After a fair old time of happy illusions, I’m coming to the slightly reluctant acceptance that I do actually look as old as I am. No more will I declare my age, expecting oohs and aahs of astonishment at how much younger I look than I claim to be. I might as well face the facts – Kevin looks younger than he is (outrageously so) – I don’t. And, actually, it’s time I grew up enough to realise that this is OK.
Last week a friend was talking about the imminent arrival of her thirtieth birthday. She was horrified.
“I’m getting so old!” She said.
We’ve all heard people say it, most of us have said it ourselves, and actually, as we reluctantly accept that the numbers are only going one way, we’ve all believed that the ghost of antiquity is drooling around the next corner, ready to snatch any vestige of self respect we might be clinging onto.
‘I’m getting so old’ equates to ‘I’m getting so useless’, ‘I’m getting so ugly’, ‘I’m getting so past my best’.
And the unspoken ‘I’m getting so unlovable’.
And the younger we are, the earlier we believe it happens.
My son, James, came home from school with a story that in PHSE they’d had a visit from three representatives from Age UK. The three were 80, 75 and 70 years old, and the eighty year old had just done her first parachute jump.
To get the ball rolling, James’ school mates, who were all thirteen and fourteen years old at the time, were asked what age they felt ‘old’ was; well they were with their mates, there were no parents there to be offended, so without delay or preamble they gave their verdict: ‘Old’ is thirty years old, and ‘really old’ is about thirty-five.
And when we heard about it, we laughed. Let’s face it, viewed from the downhill side, it is wryly funny.
But actually, there is a serious side to this; because it suddenly puts into sparkling perspective why our young ones are in such a desperate hurry.
They are in a hurry to try every experience – to earn money, to get the right job, to have sex, to own the right car, the right house, possibly to get married, to be a success (however they might define that) and ultimately to fulfill all their dreams. Or to put it another way – they are all rushing to grow up before their time.
Because by the time they get to thirty they believe it will be too late.
Yes, they really do think that at thirty they’ll have missed the proverbial boat.
So do we wonder why mental health statistics show 45% of teenagers suffering from stress all the time?
Why 95% of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25 years old? (Adolescent Growth statistics)
Why suicide is the largest cause of death among 20 – 34 year olds? (Mental Health Foundation)
Why a BBC report sited that one in four girls self harms?
Feelings of uselessness, ugliness and worthlessness.
And crashing loneliness.
Exacerbated by social media telling them that every one else is having a great time being better looking, slimmer, more successful and that, as difficult as life might be now, from now on, it can only go downhill…
Ironic that while most of us are craving to be young, so many of the young are hating every moment of their ‘precious youth’.
I spent every birthday from my twenty-first thinking ‘I’m getting so old’…
I remember how old I felt at forty, and then I remember how young forty looked when I was viewing it from the perspective of fifty.
Sixty is just around the corner now – fifty looking pretty youthful. And I am realising that any moments of feeling useless, ugly, past my best or unlovable were no more or less than the lies of the enemy.
We are all getting older; minute by minute, day by day. Yes, little by little we will run out of time. But if we allow ourselves to believe that age is an entirely negative thing, and that, at any moment, the scrap heap beckons, then we deprive our lives of a lot of fulfilment and joy.
And we are depriving the next generation of a beacon of encouragement – comfortable shoes for them to step into and enjoy.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made; His works are marvellous.
Young or old, God has one thing to say to us all; we need to say it to ourselves, to each other, to our friends, our children, our grandchildren and to our young people, to our parents, our grandparents and to our aunts and uncles – it is this:
You are loved…
You are enough.
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