I spent the first week of my life as a 28 year old man sick and mostly in bed. It has left me somewhat philosophical about the process of ageing and the associated thoughts about mortality and progress and success and failure and malaise that probably make up 47% of any given thought thoughted in the midst of a morning rush hour traffic jam.
It is ten years since I came of legal age to drink alcohol just in time for the turn of the century celebrations. I didn’t drink alcohol back then but my family gathered in our ancestral home in Leitrim and toasted the millennium with champagne. I was going out with a whipsmart girl who I was very fond of and beginning to think that maybe I should be studying something with more books in it than computer science.
Today my family are again planning to get together for a big landmark celebration at the end of December for a whole host of different reasons. There are many more people in my family now with three new siblings in law and seven (count them!) nieces and nephews. Of course, I am biased, but the best addition to the Hargaden clan in the intervening ten years hasn’t been any of the delightful children but that whipsmart girl who five years ago became my wife.
So why is it that ageing hasn’t started to bother me all the much yet. 30 is coming and is tantalisingly near enough to start setting some objectives. I am a compulsive list-maker and incorrigible goal-setter. But I have resisted setting personal goals or ambitions. Why is that?
If you asked me ten years ago, having turned 18, what I wanted to do with my life I would have been able to tell you rapidly. I wanted to found a software company and make a lot of money. It wasn’t the software that interested me but the software-as-means-to-money. I was never going to be a full on coding nerd like my disapproving ex-housemate who often comments here. He was in my class. He was mighty good at everything.
I was very clear about what I wanted in life. Stuff! Of course I wanted the money and the stuff for reasons better than sheer consumerism or as symbols of my success. I wanted it to do good with it. But also to buy junk with it. I had a Palm IIIc for some reason! I loved junk. But I can’t remember one gift I got for my 18th birthday.
In the intervening years things have changed a lot. I don’t think I would have been quite satisfied with the life I had now if you offered it to me at 18. I am part of the “working poor”. I don’t intend to buy any new technology ever again. I have never lived outside Ireland. I spend a disproportionate amount of my time studying extinct language. The only management I get to do in my working life is to manage the caffeine intake of church volunteers by brewing them the good stuff. I have quietly discovered that I am not just a good administrator type but I am actually really creative. But the place I express that creativity is, uh, preaching the Bible. I can call it guerrilla theatre all I like but I have become a freaking trainee Presbyterian Minister.
I still support Man City though.
All this is to say that I have, unbeknownst to myself, gone on a very long journey over the last ten years so that the stuff I am passionate about and the things I do and the person I am are wildly different from my idea of who I would be at this point in time. So even though 30 is just two years away, I’d be a damn fool to set some hard goals to live up to. Who knows what will happen next. To cite a cheesy pop song, life is liable to “blindside me on a Tuesday morning”.
So much more so for 40, 50 or 60. Best not to even consider older than that. I suppose this is what is called maturity. That my hopes and ambitions and things that matter to me have deepened and broadened and I can see that they have changed. Contrary to 1985’s best thinking, this is not how Michael Jackson looked at 40:
And predicting the future in any way has always been a fool’s game. So much of the trauma of “ageing” comes from our hopes that silently turn into predictions that then fail. The rest of it is angst about how to spell “ageing”.
So roll on 29. Roll on the grey hair. Roll on the balding head that follows it. At least these are things that I know I can expect.
Your Correspondent, Invited the moon to his 5th birthday party and cried when it didn’t come.