Last week I asked a co-worker—divorced, with a daughter he sees on alternate weekends, paying child support—if he felt his age.  He’s 27.  He looked at me blankly.  I quickly realized the opaqueness of the question.  “I know, I know,” I said.  “What does it mean to feel 27?”

“Right,” he said.  “Do you feel 28?”

And quickly I realized–yes, I do.  I feel 28.

I think this is why: To me, one is a kid, then a teenager, then in her twenties, then she gets married and has a baby, then another.  And within the first few years of marriage/motherhood, she enters her thirties.  Regardless of how old she actually is.  I think this exactly because of what Mehrsa identified in her post on Friday—spousehood and parenthood are sort of foreseeably interminable.  And they are usually the stuff of one’s thirties.  What my parents (who married at 21, had kids at 22) did at 28 was a lot like what they were still doing when they were 38.  They were loving each other, raising children, paying the bills, and trying to keep our house and lives together with scotch tape and prayer and dinners made from dried beans.  (With two kids at home, this is sort of still what they do.  When my youngest sister graduates from high school, my parents will have been in their thirties for forty years.)

The twenties, on the other hand, are all about preferences.  Twenty-somethings spend a lot of time—and should, I think—being wrapped up in developing, identifying, wrangling, and being guided by their preferences.  This starts with the choice of where to go to college.  What to major in.  What kind of food to eat.  What kind of clothes to buy and wear.  What kinds of friends to live with, and how, preferably, to interact with the opposite sex.  What relationships to have with parents and the world and the TV.  What one wants to do about God.  A twenty-something usually has time alone to figure these preferences out, to act on them, to refine them, to live by them.  But for a lot of people, one’s twenties are cut short by one’s thirties.

I thought I would be out of my twenties when I was 22, maybe 23, 24-25, tops.  Instead, I’ve been in my twenties for a long time.  I think I’m finally good at it.  I dress better than I did at 25.  I eat better food than I did at 27.  I’m a better listener than I was at 23.  And I have strong and clear preferences about TV shows, movies, music, produce, immigration laws, dishware, duvets, and how to spend my Friday nights.  None of which I had at 21.  My preferences are being increasingly refined and clarified.  For instance, other people’s preferences about my time almost never trump my preferences, not because I’m not willing but because other people rarely request it.  This makes for a good time, but it’s hard to see how it’s going to get me back to God.

So yes, I feel 28.  And I like being 28—in many ways, it’s totally great—but I’m hoping, hoping that my thirties are not more of the same.