It’s an often recurring realisation of mine that the more I find out the less I feel like I really know. The older I get and the more I experience, the more I question things. It makes sense I suppose. Until you find a reason to question something, then why would you do so. It’s that classic, Socrates-inspired adage again: You don’t know what you don’t know, because you don’t know it. Each and every one of us have our own set of a billion things which we don’t know yet, and it’s both a little scary yet also achingly exciting to know (or do we? ha!) it. Astonishing lessons we’ve yet to learn, impactful experiences we’ve yet to have, and people we’ve yet to meet are floating around us like rubber ducks with hooks on their heads, waiting to be caught, and if we can manage to do so, we stand to win a prize. Hopefully a good one, perhaps a rubbish one, but either way, we get to keep it forever.
Shortly after turning thirty, I wrote a post here which seemed to resonate with a lot of my peers. It was a post that essentially celebrated the liberation in jumping off that high speed train which herds its passengers to each of life’s mainstream milestones without diversion. It was a post about seeing beyond the numerical context of age; and feeling more free by doing so. Turning thirty was an absolute highlight for me, predominantly for that realisation. It felt akin to removing the high heels after an evening trying to recreate Stomp on the dancefloor, and replacing them with comfortable flats for the walk home. And also because it was an excuse to throw a big party and eat tonnes of Frazzles and cake.
I still believe and stand by everything I wrote in the post, but in the same way that turning thirty taught me a lot, so too have the following five years. I continue to be mesmerised by the ways in which humans grow and develop, and how our experiences shape the people we become and the dreams we dream. I continue to believe in keeping well away from that high speed train and laying your own tracks instead, even if they do take you to somewhere that feels quite remote once in a while. If there’s one thing I’ve never had any reason to question it’s that you just have to be yourself and follow your instinct no matter how challenging and/or lonely it can sometimes feel. You can go to as many fairgrounds as you want but there’s no rubber duck out there that will tell you anything different to that, and if there is it’s the sort that’ll win you a really shit prize: think a counterfeit fiver, or a Dip Dab without the lolly.
But I suppose what I didn’t bank on discovering was how much more conscious of my age – and critical of my choices – that I would become, the closer I got to my mid-thirties. How much I would start to think a bit more about those numbers, and how historic “1985” would increasingly sound. I couldn’t have predicted how unsettled I would sometimes be by the connotations of the additional seconds it would take to scroll a drop-down menu when entering a year of birth, combined with the notable prevalence of grey hairs and frequent need to apply the Nice’n’Easy.
I had never wanted to engage my biological clock in a race, and I still don’t – and won’t – but I do have to concede that the prospect of old Clocky bothers me now much more than it used to. Mainly because it’s ticking louder, and the increased volume of that is just generally annoying. I’d really like to just take the batteries out of the blasted thing and bury it for a decade, in all honesty, so that I can unearth it in the future and look at it in the same way I look at a trouser-skirt, a clunky cassette walkman, or a glittery green jelly shoe now. Throw in a pandemic at the same time, and that’s a lot of reflection opportunity, and reflection, whilst important to do, isn’t always an easy experience.
When you’re reflecting in your twenties, all you have to really look back on is your childhood self, and so it’s easy to feel like you’re growing, but your mid-thirties is the first opportunity you really get to look back over a time in your adult life, when you thought you knew everything (or at least, a fair bit). And that can be a tougher match. We all felt “old” when we turned thirty, and that we had life and the world all figured out. Nowadays, we have the ability to both laugh at that idea but also know that our future forty year old selves are laughing at both of us from 2031. The eighty year olds have even more to say; and hopefully they’ve got a massive glass of sherry and a huge piece of cake in their hands as they say it, because I can imagine this calorie-counting-to-keep-healthy game will get really boring after a while.
As I approach my thirty sixth birthday, which will officially herald in my “late thirties” (urgh), I find myself wishing I could write to the girl who wrote “The Truth About Turning 30” and tell her that there have been lots of things she’s been right about, but also lots of things she hasn’t been right about, so to go out and embrace the new knowledge that’s out there for the taking, and never just assume that “this is it“. Explore the other carriages on the train. Look out of the windows a bit longer. Get out at one of the random stations and linger there for a bit. Understand that you won’t always get it right, and that there are a number of things you’ve got pretty wrong despite feeling confident in the ideas at the time. Own those mistakes. Accept reality: Be prepared for the fact that life gets indelibly more expensive and you’ll often feel like you have both your head and your heart clamped within a financial vice, no matter how much you vehemently believed that money shouldn’t matter. Be prepared for the fact that there will be certain stages coming up where the tracks you have laid – and continue to lay – feel very far apart from the main line, and it won’t always feel as easy as you think it should, so be sure to have a destination to focus on. Be prepared to acknowledge that your youth is gone and so too have some of the opportunities that come with it. In other words, be prepared for challenge, and the fact it gets harder, and have a response to that.
And with this in mind, it’s very hard to approach thirty six and feel excited about it in the same way one might an 18th, a 21st or a 30th birthday. These days I feel knackered after two beers and don’t have quite the same energy that youth enables. Yet, there is somehow a lot of comfort and security to be taken from this realism. To be prepared, to be ready, to make time count, and to know that the final passage from a particular chapter does not give away the plot of the whole book.
So, mid-’30’s peers, let’s take a look and see which ducks are floating around this particular ‘ground.
Song of the Day: Sufjan Stevens & Angelo de Augustine – It’s Your Own Body and Mind
This is just exceptionally lovely. Sufjan nails it again in this brand new release which Spotify has completed my Sunday with.
“One hand holds the candle
The other onе holds the flame
Infinite with it’s guiding light
Illuminating all things thе same”