The Lost Years

Oh, well, this is just utterly fantastic, this is.

You’ll like this, if you’ve any memory at all of my recurring bouts of angst as far as the ageing process goes. It’s gotten to the point where if I looked back at that blog post from a couple of years ago, when I wept and sniffled and howled about the horror of becoming 26 years old, I think I might try to time travel back and slap myself sharply across the face. 26 is so old! I wailed dolefully, analysing my manless, careerless, cigaretteless, prospectless life. In the time that has elapsed since then, there have in fact been fleeting glimpses of all these things that were poignantly absent as I so gloomily approached my 26th birthday. Never all at the same time, right enough, and none without their depressing and insurmountable problems, but the heart wants what it wants.

However, now I sit in quiet and somewhat horrified contemplation of my approaching 28th birthday, things are – amusingly – much worse in many ways.

I had been single for a few years back then, and it was crap. I have now been single for 2 months, and I can tell you in all sincerity that it is even more crap – by several degrees of magnitude, even! I’ll take being a long-term Singleton (with no memory of love, romance, kisses and hand-holding) over being newly Single Again (with tears, snot, heartache, and the mess of utterly horrible emotions that comes with it) any time. Remind me of that in a year or two, please, lest I ever forget how horrible this is and consider falling in love again. Really, I was in a much better position than I realised, pre-26.

I had given up smoking back then, and it was crap. I have now been smoking like a train for, oh, I dunno, say 2 months. And that is even more crap, because I can’t actually breathe any more, plus I’ll have to go through the horrible, horrible quitting process all over again for about the millionth time when I finally decide that enough is enough. Sigh.

And never mind the fact that in addition to the stuff I was griping about back then, I now have no house, no car, and alarmingly few items of clothing without holes in them.

Still, at least the career thing has made a bit of progress, right?

But the real reason for this outburst is a conversation I had with a Korean girl on the phone the other day, re: school jobs. There was a short pause after I told her my age, and then she said: I’m just working out what age you’ll be in Korea. As if this was the most normal thing in the world, you know. I mean, I know they’re most of the day ahead of us in terms of time difference, but you wouldn’t exactly bother adding the hours and minutes on to your age. In response to my baffled query about this, she explained that the Koreans (and, I have since discovered, East Asians in general) have a different “age reckoning system” from ours.

I have now researched this, and a cold, ghostly hand of dread and horror is clutching at my heart as the true horror of the situation dawns on me.

Age, in Korea, is counted from conception rather than birth. This would make perfect sense to my mind, if the baby was counted as 9 months old on the day it was born. But no… on that day, the baby is classed as one year old. I don’t really understand why. And the next part of this reckoning system to get your head around is the fact that you don’t get any older on your birthday. Instead, every Korean automatically gains one year on New Year’s Day.

I had to read this a few times before the sheer magnitude of the problem became apparent to me, so I will spell it out very clearly for you, dear readers. I was born in mid-October, 1981, as a readymade one-year-old in Korean terms. On January 1st, 1982, I became 2 years old, despite the fact that I had been born just over 2 months earlier. I have advanced one year every New Year’s Day since then. In September of this year, I plan to move to Korea, where I will fill in my age on forms as being 29, in Korean terms, despite only being 27, and then I will skip my Western 28th birthday a few weeks later, in favour of advancing another year with the rest of Korea on January 1st of next year… when I shall be 30.


This is too cruel. I have lost the remaining 2 years of my 20s, and it hurts, it hurts. If only I could go back to being a long-term Singleton feeling sad about turning 26. Now I’m in the massively more upsetting position of being a freshly-cast-aside 27-year-old who only has 3 months before she turns 30. Woe. Woe.

But hey, at least I can have a cigarette this time.


9 thoughts on “The Lost Years

  1. McBouncy says:

    I like it. If I were to move with you I would not have to live through the horror of my 40th birthday. I could just skip it!
    I would be 42 on New Years day. That would be ok. I have no problem with them birthdays – just the birthdays that end in 5 or 0 :-)
    But that doesnt help you – the horror of a 0 without deserving it!
    Poor Hayley-Anne :-(

  2. So if a baby is born on December 31st then one day later he/she is already 2 years old? That’s insane!
    Like Nelly says, at least when you come back you get to be 2 years younger again.

  3. McBouncy – I will celebrate your 40th in Korea… and now you will have to celebrate my 30th on New Year’s Day!!
    Nelly – this has made me feel decidedly better about the whole thing.
    Bevchen – Indeed. They use a similar example on the Wikipedia page:
    MonkeyMrs – 2001, eh? Ah… when I was just 20… *sigh*
    Geri – Well I presume it wouldn’t make any difference, since the actual date of your birth is unimportant. Doesn’t matter if you’re born on Feb. 29th or Dec. 31st, you will turn 2 years old the next New Year’s Day and advance a year every Jan. 1st from then on!

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