Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Still alive

When I was a teenager, I was firmly convinced I wouldn't live beyond thirty. I guess I felt vulnerable, fragile, at the mercy of unpredictable events that could easily finish me off.

I would be in a car crash, or have a premature heart attack, or be viciously mugged. I would never be old enough to have wrinkles or arthritis or a pension. I'd be a pile of ash long before that.

So now I'm 65 I still find it extraordinary that I've survived to such a ripe old age without the expected calamity carrying me off in the meanwhile. How come I'm still here? How come I'm alive to see the 2012 Olympics, wind farms, Louise Mensch*, Barack Obama and the internet? Which guardian angel is hovering over me, keeping me from harm?

I'm very philosophical about my age though. I have no desperate urge to live to a hundred. I don't see that as a dazzling achievement. And as for living beyond thirty, well, I'm profoundly grateful I met Jenny at the age of 34, naturally. But if I'd snuffed it in my twenties and skipped a few decades, so what? I'd never have met Jenny, but then, what you've never had, you never miss, as they say.

I suppose my assumption of a brief lifespan was partly connected with my constant sense of being different from everyone else. If most people lived to a hoary old age, then ergo, being the habitual exception, I would peg out in my prime.

There was no concrete reason why I should die early. I wasn't addicted to drugs or alcohol. I didn't have a life-threatening illness. I wasn't doing a dangerous job. I was perfectly healthy. Yet I was convinced I couldn't possibly reach middle age, that that was an experience I would never know.

And now here I am, with the wrinkles and the pension. And still with a sense of having cheated my natural destiny. How did that happen?

*Louise Mensch - Tory MP who subjected James and Rupert Murdoch to ruthless questioning over the phone hacking scandal 

26 comments:

Bijoux said...

I can relate to this post. When I was a kid, I was convinced I would never make it to high school. However, I don't think I necessarily thought I was going to die a sudden death or anything. It just seemed as though time dragged on and on and on. I just could never imagine that I'd ever get there.

Now, time seems to move too fast.

Grannymar said...

If forty is the new thirty, then pension age is the new.... freedom?
Fresh and well you look on it too. Live in the moment and enjoy!

Nick said...

Bijoux - Yes, I can remember that feeling of time just dragging on indefinitely, and thinking I would never be a grown-up.

Grannymar - Thank you, flattery will get you everywhere! Pension age seems pretty young nowadays, when my mum has just had her 90th birthday....

nursemyra said...

I never felt I would die young but I used to think I'd like to go out at 70 as things would all be downhill after that (working with sick elderly people does skew your view somewhat). I've changed my mind though.... I want to hang around long enough to see what science will bring us - I want to see flying Jetson style cars and teletransportation before I expire

John Gray said...

I always got upset when I thought my grandparents would die...( around the age of 8 or so!)
I never worried about myself or my parents... just my grandparents!

Nick said...

Myra - I've always thought 70 would be the ideal time to bow out. As you say, it's probably all downhill from there. But I might change my mind on the eve of my 70th birthday....

John - I think I always assumed my grandparents would live forever. They were so old already, they must surely be immortal.

kylie said...

i dunno how i got to be 41 but i'm hoping i have a good few years left!

Wisewebwoman said...

I never thought I'd make old bones either Nick, odd that.
But now the longer I live the longer I want to live.
Even though logically speaking it is the sooner I will die.
I don't want to miss anything.
Not ready.
XO
WWW

e said...

I'm glad you've ,ade it this long, Nick. I'd like to live as long and as well as I can. I don't
like the idea of missing anything either.

Nick said...

Kylie - Well, the statistics tell us that's very likely! I have no memory at all of being 41....

www - But however long we live, we're still going to miss everything that comes after that.

e - I must say it's been a lot of fun surviving into the internet age. How on earth did we amuse ourselves before that?

Rummuser said...

Love and fresh air did it Nick.

Ursula said...

What made you feel that "constant sense of being different to everyone else"?

U

Nick said...

Ramana - What, kept me alive all that time? I guess so. That and being a vegetarian non-smoker. I could still have been finished off by some unforeseen accident though....

Nick said...

Ursula - Good question. Partly not getting on with my father or the other boys at my boarding school. Partly feeling alienated from the straitlaced morality around abortion, homosexuality, sex before marriage etc. All sorts of things really.

Liz said...

So many good posts to catch up on!

First of all, I'm always delighted to receive compliments! Next I once complimented a woman in the supermarket on her perfume, 'You smell nice', and she said 'thank you,' hurried away and avoided me for the rest of the aisles. Not to be recommended.

I'm glad you're still alive but sorry to hear about jenny's friend. Very tragic.

Hairiness: even husband has started having his back shaved! (he is rather gorilla-like.) Yes, I certainly shave underarms and legs (in the summer only). And more recently thinking about shaving chins!

Nick said...

Liz - I complimented one of the admin staff in our office building on her perfume today. She was very pleased!

I think quite a lot of men are getting rid of their back hair now. Luckily I don't have much body hair and Jenny has no objection to it.

Cheerful Monk said...

You might like Diana Athill's Somewhere Towards the End, written when she was 89. She wrote most of her books after the age of 70. She's now 94 and slowing down a bit. :)

Nick said...

Monk - Yes, I've read that one. If I ever reach the age of 89, I expect to be pretty dysfunctional. I'll be lucky if I can write a shopping list....

Secret Agent Woman said...

I had a patient today talking about how she never thought she'd make it to 30. I think it may be a fairly common idea for the young. Aging is so hard to relate to when you are young, and not entirely appealing.

Nick said...

Agent - Of course the young of today have more reason to suppose they might die early, what with the heavy consumption of drugs and alcohol.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Ummm - have you heard of the 60's?

Nick said...

Agent - I knew someone would say that! I was around in the sixties, but I'm sure the consumption of drugs and alcohol is much much higher now than it was then. Drug addiction and cirrhosis are both at record levels and a huge drain on the NHS.

Los Angelista said...

I'm around a lot of people who can't see themselves getting older so they party so hard. They're probably not doing their bodies any favors. They figure they'll die at like 50. I figure they'll live and have to hire someone to change their bedpan.

Nick said...

Liz - You're probably right. I see a lot of people who've obviously abused their bodies in various ways but they're still plodding on into their seventies and eighties.

blackwatertown said...

I remember the idea of AD 2000 seemed remote.
Then there was the possibility of nuclear war.
The dreams of people kicking in the door.
And the strange wondering about the edges of cliffs. What if...

But the first happened, the second didn't, the third stopped and as for the fourth - well, I cured that by bungee jumping.

And here we all are.

Nick said...

Blackwater - AD 2000 did seem very remote, didn't it? And of course the supposed millenium bug was going to crash every computer and bring our lives to a grinding halt. But as you say, here we all are 12 years later....