When I was about 18 I had a thing; a weird notion that there was a 15 minute window on Friday and Saturday nights when I became suave, witty and irresistibly charming (or thought I did).
This 15 minute window was my best chance of copping off at the local disco. This 15 minute window lay in a sort of the eye of an alcohol fuelled storm in between the seven or so pints that was the prelim to the disco and the subsequent double vodkas whose ‘sharpness’ I foolishly felt might sober me up a bit after the lager fest. It was a wonderful little period between being an awkward, self-conscious human lad and a bumbling, incoherent drunken ape.
Waiting to feel grown up has been a bit like that. For years I wondered when I’d feel the same as colleagues at conferences and work related dinners etc. who could easily enter into an adult conversation with another adult who was a stranger. I always felt like a young lad standing on the fringes never really knowing what to say. The bottom line was I could rabbit on about the silly things that interested me but the corporate blather always sounded like ‘blah, blah, blah’.
‘Never mind, when you grow up you’ll be able to talk like that too and fit in,’ I would reassure myself even though by the time my 30s started to run behind me with an outstretched hand pleading ‘don’t leave’ it still hadn’t happened.
A couple of weeks ago Andy asked me. “How do you feel being 50?”
It was a question that had me pulling on the metaphorical hand-break and screeching to a stop. Fifty? Fifty? How the hell did that happen? We’d been in Porto for my birthday. It was part of the reason we were in Porto. But when we travel, the actual celebration/acknowledgement of events like birthdays tends to get lost in being wide-eyed and dazzled at exploring somewhere new, shiny and interesting.
So I didn’t really think much about reaching a half century. It’s a bit of a sell out really as at 20 I’d vowed to go out in a blaze of glory by the time I was 36 (don’t ask me why 36 was a cut-off point).
Anyway, I pondered it for a second… and dismissed it. A number’s a number and a word’s a word.
I don’t know what being 50 means any more than I did being 40, 30 or 21. they’re all just train stations on life’s journey that I half registered as they passed by. It is what’s going on inside the carriage that is important. That and the journey the train takes.
Still feeling as though I’m waiting to grow up, it intrigues and fascinates when I read questions on travel forums from people who say really odd things like ‘We’re in our 50s but we still like to go somewhere lively.’
Why the hell wouldn’t they? In the last year I’ve jumped out of a plane and dived beneath the deep blue for the first time in my life. The opportunities occurred and I jumped at the chance to do both (well with the plane it was more a case of being cajoled). Thought of age just wasn’t/isn’t a factor. It’s meaningless. I am who I am. That’s it. I don’t define myself or feel defined by a number – I’m not The Prisoner.
But by the number of ‘we are a couple in our 50s but…’ comments, there are plenty who do feel the shackles of numbers which must be terribly restricting.
George Clooney is 50. Tom Cruise is 49. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp are both 48.
Can you honestly imagine any of them ever saying ‘I’m a man in my late 40s/early 50s but I still like somewhere with a bit of life. Nothing too lively though…’
Dump the numbers and live. Growing up is overrated and will only make you old.