Have you ever heard of gerascophobia? It is the term that, were Peter Pan medically diagnosed, he would have found himself labelled with. It is the fear of getting older.

All humans are afraid of something, and for many of these fears we have fancy sounding names: arachnophobia (spiders), acrophobia (heights), aquaphobia (water), aerophobia (flying) and so on. But, just like my own coulrophobia (clowns), gerascophobia is a fear less known or commonly admitted.

One could argue that some of these fears are rational because they are fear of things that could harm us: water, flying, predators (okay, spiders are not always exactly that but, for argument’s sake, let’s go with this). Getting older, on the other hand, is inevitable. As the often quoted and sombre saying goes: nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. Yet, despite getting older being natural and intrinsically part of our fibre, we fear it. One only has to take a look at the beauty industry to see that.

On my part, I do not really believe that fears always have to be rational. However, I do wonder what has instilled so much worry about the natural process that is getting older in us.

Personally, I have always had a weird relationship with ageing. In my teens, I couldn’t wait for time to pass. Come 21, I wanted it to stop. Every year from post-20 onwards felt like another notch in the belt of time and its grip on me.

While I would not say that my levels of anxiety when it comes to getting older are quite at the level of a phobia, I would not say that they were minor either. A few years ago, when I turned 25, I had a meltdown and when I say meltdown I mean “screaming, crying, throwing up” (and not in the good way that everybody seemed to be on my social media timeline when it came to securing Taylor Swift tickets). The last thing I wanted to do was celebrate.

Now I am getting towards the later end of my twenties, I have felt dread even more. I have spent way too much money on skin care, tracked any changes to my face carefully, stalked myself on social media and longfully looked at old pictures from nights-out and my adventures as a teen. When saying how old I am, I do it with a whimper.

I know I am not alone. Popular culture and social media are full of signs of how worried many young people are about getting older. There is the more backhanded side of it; the “oh my god, you look so young” I got when I once told someone my age (I was 26 then). It’s not like I haven’t myself taken part in it. I called myself “so old” in a post, when I turned 25, automatically implying that anyone else in or over that age bracket is too.

On the other hand are the active attempts by people to cling on to the youth they have. While I have not ever felt strongly enough about Disney or Harry Potter to identify as a Disney adult, or make my key identity what Hogwarts house I’d be sorted into, I have seen many people that have strong feelings towards one or either of these, in my view slightly infantilising, tropes.

Then there is the more divisive, sometimes nasty, labelling that happens. While helpful in distinguishing age groups, labels like Boomer, Millennial, and Gen Z have just as much become buzzwords and curses thrown around at each other. We’ve all probably heard about “Karens” or seen “Okay, Boomer” thrown around.

But, it has to be said it goes both ways. We are the generation often accused by the more conservative and right-leaning of being “too woke” and in dire need of growing up. The idea that we are too young to understand the world is what is often used to discredit what young people say. Just as often, the finger is pointed at us for not achieving the same goals previous generations did at certain ages, despite external factors making things like buying a house a lot harder.

I could probably write another full column on the nastiness of ageism (both in the traditional sense and, as stated here, when it happens in reverse), but it isn’t quite the point I am trying to make today. What I do believe is that part of the fear of getting older is tied to some of the same notions that fuel ageist views: that life is somehow lesser once we reach a certain age, that the “best years” happen when we are young and fun, and that we only have a limited time to “get it together” to really achieve in life.

There are so many people around me who are a whole range of ages and who continue to do amazing things all the time but, when it comes to my life, I seem to have given myself an expiration date that I have somehow already surpassed in my short time on earth.

It’s contradictory, but I think my fear of ageing has its roots in that feeling of time passing too quickly to achieve the things I think I should be, while also being rooted in the fear that too much is changing. Looking at my twenties, it sometimes feels myself and my friends have done 360 degree turns over the last decade. We aren’t the same as we were at 18, or want the same things.

It is a month now until my birthday and, until recently, I did not look forward to it. But this weekend, as we celebrated the 90th birthday of my partner’s grandfather, that all changed for me.

The event was very much a celebration of life and it was full of positivity, fun and laughter. He spoke ahead of the event, thanking those that helped him live the life he has. Because, despite what my brain seems to try and tell me about my own life, his did not stop 60 years ago. He achieved great things and, more importantly, has and keeps enjoying the time he has. He has been retired longer than I have been on this planet and made the most of it. In fact, he is about to embark on a solo trip away to Europe for a few days.

Because that is the thing: life doesn’t stop when you get older, nor are you old when you reach your mid-twenties (if I am as lucky as my partner’s relative, I haven't even reached a third of my life).

I have come to realise that viewing ageing through a negative lens has stopped me from enjoying the beauty of what is to come, and prevented me from seeing the ways in which getting older has helped me, too: that I have achieved so much since I was a teenager, and grown so much more confident than I was at 21, for example.

So, as my birthday happens in a month, I am hoping to make it a fully joyous occasion this time.