Today I was listening to Life Matters on Radio National, in which comedian Dylan Moran was being interviewed and talking of life’s four stages: Child, Failure, Old and Dead. I understood the humour in that, but it got me wondering about where I'd sit on the continuum. I often still feel like a child and a failure (like most people who have lived long enough to screw up a few things), but I suspect that given my adult children have started referring to me as ‘cute’, I’m somewhere between the Old and Dead stages. It means I’ve hit that age threshold where keeping connected with the modern world are seen as me making an effort as the world moves away from me. Aww. Isn't she cute?
Sometimes in your 20s and early 30s, middle-age and beyond looks to be so far away, that those in the younger age group are unable to conceive of what life is like so much further down the road. In fairness, what do they have to compare it to? Certainly not the depth of experience, the mistakes and the learning. Often there is an assumption that older people do the same thing every day. That they are not open to change, and yes, occasionally they try new things, which makes them, well—‘cute’. It’s hard for them to imagine that people continue to have dreams and aspirations and desires until the day they die. Sometimes these are silenced by other demands and by the perceptions and disinterest of others about how those in middle age and beyond should, or do, behave.
Coincidentally, the day before listening to the program, I had read an article in Overland Literary Journal, about emerging writers and questioning why it was usually young people who were entitled to emerge. As a more mature writer, and one not having had the opportunity in my younger years to follow this path, I do feel occasionally that I’m struggling with the perceptions of what I would bring given that I’m ‘emerging’ at a later stage. But it’s not stopping me. I will keep doing the work and finding new ways to improve myself.
So, yes, I will remain ‘cute’ and possibly expand my cuteness. I’ve already warned my children that if I am hit by the proverbial bus, there is to be no reporting that the grandmother of *insert number at the time* was collected by the 903 to Mordialloc. No, no. They are to ensure that it adds—social worker, corporate trailblazer, writer, author, artist, teacher, mentor and a PhD candidate—to the descriptions of wife, mother and grandmother. While I love what those parts of my life give me, I was a whole lot of other things—ME—before them and I don’t want them forgotten because I'm ‘cute’. Some of my accomplishments started and carried through from my youth and others I have come to in later years. I have not stopped. Yes, I've been slowed down by heart surgery and chronic pain, but so what? The space between Old and Dead is full of possibility and vibrant, not just with desires and dreams, but with action and accomplishment.
In the interview, Moran said, 'People sort of look at older people and go, "Oh, they just wake up at the same time every day and they eat a cheese sandwich at lunch and they walk the dog." But it’s not like that. People are quieter about their inner life, but it’s still happening.'
He absolutely right and I'm not going to be quiet about it anymore.
Image via The Nth Degree