Have you ever been to a school or work reunion? You know the sort – the invitation comes and you mull over whether to go or not, so many years have passed. Do you want to catch up with those folk? Will you have anything in common? All of this floats around in your mind and then curiosity and, maybe vanity, get the better of you.
The venue is often a pub or a conference-type centre and the attire is always smart casual. Sadly, standing up is the norm and there is rarely a chair to be seen as you mingle, peering at nametags that a thoughtful soul has issued at the front door. After all, who would recognise you, say 20 or 30 years later?
As you read their nametags, you hail people as old friends, with a wide grin and a clap on the back or a peck on the cheek (or not in COVID times) and issue such nice comments to each other. “You look really wonderful, you haven’t aged a bit!” when the thought bubble in your head is saying, “Oh my, they look so old. He/she hasn’t weathered well at all.”
All the while, other people are probably thinking the same thing about you.
Which, of course, leads me to the prickly subject of ageing.
It happens to us all but many of us have our deliberate blind spots when it comes to assessing our own decline. Perhaps we see ourselves as still virile, driving around in the new (cliched) sports car or with the trophy wife on our arm or with the toyboy, handsome and slim, taken to outings to show our prowess. We refuse to act our age and declare to the world we still feel young.
Or perhaps you do none of these things, but just wish the decline was not so harsh and, at times, rapid. J.R. Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit, had a wonderful idea for these near humans, short in stature and with hairy feet, but long in age. Not only did hobbits enjoy eating constantly – their favourite thing being second breakfasts – but they lived longer than humans and aged at a very dignified pace. Their adolescence stretched into their 30s followed by a long middle age and a slow decline into their 100-plus years. Not for them dementia striking in their 60s or 70s and no sign of heart disease despite their voracious appetites.
Ahh, to be a character in a fairytale, you say.
However, modern medicine is projecting us towards a more comfortable longer life. We now have replaceable joints to rival the ‘Bionic Man’ – knees and hips being the most popular items. And maybe soon we’ll have a pill to counteract the ravages of dementia. We live longer than generations before and scientists are still searching for the ‘elixir of youth’ and attempting to find ways to slow the ageing process.
But maybe these changes should come with a warning. Perhaps if we experienced a type of immortality, would we cherish what we have as much? When we know that something is finite, there is a desire to not waste it, to cherish the moments.
So go out and seize the day even if you no longer look like the 20-year-old you feel!
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