As another year has almost whizzed by, and another birthday approaches, I can no longer fool myself that I am young. Heart and mind, yes, but body? Well, it appears to have a different clock to my psyche, one that is ticking at an unruly pace.
However this may perturb me, I take solace in the fact that I have never been happier. Maturity is a wonderful thing. So, I thought I’d reflect on what I like about my older self, and not obsess about such pesky things as discovering that my waist has gone missing. Sigh.
• I no longer believe I am a fraud. I know, who would have thought! After 25 years in journalism I am now confident that I might be okay at this writing business after all and haven’t just jagged the thousand-odd stories I’ve filed in that time. Many would disagree, but the next point covers them.
• I no longer give a flying about what other people think. But I used to! I wanted – no, needed – everyone to like me and approve of me. Then one day I woke up and thought, “Why do I care about the opinions of people I don’t respect?” Now, that was a good day.
• Friends I had lost are coming back to play. As someone who never had kids, those who chose to tended to drop out of my orbit. But now, with their children more independent, they are back – often with a vengeance. It’s great to make up for lost time and realise that being responsible doesn’t stop you from wanting to be silly.
• My obsession with my bad skin has abated. Yes, finally! In a twisted perversion of justice, the horror of acne has been surpassed by the inevitability of wrinkles. Oh, and excess facial hair. (When I look into my rear-view mirror in full sun I realise I am, in fact, a yeti.) All that wasted angst.
• I don’t covet possessions like I used to. No longer do I succumb to marketing and advertising pressure. So many material things are really just tat. “Don’t believe the hype” isn’t just a great song.
• I have discovered that success is overrated. Doing what you love is more important than kicking career goals or, worse, chasing the dollar. Look up “golden handcuffs” and you’ll see why I will never regret making this choice.
• I love being alone. No longer is it scary, it’s actually preferable. After years of believing that my happiness was dependent on sharing, I now see the truth – that the only person you need in this life is a “you” that you know and like.
• Fear of missing out – FOMO, as it’s known – is over. Others can have their fun; I don’t need to be in the middle of it. There is rarely a day when I don’t want to be doing exactly what I am. (Okay, maybe doing whatever that is on my yacht moored somewhere on the Amalfi Coast might fractionally improve on the equation.)
• I no longer blame my parents for my problems. They might not have been ideal, or even competent, but who am I to judge? They did their best and that is all any of us can do. Would I have been any better?
• I have experienced unconditional love. What’s more, I know where to get it. Forget your parents, your children and your partners fulfilling this need, just visit the RSPCA and get a dog. I promise you won’t regret it.
• Your health really is everything. Yep, it’s not just nanny-like concern but cold, hard fact. Having lost friends way too early, it makes you realise that nothing is more important. Respect the body you are in. It really is your greatest gift.
• “You can never be too thin” is total bunkum. As you age, the thinner you are, the more the years show. And doesn’t everyone want to live a full life, savouring all its bounties? I do, that’s for sure. In my mind, indulging is one of life’s greatest joys. Hic!
I could go on and on. I could talk about how some people really aren’t worth arguing politics with; that expensive beauty regimes can never replace the gift of great genes; that what you reap really is what you sow, so only put out the good stuff.
But I’ll wait until you reach a certain age and then there will be no need to do any of that. We will simply enjoy the quiet space that comes with not having to fill in every second in company, or be a performing seal in the hope of being liked. We will enjoy the wisdom of our years in a more quiet and centred way that was not possible when younger – in the bliss that is not just self-awareness but self-acceptance.