Why I'm embracing getting older - and improving with age
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:07 18 June 2019
I recently left my house one morning, and my neighbour called out to say hello.
She was sitting in her front garden, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee; being English, she naturally commented on the weather. We agreed it was excellent.
She then asked how I was doing, and I told her I was fine, albeit pretty buzzed.
I elaborated by saying that I was running on a strong natural high that week, as I had a lot going on with more great things to come towards the weekend.
This was during the final run-up to my dissertation submission, so I confessed I was feeling drained as well.
At this she cried, "Oh, you're young! Try being 63, that's when you really run out of energy."
I responded in saying that, while I enjoy being young and bouncy, I wouldn't ever want to reverse the ageing process.
I like getting older and, I hope, developing more as a person.
She concurred, saying that she never has to think back to the best time of her life, as she enjoyed the greater comfort she has within herself right now.
I agreed, telling her about my fluctuating bouts of low self-esteem and adding that it must be great to be at an age where one stops giving a damn.
She laughed, told me to enjoy what I have while I can, and returned to her coffee. I wished her a good morning and rode off into the day ahead.
This pleasant exchange got me thinking about the benefits of interacting with those closest to us, those friendly strangers whom we otherwise pass by without second thought.
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Sean White, 40, an American PhD student, proposes, "Surprises come from the people just next to us. It starts by bearing the awkwardness of crossed eyes and crossing the silence with some stupid remark."
This sentiment is especially apt given the circumstances under which Sean and I met, at a Philip Glass concert: he fell into the vacant seat besides mine.
"Out of putting myself out there like that, I have found my best friends, people who were nothing at all like me at first and are like family at length," he says.
Lesley Broster Kinch, an author and a close friend from Devon, remembers an incident in 2004 in which she was "evicted, left homeless and penniless on the street with my two teenage sons and three dogs, at the age of 52.
"My now ex-husband and his dog left for a local hotel. That morning, my neighbour Jaye Green had driven me to court at 10am ahead of a midday eviction notice.
"The sympathetic judge had told me to rush home and grab whatever I could before the bailiff arrived, as there was nothing she could do to help me."
By "an extraordinary gesture on her part," Lesley's neighbour "rushed me home and we took whatever we could from the house.
"She offered my sons and me a room to stay in until I got back on my feet and find a place of my own."
Of the experience, Lesley regards this as "'Love Thy Neighbour' in its purest sense: unconditional, empathetic and caring. It was totally unexpected. I now try to be that every day. It's a precious gift to share."
We are all, it seems, in this together. On this crazy, loud sphere we are also, for better or worse, getting older.
This is an encouraging prospect for me, as I believe we improve with age; and there are plenty of ways to retain our youth.
Rediscovering albums - both photographic and musical - or revisiting journal entries, the traces we leave behind which can be assembled into the whole we occupy today.
The songs we forgot we loved, the book we forgot reading, the photograph we didn't remember taking, these all carry the spirit of our younger selves as we mature and develop.
Do a favour to those around you, and share it with them.