“I Think I’m Too Old to Date Gabriel Witter” and Other Insanities of Growing Up

There are four fictional characters who, when combined, essentially sum up my ideal significant other.

These characters are: Gabriel Witter (from Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley), Simmon (from The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss), Chaz Santangelo (from On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta), and Jaime Beaufort-Stuart from (Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein).

I was discussing this with my mom yesterday, since Where Things Come Back is one of her favorite books as well.

And that’s when I realized: I am older than Gabriel Witter.

I am not even six months younger than Chaz Santangelo.

I’ve always read about characters who are older than me. It was part of being a pretty advanced reader for a third- or fourth- grader, and having a brother six years older. I read books meant for middle schoolers. Then, I read books meant for high schoolers. The main characters in these books were mostly somewhere between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. So, naturally, I looked up to people between the ages of thirteen and seventeen.

These are characters who I have always viewed as “older,” or more mature—partially because of the circumstances their novels put them in, but… not really.

For a long time, it seemed like sixteen was simply the age when everything big happens.

Now that I’m here, and have been for a while? I’m not so sure I agree.

I’m the same age as Katniss and Tris, and six months younger than Hazel. I’m older than June and Day. It’s ridiculous.

I started reflecting on it, and…

It turns out there are very few fantasy characters that I grew up with who I can still look up to, and still relate to, from the point where my life is today.

I’m older than every single Penderwick sister.

I’m older than the majority of the characters in the Septimus Heap books.

I’m the same age as Aria, from Under the Never Sky.

And if I’m going by societal standards, I’m too old to date most of my old literary crushes.

Of course, there are also the characters that age with the series. Alanna the Lioness is still fully present in the books when she’s much older than the young teen she is at the beginning of her series, and she makes cameos in two other series as well, with a lot of renown a future mapped out for her. Phedre nó Delaunay… well, book three of her series is set ten years after book two, and she matures/ages emotionally throughout the series, and then book four is set several more years after the first three, soooo safe to say she’s not going anywhere (although if I’m being honest, Phedre’s not exactly a role model. Oh well).

These are not the only characters who age. Of course there are others. Look no further than Harry Potter to tell you that.

But my point is, these are characters I grew up with. And it feels really, really weird to be older than they were in those books, and to realize that when I reread them, I can’t relate to them anymore.

It makes me wonder. Will I, in four years, go back and reread words about Gabriel Witter, only to think about him and the rest of his cast of characters as little kids? Will I reread Jellicoe Road, only to discover that each character seems woefully juvenile?

And what will I think of the characters who are four or five years older than I currently am? Will they remain accurate portrayals of people I could look up to? Or will they seem… empty? Unrealistic?

It’s a terrifying moment of clarity when you realize that you’re older than your role models, and they are not going to continue aging.

I hate saying that I don’t know something.

But when it comes to this, it’s sort of the only real response.

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