I guess this Blog was inspired by a colleague of mine who just ‘celebrated’ his 30th Birthday, the celebrated bit is in exclamation marks, as to him this seemed the end of the world, the end of his ‘youth’ with the next stop on the runaway train called life being incontinence pants, Zimmer frames and mumbling loudly about ‘the kids of today blah blah’. As I approach what could be considered a major milestone in my life, his depression, dismay and disbelieve that life had anything to offer past the 20’s made me think about how I feel as I leave the 30’s.
Candidly I exclaimed that age was just a state of mind, and that I was comfortable with death. I had achieved what I wanted, experienced enough for more than 2 lifetimes, and was content that my time on the planet hadn’t been wasted. My only regret if the grim reaper suddenly decided that my time was up, would be the fact that I never got the chance to see my daughter walk down the aisle, my son graduate with first class honours from Oxford (although that could take several reincarnations), the birth of a grandchild, the intense pride and emotion that can only be achieved by fatherly (or motherly I assume) at your children realising a dream, finding love, passing their driving test, getting the lead part in a play or winning at the chosen hobby/pastime/sport. If my time was to come early I would feel robbed of these delights that no matter of personal achievement, excitement or gratification could replace.
This struck up two questions for me, firstly how can anyone be so depressed at just 30 years of age, and secondly did I really mean what I said? Have I really got to a point in my life that I only live my future through my children? Have I given up on myself? Am I so devoid of personal ambition? Have I lost all selfish wishes and desires?
To answer my first question, I have to think back to when I was 30, and how I felt. But this didn’t work, I have been fortunate that my life has gone at a pace similar to that of a blue bottle fly, 1 second a human hour, 1 hour a human day, 1 day a human year, even at 30 I had achieved a lot of what I had wanted and more than I expected, of course my young arrogance and ambition desired more, and to have been struck down would have left me angry and feeling robbed, but depressed at 30 – never.
I always remember being told that at twenty I was arrogant, at 30 I was now considered confident, by doing nothing but age, I had developed from a young, pimple faced inexperienced child, into an ambitious, confident and respected future player – something I believe only age and perhaps experience could have given me. For me getting older allowed me to gain more respect, experience, and self confidence which in turn allowed for greater opportunities and the chance to experience even more, for me a self perpetuating cycle
I think most people eventually see it as part of life and as you age you learn to accept it and seek out the benefits that come with getting older – and actually enjoy the process (OK just me again then?). Then there are those who simply deny it, or worse believe they can prevent it.
For me growing older is an adventure, just like visiting a new country, starting a new job? It comes with some benefits, opportunities, and experiences. Of course it also comes with its challenges and unanswered questions, like why do we suddenly grow hair in places that we have never needed to grow hair from before? Why does the affects of 10 pints of beer the night before take twice as long to recover from? Why does going to the toilet become a moments rest and relaxation, rather than just an almost unconscious activity of inconvenience? All part of the mystery of aging – but dare I say it is as interested as getting your first spot, that first time someone notices a hairy spider has crawled onto your top lip, or the moment of consciousness that girls and their bits make the world go round, and not fast cars, computer games, drinking until your sick and smoking behind the school bike sheds.
The second question I asked myself is intrinsically connected with the answer to the first , once you have realised that there is more to life than designer clothes, mock Tudor council flats and jewel encrusted nose rings, you concentrate on the real pleasures in life – your child’s first steps/smile/words, hearing a glowing report of your children’s school performance, receiving unconditional love from your children (even if they may be thinking it will get them a bar of chocolate or the rights to stay up 1 hour later!), going to places you had seen in movies and noting how small/dirty/disappointing it was in reality, comfy shoes, drinking with friends on an afternoon, sleep and quiet moments to name but a few. This doesn’t mean to say you haven’t give up on flying to the moon, swimming the Atlantic or bungee jumping into a bubbling volcano, it just means that when you compare the things that you have done, that you thought would make you happy. With those that you had no expectation of happiness the latter tend to result in a much deeper satisfaction. Craving the latest phone, fast car, and white sand beach holiday can provide happiness, but not nearly as much as a warm house, nice meal and the love of a family after a long hard journey home.
Given all of that ask me the same question closer to my 40th!