What is youth? I once read that youth is "energy and hopefulness", and that really made a lot of sense to me. It's shocking how, at times of distress, we can feel decades older than our real self. We become weighed down by years of worry, sadness, and disappointment. That's essentially how we grow old.

I've probably heard the statements "I feel much younger on the inside" or "wow, I can't believe I'm actually 40. I feel 26" a hundred times before. And it gets me thinking… Why do people think that way? Are they in denial? Do they regret the way they lived? Is this their way of wishful thinking; of going back and doing it right the next time around?

As a teenager, I was absolutely certain that those people were in denial. I mean, after all, how do they not feel 40 years old with a bunch of children running around? How do they not feel 40 with a demanding and rewarding career that pays the bills? How do they not feel 40 if they climb up the stairs and are suddenly short of breath? How do they not feel 40 if they spend their time doing boring chores and constantly attending to urgent matters here and there?

I thought back then that, for sure, if your life resembled all or one of the above, then you must feel like a grown up… Like a 40 year old!

Then it hit me. We feel the age that meets our state of mind at its best. For example, a lot of 50 year olds say they feel around 35. When you dig in a little, you'll find that that was the age they felt they had settled and become their 'real selves', and grew up to become accomplished and mature beings. And so that's where they stay mentally.

I was having a brain-talk with my husband a few weeks back about this issue. It started with a discussion about how old we feel and why. Actually the bottom line question was "What age would you want to go back to, and stay at forever?"

It's true that we are a young couple, just starting our lives, but we already had elaborate answers to this complicated question! At the time of our discussion, I was 28 and my husband 36, but we both chose different ages. Ones in which we felt more happy, content, and had achieved a certain level of health, physical looks, and peace of mind.

I know our answers will probably change in the years to come, and maybe even choose the ages we're at right now. However, that will all depend on what will happen today, how it'll make us feel, and how we deal with it.

After a long discussion, a detailed analysis and an extreme scrutiny of our answers, we came up with a conclusion. In a nutshell, we found that we chose a time of less worry and more energy. So perhaps it is actually 'wishful thinking' in the sense that we wish to have worry-less minds and hearts again. We want to have, again, all those bursts of energy that swept us through our early twenties. If that's not wishful thinking, then I don't know what is. Because, we have to admit, every day we wake up to another morning of responsibilities that consume more and more of our already drained energy!

The conversation with my husband stopped there, but there was a stream of thoughts I couldn't neglect. What about people who feel older than they really are? And running back to me came the time I was laying down in bed and saying "you know, honey, I feel like I'm 80". It was right after my miscarriage.

It's ironic how I was even younger at the time of the incident than the age my husband had chosen to go back to! I was only 26. But I really did feel like I was in my 80's. I was at my lowest, mentally and physically. I felt like I had lost so much more than just a fetus. And that's where it all came from… My new realization.

Maybe lives should never be measured in the number of years we physically live, but rather in terms of the years of happiness or despair, good health or illness, and achievements or failures. Those things are what really make up the ages of people. It's never a matter of measuring time. Not minutes, hours, days. Not even years.

In the chaos of life, one should stop to think how old they are… Really.

–    Reem Behbehani

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