I was listening to a song recently that includes the lyric, “The power of youth, is on my mind,” which led me to thinking about ageing.
For some people, age is simply a number, and for others, they are defined by it. Our children grow before our very eyes, as any parent of a 6 month old baby will confirm; those days of not being able to support our own heads, on the tiny stems of our fragile necks, pass swiftly.
When we are younger, all we seem to do is wish ourselves away to 18. Once we are 18, we look forwards to 21 and the freedoms that we presume it will bring. Once we are 25, we’re wondering how to pay the gas bill and reassessing our previous two-decades-worth of wishes. Responsibility can weigh a tonne and unless we learn to be independent when we are young, and assume responsibility for ourselves, then being the grown-up – the person where the buck stops – can be very daunting.
I have recently turned 39 (as one eagle-eyed reader, Roger, recently spotted!), and so I suppose I am staring 40 in the face now. I have to say, that all I really feel about that is some excitement because, surely, each year we gain is a privilege? As yet I’ve never been bothered by the concept of ageing, which is perhaps due in part to my Grandfather, who remained spry until his 90s, and also due to being currently very happy in my personal and work situations.
These things, however, can change at the drop of a hat, and after all, I am not in a career where my success rides upon my being able to look 21. A lack of absorbing roles in the movie industry is a well-known plight for older women, and perhaps it’s the same in many city jobs, where spritely young whippersnappers, who may be cheaper to employ, really do benefit from ‘the power of youth’. Although they too will one day experience the changes that age may bring.
Old age can be a frightening concept. Will we be alone? Will our children grow-up safely and happily and still be remotely interested in seeing us? Will our grandchildren want to visit, or will we be deemed dull and past it?
It’s only at this stage of my life that I can truly say I no longer feel 18 on the inside. It’s such a cliche to say we feel ‘no different to when we were a teenager’, although up until a point I found it to be true. But nowadays, although I still feel like me, that old adage has proven false, so far as I am experiencing. I am such a different person to when I was younger. I am more confident, more self-aware and more reflective. I’m as much of a control freak as ever, and I’m sure I have developed new faults just as much as I’ve dispelled others. But I can definitely say that, although the past is safe (for we know that up until this very point we got through it), I prefer the me of now. I don’t think I’d want to go back to 18 and the uncertainty that lay ahead.
None of us know what the future brings but, if we are sensible, we do at least learn from the past.
First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 8th March 2016