When I started school I was one of the youngest in my class. Several of those who had birthdays about the same time I did were held back a year, but my parents sent me on to school because they felt like I was ready. I never had any trouble and just settled into my role as the youngest. It wasn't terribly irritating until I reached high school and was one of the last to get my driver's license.
In college, I had an academic head start and was able to finish in three years. I was always too young for the fun stuff of college. Lots of people tried to encourage me to stay another year, but college life just didn't appeal to me. I didn't have to struggle with where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do next. I was confident in my calling and the path I had to take to get there, so I just wanted to get on with it.
I turned 21 on my first day at Divinity School. I was officially THE youngest person my first year. And it was no longer a matter of weeks or months difference. It was not a matter of years. And at that point, years meant life experience. And I became incredibly insecure about it all.
I wrestled with "the age thing" as well as "the authority thing", more specifically doubts about my own authority (which was pretty obviously tied to the age thing!) And I would feel better about it for a while, then something would happen that would make me go a little nuts and start doubting everything all over again.
I'm sure part of my insecurity had to do with the fact that, although I was now in my early 20s and qualified as an adult for pretty much anything, I had been a student my whole life and I was not financially independent. Graduation and then getting married sort of legitimized me as an adult in a way that I hadn't ever felt before.
But nothing compared with starting my job at the church. I know I was floundering for the first week or two. But suddenly, I feel like everything has clicked. I am confident in my authority, my ability to make decisions, my power to make changes, and my voice to state my opinion, and my mind that I have something to teach.
I have started doing a few things a little differently. I was very nervous about "rocking the boat" so early, but I also knew that there was just no way that I could do things the same way as the previous minister because we are very different people with very different leadership styles. And it has been well received!
And now, my age is not a hurdle, but a motivation. My energy and attitude are a benefit, not a liability. And my experience as a student has made me into a better teacher.
It has taken a while, but I finally feel comfortable with the statement that "age is just a number".
Check back with me when I hit 40 and see if I still feel that way!