagoons of Gorath.

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