Summertime Gladness Day Nine: Notes on getting older

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My 24th birthday has rolled around a little too fast for my liking, and it’s with alarm that I acknowledge that this is the last year before I officially enter my mid twenties. Which is a terrifying thought. I’ve grown to like being young, all the while growing older.

And whilst I was unwrapping presents, amidst the flurry of technicolor paper, it dawned on me that one day, in the not so distant future, people will no longer roll their eyes at me when I reveal my age, they will no longer gasp and say with zest, ‘Oh to be your age again! Oh, those were the days!’ Because like them I will be older, my youth a thing of the past, only visible in photographs.

All too suddenly, I’ll be the one to make those wistful remarks, desperate to regress back to my younger days. Jealous of the young face across from me. It reminds of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s free to wear Sunscreen’, a song that never fails to induce a tear or two. Baz says;

‘Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth, until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now, how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.’ 

Gulp. It’s quite scary to think that now, when I’m often yearning to be some future version of myself, that I’m missing the ‘power and beauty of [my] youth’, that I’m not fully appreciating or basking in my full potential. And that actually my hips aren’t as wide as I perceive them to be and that if I think my arms wobble when I wave now, then just wait until 20 years down the road.

I want to value these youthful days now, before they have faded. And I guess at 24, I have a significant while before my youth is exchanged for dentures and a Zimmer frame. When I was little I used to think that when I grew up somebody different would be me, that the childhood Rebecca would be no more as an older version stepped in to take my place. I think this belief stemmed from the Lion King, when Simba went from being a tiny lion cub to a full-grown male in the space of a three-minute song all about having ‘…no worries for the rest of your days’. And it terrified me that life might be like a film, in which an adult actress would step in to play me for the rest of my life. What would become of me? Where wouldgo? It’s a big relief now, as an adult, to know that I never went anywhere. The Simba moment never happened, I’ve always played the part of me, in this film of my life.

Infact, I’ve noticed an internal consistence. Yes, I may grow a little wiser (not much) each year, I learn things and experience new scenarios and emotions but I’m still fundamentally me. Internally I’m still that little girl who used to worry profusely about everything and anything, as if the whole world were in her hands. The internal me is relatively the same but the physical is the part of me that noticeably alters, year to year. I look different to when I was six. I have a different hairstyle, more moles, certain curves and bumps that weren’t there before puberty. And there’s the prospect of wrinkles on my forehead, a crinkling at the corner of my eyes when I laugh. The physical ages. But the internal stays the same.

Perhaps it’s not so scary after all and maybe age really is just a number. But it does only feel like yesterday that I was sat here writing I’m feeling twenty-two and yet that was two years ago now.

I’m not going to list all the things I want to achieve in my 24th year, or look back wistfully at the comings and goings of being 23. Instead I’m going to dive headfirst into this new age, I’m going to own being 24 and most importantly I’m going to follow Baz’s advice and grab all the possibility that lays before me. And I’m going to try to really appreciate the ‘power and beauty of my youth.’ Because it’s fleeting.

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