When I was just a chit of a girl, I thought life ended at 40. You were meant to have done it all by then: Career, travel, marriage, babies, hobbies, accomplishments. I mean 40 was Old. Surely, life’s trajectory would start to power down. Right?
Now, I find myself on the other side of 40, and laugh at my infantile vision of the future. Sure, I’ve done the career, travel, marriage, babies and hobbies thing. But accomplishments. That I’m only just getting started on.
There is a lot going for youth. For one thing, you have time on your side. There is an expanse of a lifetime waiting to be discovered, to be explored and enjoyed. Also, all your faculties are pretty much intact. You can still hear and see, and soak up knowledge and information like a sponge. Your memory hasn’t taken a beating yet. Your hair is thick, your skin is supple and your body is limber. You are admired by men of all ages. Your personality is not set in stone, and your innocence still shines through attractively. Yes, youth is a valuable currency indeed.
What youth doesn’t have on its side are wisdom and experience.
It’s been oft repeated that “Youth is wasted on the young”. I’d like to think that youth is just a rehearsal for the main event. Can you imagine a world where age and maturity had no standing whatsoever? Where youth and naiveté governed everything? Where everyone was put out to pasture at 40? Shudder!
I remember when aged 18 and supremely confident of my intelligence and looks, I’d joined a Foreign Language course. Amongst the predominantly youthful class, one person stood out. He was a pensioner over 60. Our initial surprise was soon overtaken by his charisma, his enthusiasm and his desire to learn. Needless to say, he was a star pupil. I learned then that age was no bar to scholarship or edification.
Even as I set about living my life: finding a job I loved, a man I loved and discovering through the years, the joys of parenthood, I realised how facile my initial timeline had been. I had been trying to condense my life within parentheses, when true living had commas and exclamation marks and paragraphs that ebbed and flowed and sometimes crashed into one another.
Whilst all those initial milestones of my imagining were secured, it was the lesser moments, the ellipses of my living that made the story of my life a rich and colourful one. I realised that no matter how old I got, I could still carry on learning and exploring. I could still diversify. I could still re create and re imagine myself. I could be student and mentor. I could inspire and be inspired. I could marvel at the accomplishments of a 20 year old just as I could at a 50 year old’s. The only limits were the ones that I imposed upon myself.
With that in mind, I choose to live my life with gusto. My manifesto is to try and experience everything (within reason). I pursue my hobbies with the same passion that I give to my career. I try and be a good partner, a good parent and a good friend.
My mantra is to live life to the fullest. If I fail, I pick myself up, dust myself off and try again. What’s the worst that can happen? I will fail again. So what?
When that full stop comes, as it inevitably will, I want the book of my life to be a worthwhile read.