I’m starting this while still trying to come up with a title because everything I think of me makes me sound like some sort of decrepit granny and that is not my intention at all. I basically want to talk about age, being older but not actually old. Hopefully by the time I’ve reached the end I’ll have my title, but if not it’ll be something simple and to the point: On Ageing, kind of thing.
I’ve found myself thinking about age a lot lately. It’s a combination of all sorts but the main thing that has kicked it off is that I’ve suddenly become aware that I’m actually one of the oldest in my team at work. The reason this always strikes me as odd is that I never really feel my age at all. In actual numbers I’m 43 – born in 1975, a true Generation X’er. In my head though I’m probably still about 24 and I’m not sure I’ll ever shift away from this. My Pops, who in actual years is 72 tells me that he still feels like he’s 25 every single day.
We’re living in a time where age is increasingly becoming a real talking point. Our properly old people, the ageing population, are living longer and seem to be living it up large. Certainly people I know that are retired are here, there, everywhere and having a ball! Snowflakes, millennials, there’s a name for everyone, every age and with this seems to come some kind of life expectation. In the last week alone I’ve seen a post that was about a 30 year old who felt like a total failure because she didn’t have a house, a steady job and a regular life partner; a 24 year old talking about feeling old (!) and at least three other people in my Instagram feed equating their age to not being good enough because they should [insert life goal here]. When did our age become so aligned to these alleged life goals? Who decided on these life goals? Who? I want to know!
I’ve gone slightly off topic but I think the two things are definitely connected. At 43, to the outside world, I probably look like I have all my shit together. I’m married, work full time, have a house I love and a big yellow dog that I love even more. But do I think this is where I thought I would be at 43? Probably not. Mainly because when I was younger 43 felt like it was absolutely ancient and I would never be *that* old. Ha! Truthfully when I was younger and flicking through the catalogue picking out all my homewares, I definitely planned to have children by the time I was 21 – quite honestly I can’t remember where I thought I would be from then because my little brain just didn’t think beyond that.
Want to know where I actually was when I was 21? I was at university in London. Having the absolute time of my life. And celebrating turning such a grand old age with a week-long party, including a night in my room in halls where the walls were dripping with condensation there were so many people in there. I was absolutely hammered for a week straight and the photos are deeply incriminating to all involved – thank god there was no sign of social media when I was at uni because oh dear…
And yes, no social media probably makes me seem oh-so-old to a lot of people. Want to know something else? Email was like a groundbreaking way of communicating with people when I was at university. Yep, email. This was 1995 people. I mean, some of you weren’t even born…
Bringing the discussion back in to the room, can we talk again about being 43? What does a 43 year old look like? Most of the ones I know are actually pretty kick-ass. They are young at heart, and long may it stay that way! Over the years I’ve pretty much stuck up my middle finger to a lot of preconceptions about age. I once read somewhere that you should stop wearing short skirts once you hit 30. Balls to that! You can’t do this, you shouldn’t do that. Why are there so many rules? What’s right for one person will never be what someone else wants.
This is definitely true of so many things in life. It is absolutely true about having children, or not having them. The 9 year old me described above who used to flick through the catalogues picking out which pushchair to buy, had no idea that future age me would decide very early on that I actually didn’t want to have children. Over the years I’ve come across a startling amount of people who have judged me for this decision – maybe it’s because I’ve always been bold about my choices and never apologised for them, because why should I? It’s my business, my choice, it has no impact whatsoever on their lives and yet So.Much.Judgement. Once again I ask why?
True story: when I decided to quit my full time job at age 37 and go back to full time education so that I could essentially start all over again with my career, I had to tell my supervisor I was leaving. I asked for a quick five minute chat as I had something I needed to say. Before we had even sat down, the first question out of her mouth was “are you pregnant?” I mean, can you even? You’ve probably guessed by now that she was one of the people with the judgement about my choice, that she knew all about from the endless questions as soon as Dave and I started going out about if we would be having a family. Sigh.
Back in the room again. Should one leave a permanent job at 37 and risk everything? Probably not. Is it hands down the best decision I ever made for my career? 100% yes. Am I now a manager at 43? Nope. Do I want to be? Definitely nope. Should I be? Who even cares! Do I sometimes find myself feeling old in my team? Maybe…but I also wouldn’t change my age for the world. (I love that I’ve written that as if it’s an actual option…)
I like my age. A lot. I’m comfortable in my skin, I honestly couldn’t give two flying f*cks about what people think of me, I’m never afraid to voice my opinion and this is always because I’m confident of what I’m saying, and most importantly I’ve got the goods to back it up. I’ve done a lot, I’ve seen a lot, and if I haven’t tried it yet I’m more than likely to give it a go so I can make a decision either way. I might be up to 20 years older than some of my colleagues (gulp) but I would choose this age every time.
I guess it’s time for a summary. How about age is meaningless, let’s all drink wine! Ha! But seriously, it really is.
It all comes back to my favourite life motto: You do you, I’ll do me.
Thank you and goodnight.
Picture caption: me and my other 40-something kick-ass babe acting like complete idiots at the Teesside Hospice Colour Run this year.