Lately, I’ve been feeling old. Maybe it has something to do with spending lots of time with the young and happening things at my acting course. It is hard not to let their perspective of you take hold. And they don’t mean it in any negative way – but really, I am a contemporary of their parents, regardless of how I see myself when I look in the mirror. No wonder they apologise when they swear near me.
It has had this concertina effect though. I’ve suddenly noticed how far away I am from the girl I was when I was 20. In my own head I’ve always, as I suspect most of us do, felt fairly close to my 25-year old self. It’s not something you pay attention to, but there are strands within us, fears and self-beliefs and dreams that won’t lie down, that stay with us and bind us to our past selves.
But being around people who are in their twenties highlights the differences. With an intensity that can be quite difficult to bear, it shines a light on the fact that I am far removed from my 25 year old self. I’ve lived twice the life of these beautiful, young people brimming with optimism, standing on the doorstep of their lives. And it shows. Not just in the lines and wobbly bits, but in demeanour. In gravitas. In aura.
I am not twenty any more. I am shaped by a plethora of experiences that they have yet to have. I have travelled in numerous directions, dabbled in a multitude of different things and seen so much of the world. I have inhabited multiple roles, with each adding a new dimension to myself, to my perspective. Remembering that, and more importantly, respecting the complexity of who I am now, has made me a lot more comfortable with being older.
Perspective is something you gain with distance. And age is just that – distance from the cradle. Distance from those confusing-as-hell years where you are trying to please the people you love, and desperately trying to work out who you are in your own terms. Where you are a beginner at everything and the worry about whether you will “make it” gnaws at you and makes you restless.
And the perspective I’ve suddenly got is an appreciation of how well I do know myself and how much of life I have lived, and that my value, your value – everyone’s value – is as a human being, rather than because of anything we’ve achieved. This is the bit I really have to try and hold onto, the realisation that there is no destination. There is no “it” to make.
If you spend all your focus on achieving something, and don’t allow yourself to enjoy the road there, then you’ve achieved nothing. Time doesn’t stop. And whatever you’ve achieved will soon be behind you. In a blink of an eye, it’s already in the past. And if you haven’t enjoyed the trip, well, what have you got?
So, I’m giving myself a pat on the back for indulging my desire to act, even at this late stage. And I’m throwing out my admonishing internal critics who lament that I should have done this 20 years ago, and now I am too old and now it is too late. And I am giving myself permission to enjoy the process, to fail spectacularly so that I can learn and to have as much fun as possible along the way.
That is the gift of age – understanding that there is no ultimate goal – that if you want to do something, you just need to do it, to step forward in that direction and take a leap of faith. With a smile on your face.
And, its not just acting. It’s writing. It’s running my business. It’s being a mom. It’s all the things I fill my life with, that are coloured by the fear of failing that comes from focusing on “making it”. So, here is to me, and to you, and to all of us human-beings, creative creatures that we intrinsically are, for grabbing life at whatever age and whatever stage, and sucking the marrow out of it. And, more importantly, enjoying it.