I appear to have found myself in the middle of my twenties. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve actually been a participant of this whole ‘adulthood’ thing for quite some time now: I have memories that don’t involve me being a child, I’ve been many different people since university, I rarely get ID’d, my friends are getting married and mortgages and IT ISN’T SEEN AS WEIRD.
And all the age limits are turning backwards. I’ve spent my whole life knowing, if I find an age restriction on something, the time will come to pass when I am old enough to throw it. No longer. This birthday has granted me (and can you tell I’m scraping the barrel here?) access to car rental companies, a warrant to drink alcohol in Delhi, and the option to apply for work with the UN. But already the age restrictions have started creeping in: I can’t buy a young person’s railcard, be classified as a ‘young writer’ in competitions, I CAN’T EVEN BE IN PONY CLUB. And that’s just going to keep on happening every year. I will be restricted from something else and I will NEVER be the right age for it again.
I don’t want to get old. I actually have a fear of it. I don’t want my body to rot and sag and not work as well, I don’t want to always be tired, I don’t want it all to be downhill, I don’t want to run out of time, I don’t want to become boring. I don’t want it to hurt too much to enjoy sitting on the floor. I don’t want to replace my hopes and dreams with possessions and responsibilities. I don’t want to become stuck, stuck in my ways, stuck in a nine to five that I don’t enjoy, paying for a mortgage because I feel I should, going to the gym to run like a hamster on a wheel to lose the weight I’ve put on from a deteriorating metabolism and futile attempts to cheer myself up with food.
I moan about the ageing process a lot, and probably add more years to myself by worrying about it. Getting old is inescapable. Getting old is irreversible. That really scares me. But growing up is optional. And with my departure from young adult into actual-proper-you-can’t-apply-for-discount-anything-you-are-no-longer-the-up-and-coming-generation-you’ve-had-years-of-practice-and-have-lost-that-excuse-forever adulthood, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. And growing up is actually fricking awesome.
These are my four favourite things about it.
Subtleties of hue
The older I get, the more colourful the world gets. As a child everything must be black and white, an oversimplified version to enable understanding. The more time that passes, the more shades, colours, layers and textures it seems to grow. The further I plunge the more interesting it is, and the more bewildered I become as I am steamrollered by how little I know and how much there is to learn.
But I keep sneaking glimpses into the depths of detail, I am learning how to appreciate the subtleties of hue, and every now and then I can see beyond the obvious. Does it just get better the older you get? Does it always get more complex and unfathomable? Do the swells of staggering inscrutability just become more involved and intense? Are they always cut by moments of epiphany where something makes sense and the stark beauty of some intricate pattern is revealed? I sure hope so.
Freedom of choice
The whole world complains about growing up. About the dreaded maturity, the burdens of responsibility, the weight of consequence. It IS scary. I’m not denying that. But I’ll take that list of ‘shit I don’t want to do but has to be done’ and the infinite fear of culpability in return for MY life. In return for the power to change something if I want to. No one to tell you what to do, no bed time to be back for, no limit on something you might like to see or do, you can wear what you want, eat what you want, hang out with who you want, live where you want… your days are your choice. Your experience of life is your choice. If you don’t like it, marry someone who does. It is YOUR choice. You set your own limits, you pick your own rules. You can weigh up the pros and cons because you can better see consequences. You choose who to listen to and which path to follow. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to have it. This. Is. Something. I. Grow. More. Grateful. For. Every. Day.
Realising the power of imagination
I’ve always been told that children have a more active imagination. This is absolute codswallop. Mine is improving through maturation like a mighty fine pungent cheese.
As a child, you are limited by yourself. You cannot think outside of you and your own world. But now, I can put myself in other people’s shoes, I can imagine situations that have never brushed against my own experience, I can imagine myself into better moods, and I have spent many years dreaming, by day and by night, practising this skill.
When I was a child, I used to imagine things I wanted all the time. I would spend my life dreaming up scenarios and stories around my wishes. Now I’m older, I can actually make these things happen.
It is not our imagination we lose as we age, it is our belief.
‘The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.’
J M Barrie
A child knows not where the limits are, and so never places them on himself, but the adult has spent so long not flying, and being told they cannot fly, that it is easy to lose the belief that they ever will. Yet our skies are strewn with aircraft, and how do you think they got there? The dreamers of flight believed in it enough to find a way up there. Now millions of people take to the air every day. So maybe if we can believe in imagination we’re halfway there.
For who are we without imagination? It is the human’s exceptional skill to be able to imagine. Where would we be without new ideas? Without imagining something that has not yet passed? An animal is content once its immediate needs are satisfied: hunger, thirst, shelter, reproduction etc. A human being is not. We seek novel experiences, we dream of a better world, we aspire to invent, to explore, to step into the realms of something we once imagined. And that is what sets us apart from the beasts. And why imagination reigns supreme.
Thanks to this grand idea of empathy, friendships seem to grow and blossom ALL THE TIME into better things. The better I understand them, and myself, the deeper the friendship stretches. My friends have become my heroes, my mentors, my children, my play mates, my team mates, my comfort blankets, my challengers. I win with them and fail with them, learn with them and dream with them. I have never laughed with them as much as I do now.
I am still selfish, and I still struggle to understand, and I place high expectations that are sometimes unfair. But we will struggle together and improve as we grow.
So I guess it is pretty obvious, but it has taken me a while to realise that GROWing up means everything grows. And growing UP means everything goes up!
Being an adult is:
- Learning to laugh at yourself.
- Instead of playing until it ends in tears, playing until it ends in sex.
- Doing the same things with more style. (R. Montgomery)
- Realising the world doesn’t end if you fail at something.
- Learning to be OK with being lost, because you’ve been lost many times before, and always managed to find the way.
- Understanding the world is more than just you. Thank GOODNESS.
I will always love licking the bowl, making faces in the mirror, jumping in puddles, cartoons, making dens, children’s literature, being read a bedtime story, alphabetti spaghetti. Poo will always be hilarious. But I also love playing expressive music at painfully high volumes, getting stupidly pissed for no reason, getting payslips, reading someone a bedtime story, going out for afternoon tea, crosswords, watching snooker, wearing a blanket to stop my knees getting chilly. I can’t wait to get into gardening. I can’t wait to be good at what I do. I can’t wait to be a great storyteller (although until I grow a beard I doubt that will happen).
I love all these things that seem to be attached to an age. Well, I aim to become ageless. It seems much more fun that way. Potter around in your slippers. Make smiley faces in your mashed potato. Embrace your inner child. Embrace the wizened old bean you will become. Embrace the lost and confused in between. Embrace growing up and hope to flourish as a jolly, inquisitive and marvellously mad grown up.