Thursday, October 25, 2007

How Old?

41 today! Apparently life began last year…

Unsurprisingly perhaps, I know a few people who passed their 40th birthday in the past year or so, along with one or two for whom the change of decade is looming, and the unanimous sentiment is one of doom and gloom.

And yet for me, turning 40 twelve months ago was in no way the apocalyptic event everyone else perceives it to be. For a while I just figured it was because I was already in the swing of a full on midlife crisis, so reaching this age wasn’t going to make any real difference.

But following on from a few conversations I’ve had of late, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s actually because I haven’t reached my natural age yet.

I remember my mother used to say that inside she only ever felt 18, so constantly got a surprise when she looked in the mirror and found this old woman staring back at her. My father has always struck me as a young man in his twenties at heart, despite the fact that he’s now into his seventies. And my brother, who is 4 years older than me, is a teenager through and through; the idea of him as a grown up is too difficult to get my head around, no matter how thin his hair gets.

On the other side of it we all know people who act like grumpy old men and women despite being youthful in appearance. And when I go to pick up Meg from school in the afternoons I nearly always notice a child from her class who I just know will look exactly the same when he’s 85 years old: he’s a pensioner waiting to happen.

Even putting aside the days when I feel I’m not a day less than at least 16 billion years, and still in desperate need of a good night’s sleep, the fact is I was never a young man.

As a child I really didn’t enjoy the company of other children. They were small-minded, petty, superficial and, well, childish. The reality was I couldn’t wait to grow up and I’m infinitely happier as an adult than I ever was as a kid. I once saw a young lass who was dreadfully upset that she was about to turn 20 – her life was all but over. I’m not usually driven to wanting to slap people, but the urge was there on this occasion. My twenties were considerably better than my teens, and I felt far more comfortable in my thirties than I ever did in my twenties.

Now I’m in my forties and I still feel the best is yet to come. Perhaps I’ll be truly at home in my late forties or even early fifties. It’s an odd thought that most people are mourning for a lost youth while I’m still looking forward with expectancy.

So what age do you feel? Are you younger or older than your refection indicates?

39 comments:

Zazzy said...

You're younger than me, I hate that! Though, when I was 41 I was still insisting that I was in my extremely late thirties.

Happy Birthday!!

Mary Witzl said...

I LOVE being middle-aged! The only thing that isn't so great, of course, is the fact that I can no longer gorge myself on rich food with impunity and I've got a little arthritis. But I would not go back to being a teenager for any amount of money -- unless I was allowed to take with me the wisdom I have accrued. Then I would have all those hormones and all my current smarts, and that would hardly be an advantage. I suspect a lot of the wisdom would just get in my way...

Kate said...

Happy birthday! You're older than me, I'm still a young whippersnapper of 40 ;-)

Christina said...

HAppy Birthday!

I always get surprised when I see friends younger brothers and sisters getting married/having kids, and then I think, well they are so yyoung. Apparently, I am getting old.

I have not lived in Sweden since I was 18, and so some of the expressions I use in Swedish are some of the expressions we used when we were in high school. My friends laugh at me, and think it is hysterical, as them themselves have forgotten some of the things /phrases we used to say. I am guessing I am feeling like a 25 year old....

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Well I've got to post it in here as well, so Happy Birthday mate!

I've always felt a bit like an old soul as well.

savannah said...

ageless, sugar...older for sure, but a number? don't know, can't choose, i guess...to say the actual number out loud sounds so bizarre! i think i'll be old the moment i die until then...it don't matter at all!

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

Happy Birthday Kim. You are a few years older than myself, but I won't rub it in too hard. I'm not sure what age I feel - sometimes I wish I was older and looking back to these turbulent times with rose-tinted spectacles, other times I wish I was still a youngster full of optimism.

Brave Astronaut said...

As mentioned here, I turn 40 in two months. I am not anticipating any problems hitting that milestone. For some reason I did have trouble with 30.

I was in a bad marriage, in a job I didn't want, living somewhere I didn't want to be. But now, as I approach 40, I am married to the best woman ever, have a child, with a second ready to arrive, have a great job, living in Washington, DC.

Of course, there are some who will remind me, "Stop, you're acting like a child." :)

Some things can't be helped. I'm still a boy in some respects. Give me some ponytails and an inkwell and I'll giggle the day away (showing my age there, but I'm not that old).

Happy Birthday Kim, my older Internet friend!

Brave Astronaut said...

Oh, and courtesy of the "This Day in History" section of my work's intranet page, on this day in 1962, John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Would that we had that capability to award you such an award for your wonderful words.

Croila said...

Happy Birthday indeed! I'm with you on it being a bit crap really, being a kid. You get told what to do too much, other kids can be right shits. I'm 38 now but my real age is 33. Although hang on, I actually look about 100 and I feel feel older than Methuselah. But that pre-parenthood 33 is still in there somewhere, trying to get out! Turning 38 was terrible - I'm officially nearer 40 than 35 now. Turning 40 will be calamitous, I just know it.

Z said...

Happy birthday, Kim!

I was out of kilter with my teens. And then, when I was 18, my Latin teacher said "I always enjoyed Horace. People say you have to be middle-aged to appreciate Horace, but I think I was born middle-aged."

It was a revelation, and I understood that I was not yet the age I was 'meant' to be.

My thirties were excellent. I was optimistic about forties, but personal circumstances rather wrecked them. Fifties are splendid, so far, though I haven't quite reached the middle yet.

michael greenwell said...

happy birthday.

i dunno what age i feel because i havent experienced any more than 30 so i can't speak for how 50 feels

i know that is cop-out answer but there you go.

Carole said...

I will, in less than a week, be 54, so I am way older than you, although not even as close to as wise, but I still feel 18. I still get excited at big fat snow flakes, and I love to go barefoot, and I still sit cross-legged, and I have my own set of crayons (the big box) so I can color when the mood strikes. But like your mom, I am always surprised when I pass a mirror. "Who is the world is visiting now/" Hmmm.

Have a wonderful time today. Canty Birthday!

Colonel Aureliano Buendía said...

happy birthday Kim.

In the past people have always said that I seem older than my age. However, I have always felt younger.

Also I can't immagine anyone relishing their teens though I suppose a few people do.

Colonel Aureliano Buendía said...

Also our high school counselors and teachers were always telling us "remember these are the best years of your life"
It might have been more helpful to most of us psychologically if they had said "Don't worry this is as bad as it gets."

Stinkypaw said...

First, let me wish you a very Happy Birthday!

I'd say I'm younger in my head than in numbers, and yet I've always "acted" older, so it's hard to say.

I also did a post on aging this week.

jessica said...

Happy birthday!!!

Freakazojd said...

Fabulous post! I'm about to turn 33 and I love it. I don't know what age I feel like though, because to me, they're just numbers and I've never connected the numbers with what I feel like. That said, I found this post to be very interesting! I remember when my brother turned 21, he was absolutely morose and would not allow us to celebrate, nor would he accept any gifts. I thought he was mad! For me, birthdays have always been a chance to celebrate the ones we love and to slow down and take the time to reiterate to them how glad we are that they're here, which you can never say too often. :)

Freakazojd said...

AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! :)

Charlie said...

Happy Birthday, Kim. Are we having cake?

And I wonder, when you were a child watching other children being childish, did you have a beard back then?

PI said...

A late Happy Birthday and may you have a happy healthy year.
I seem to have spent my youth wishing time away - longing to be older and suffered from always looking younger than my age.
For you I think the best is yet to come. I find I have reached a plateau of contentment and I can look back at all the striving and weaknesses and inadequacies and be thankful I don't have to go through them all again although I regret nothing, other than having - thoughtlessly - caused hurt to others. Now I don't mind looking younger than my age oddly enough:)

MikeP said...

Happy birthday!

Do your students keep you young? Everyone tells me that. But I can't account for the few grey hairs.

Kim Ayres said...

Zazzy - ah yes, I'm actually thirty-eleven now...

Mary - I think you're right - you need the impetuousness of youth and that sense of immortality to go out and enjoy it.

Kate - not for much longer if I remember rightly...

Christina - I hadn't made the connection before, but Descartes' patron mentioned in the last post was Queen Christina from Sweden :)

FLG - it's all that hanging about with middle-aged men trying to lose weight over on the other blog that does it...

Savannah - wise words :)

Dr McCrumble - a fast-forward and rewind button would be really useful, for sure.

Brave Astronaut - Ah, but what was happening on 25th October 1966? And thanks for the ecard :)

Croila - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment. Just imagine you're 58 and closing in on 60. Then heave a sigh of relief that you've got another 20 years before you're there :)

Z - here's hoping the 60s will be even more fun :)

Michael - but do you prefer being 30 to 20?

Carole - with your crayons and your bare feet, you are a far wiser soul than me

Colonel - I've always felt that "School days are the best days of your life" is the equivalent of saying "A good hard kick in the balls is a great way to start the day". It makes no sense in any way, shape or form

Stinkypaw - good post - and thanks for the ecard :)

Jessica - thank you :)

Freakazojd - I always feel birthdays have to be celebrated - it means that despite all the shit the gods have thrown at you, you've survived another year!

Charlie - the cake was superb - you'd have loved it.

And yes, I was born with a beard. The only reason it doesn't show up in childhood pictures is I was shaving before I could walk

Pat - can you still get half-price in the cinema?

MikeP - I'm afraid the students rely on me to keep them young - all of them this year are oler than me.



Brave Astronaut said...

It was a Tuesday. Here are the things I found for October 25, 1966. (Never ask an archivist to find historical events - they will always take you up on it).

1. A military court in Jakarta sentences ex-foreign minister Subandrio to death.
2. Spain closes its Gibraltar border to non-pedestrian traffic.
3. 6 youths sentenced in "Johnson murderer!" in Amsterdam (don't know anything more)
4. It is also Taiwan Restoration Day (1945) and Virgin Islands Thanksgiving Day.
5. And you share your birthday with (among many others): Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800), Pablo Picasso (1881), Julia Roberts (1967).
6. And on that date in 1400, the world lost Geoffry Chaucer.

Restaurant Gal said...

Oh no. I missed the actual day! Happy Birthday a few days later. I hope it was terrific.

As for age, I care and I don't. I look younger than my chronological age, so I am often told. I feel like I am any age, depending on the day, so it doesn't really matter. Yesterday, after a long week with Saturday and Sunday shifts still to come--I felt a little tired for a 33-year-old. ;)

Eryl Shields said...

Are you grumpy? I've never noticed. You seem nothing but generous to me.

I have no idea what my natural age might be: I don't think I'm grumpy, nor am I overly optimistic. God forbid that my natural age is the nonedescript chronological one I currently posess: middle. I do find farting hilarious if that helps. And, like Carole I like to wear my barefeet and think colouring is tops. I've recently started a journal which is supposed to document my 'journey' as a writer. So far I have filled the pages with pictures from Vogue and, to me, amusing quotes such as 'he's made out of coins' (don't ask me who) found mostly in the Guardian arts pages. I do love a bit of glueing.

Hope you had a delicious birthday...

Archie said...

Twenty-thirteen here...I like that. Skin gets more comfortable every year too.

Archie said...

Oh yeah, happy belated birthday as well...

The Birdwatcher said...

I'm 48, soon to be 49. Not sure how old I feel, I think it changes depending on what is happening and where I am. My mother still makes me feel like a small boy in short trousers and I guess the prevailing feeling would be of a small confused little boy. I sometimes take stock and realise that I am an adult, I have responsibilities, and that I have made a mark (albeit a small one) on this world.

Kim Ayres said...

Brave Astronaut - I knew about Picasso (see last year's blog entry) but I didn't know about Julia Roberts :)

RG - you're half that age, surely...

Eryl - I try to avoid turning into a grumpy old man. It's too easy to rant but it just makes you look and feel impotent so I try not to.

Archie - yes the skin moves from being like tight jeans to baggy jogging trousers as we get older

Birdwatcher - clearly then you must be about 40 years past your natural age then...

ArleneWKW said...

It is interesting to me that you wrote about this just now. Interesting
because I had such a conversation with some people recently. Two of these
people are will be celebrating their 87th and 88th birthday soon. The other
was 53. And I am friggin 61. What I wondered about was: How old would you
think yourself to be if you didn't know your age, if you amnesia about this?

I would be somewhere between 43 and 47. It was at that age that I started
becoming more self accepting. Like you, I didn't do kiddom very well. I've
always had a fairly active mental life. I don't think that I've reached an
age where I've lost too much of my mental edge. I show signs of physical
wear and tear, but am probably in mostly as good a shape now as I was in my
40's.

Yup, I'm 43, as wise, playful, and outrageous as I'll ever get to be.

Attila The Mom said...

Happy Birthday!

When I turned 40 earlier this year, I really didn't feel different.

Except when I open my mouth, my mom seems to fall out. ;-)

michael greenwell said...

kim - there are bits about both of them i like and bits i don't like

Kim Ayres said...

Arlene - if only we could learn to accept ourselves from ayoung age, I'm sure we'd be a lot less screwed up.

Attila - yes, I've noticed a disturbing habit of grunting and adjusting my trousers as I climb off the sofa that is in almost exactly the same as my father

Michael - climb off that fence...

lilly said...

Hi Kim, may i just say as one of your childhood friends it was not obvious that you felt that way,or maybe i was too childish to notice!!!!

Kim Ayres said...

Lilly - As one of my childhood friends?

Now you have me confused - do we know each other? If so, from where/when?

fatmammycat said...

Happy belated birthday! And in answer to your question I feel about 109 today.

apprentice said...

40 was worse than 50, but I'm with your Mum I still feel about 19 inside - but then like you I didn't enjoy being a kid, in fact I was the adult in my house and I've been guilty of assuming responsibility for everything ever since. It's a habit I'm trying to break at this somewhat late stage.

I think the trick is between those who look forward and those who look back. Keep shoving things in the diary to look forward to and life is good. Gardeners tend to be happy souls.

Kim Ayres said...

Apprentice - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment :)