“The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible.”
– Judith Regan
I do ponder sometimes – am I old? If I am, is this bad? If so, are things going to get any worse, and is it all downhill from now on? Actually, I don’t think so, and I don’t think that I’m strange in thinking that because I’m not really old at all. Clint Eastwood might be considered to be old although I doubt it. He’s 85. I’m only 51, and wearing pretty well with it as well. As is he.
In terms of years, I might be in the autumn of my life, but mentally, even physically, give or take the odd off day; I’m enjoying a prolonged Indian summer. Simon and Garfunkel once sang about ‘how terribly strange to be 70’ on the Bookends album. But I would dispute this – traditionally, the “older” generation aren’t supposed to all together, yet here I am, very together. And I’ve found it’s quite invigorating to be getting on, as they say, and I still like the cartoon (or ‘the funny pages’ for my American friends) pages of the newspapers just as carefully as I read their book reviews.
Films – I love “The Despicables, Ice Age, just as much as I enjoy the Swedish versions of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Luc Besson’s “Nikita”. So, while getting older can in some ways be limiting (especially with respect to one’s health, which is inevitable), it’s also a period of great liberation. It frees you up. Not, in my case, as in being freed from work I’m lucky enough to have made my great loves (books and art) my chosen path, — but in attitudes. You hit 50-plus and you don’t have to pretend about yourself any more.
I’m more confident, wiser, know every twist and turn of the block, and after marriage and two relationships, I’m usually not inclined to be involved with anyone new. I’m who I am, happy, (or at least reconciled), with myself, and I don’t give a rat’s ass what people think about me any more. I’ve achieved a lot, won more than I’ve lost, and I’m as eccentric as I want to be.
I’ve only recently realised that I only have one suit. Why would I need more? As I’ve worked from home, where would I ever go that requires a suit, except, I suppose, to another funeral, when I don’t do funerals at all. In fact, I don’t even plan on being at mine so what’s the point? I must have once thought I looked mega-sharp in the 80’s and 90’s, a real sharp-dressed young, thrusting business executive who was trying to make a good impression. Why I’d ever wanted to make some kind of phoney impression of myself, I now can’t imagine, and I’ve always said that on recollection, if I’d met me then, I wouldn’t have liked me. But that’s how I was, like everybody else, trying to look right and sound right and fit in.
By now you might have decided that I’ve evolved into just another grumpy old man, but, actually, I’m not. At least, I’m not whingeing about anything that’s new. I don’t mind change at all, it’s necessary to hit the F5 key of life in order to refresh things. There’s so much about the modern world and modern life that I love (and some I hate), that is better than it was when I was younger. This laptop, instead of a ZX Spectrum. And relocating to the UK from sunny Texas in 1970 (why, Mom and Dad, WHY?), I remember the cold, freezing fog, the blackened soot-covered buildings and suffocating smog in the early Seventies. Not so now, with global warming, carbon reductions and a greater awareness of people-friendly design in urban environments.
And most of us are healthier, staying younger and living longer, which is a stroke of such pure good fortune for my generation that it makes me feel almost guilty in enjoying it. Not. Especially as I remember my mother and father, at not much older than the age I am now, when they were already worn-out from life.
By comparison, my life has been a quiet walk in the park, with occasional hiccups like a spell of homelessness along the way to cloud things. The scheme of things now makes my generation luckiest in history, free health and dental care, and free education, right through university. Just imagine that! We were paid to go to university. It’s hard to believe.
And now, look at us, getting used to the idea that the time of life we once feared is turning out to be really quite enjoyable. With major responsibilities like family mainly behind us, the invisibility of getting older offers a whole new kind of freedom — a chance finally to be ourselves. That’s the best part of getting older.
So, after thought, I’m pretty cool about the concept of getting old. So long as I can do it disgracefully.
– After all, it’s better to burn out than fade away, don’t you think?