Age does not mean much in regard to who you are as a person. Sure, it means a lot for your physical development as a human being in the early stages of your life, but it should not hinder one’s credibility. There comes a certain point when physical experience in a certain trade trumps your biological age.

Recently, I went skiing for the first time with two of my friends. As we were inching down the bunny hill on our stomachs watching seven-year-olds glide past us, we thought, “If they can do it, so can we!” We were wrong. Just because we were older than many of the other skiers on the hill did not mean we were entitled to being better than them. Though we have had more experience living life, that did not mean we had a right to know how to ski.

Just because you are older than someone does not mean you have an unexplained advantage over younger people in any ability. It can be argued that in any stage of life, we should not be defined by our age.

Too many times, we define ourselves by numbers. We categorize ourselves by our age, weight, test scores and wealth. While plenty of these numbers have been shown to correlate with certain outcomes, we do not have to let those outcomes define our own personal desires and our perceptions of our abilities to achieve goals.

It is a common discussion in today’s world that we cannot let labels define us. We live our lives trying to fit a socially constructed model that potentially changes our perspectives and morals as a result. Most people do not recognize age as a harmful label. I think that many times, it’s not; it shows how long you have been on this earth, and backs up an argument about what you have done with your time here. However, there are instances when we characterize ourselves by our age, ultimately restricting us from opportunities.

If we limit ourselves to a perception that is constructed by someone else’s image of us, we will live a life of comparison and unhappiness. More often than not, external perceptions based on age cloud our own self-perceptions.

There is a shocking feeling when you realize the guy you have been hitting on at the bar is four years younger than you and a sense of comfort when meeting someone who is the same age as you. When we learn someone’s age, something that cannot always be determined by appearance, we have an automatic instinct that changes our perceptions.

We should be more vigilant in these interactions and judgments surrounding our age and question those who are judgmental of such an insignificant number. We have put a societal value on numbers because of the traditional beliefs and judgments that have been present throughout our society for years and it is up to us to change how we represent them.

There is a famous saying that goes, “with age comes wisdom.” However, I disagree. In order to gain wisdom, we must immerse ourselves in a stimulating culture that pushes us to dig deeper into our thoughts and questions. True passion sparks from a genuine interest in something and that flame should never die out simply because someone is “too young” or “not as experienced.” To echo another famous saying, “age is just a label.” It represents how long we have been living, but has no relation to all we can accomplish and learn on this planet.

Michelle Phillips can be reached at mphi@umich.edu.

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