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COMING OF AGE

TODAY’S WRITING TIP: A QUOTE FROM MY BOOK WRITE HERE WRITE NOW: “OUR BODY DOES GET OLD, BUT OUR SPIRIT, NEVER. IF WE WRITE WELL ENOUGH, WE MIGHT EVEN LIVE FOREVER.”

As a child, I always thought children were boring and cruel. It was unfair, but only because in my mind I was never a child. Watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, for instance, I did not identify with the children. In fact, I was more interested in the Child Catcher, sinisterly played by Robert Helpmann, than in any of the two Potts children who played leads or any of the hapless children banished from the fictional European domain Vulgaria. To me, this Ian Fleming novel-turned-musical was about music, magic, and performances. By the time I watched this 1968 British film, it was already among the late afternoon treats of Saturday TV and I was way too advanced with my reading that, if not for the memorable duets between Gert Fröbe and Anna Quayle, who played the Baron and Baroness Bomburst (“Chu-Chi Face”), and between Dick Van Dyke’s Caractacus Potts and Sally Anne Howes’s Truly Scrumptious (“Doll on a Music Box”), I would have completely forgotten Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Despite what I thought of children, I made many friends. Still, it was in the company of the adults that I sought meaningful conversations, inspiration, wisdom, and guidance.

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I never had any negative thoughts about age and aging until I turned forty. Even when I was doing the beauty pages in the many publications I handled in my youth, I found nothing so horrible about wrinkles or crow’s feet or receding hairlines. To me, beauty was a life well, wisely, and happily lived and I didn’t mind those sunspots if they told me about so many days spent on the beach or that leathery, wrinkled skin that had sailed to so many far corners of the ocean.

Maybe I was lucky that at forty, I weighed just as much as I did in college and didn’t have to worry so much about adult things like raising children, college education plans, and such. If anything reminded me that I was not getting any younger, it was the young people I worked with. It was the generation gap. It was when in the company of some of my twentysomething writers, when there was every opportunity to talk about things other than work, I would feel as though getting a word out of them was no different from drawing blood from stone. It was when, returning to the office shortly after I said goodbye at the end of the workday, I would find the office alive with chatter, the music loud, the kids acting young and free and having fun. I wouldn’t think anything was wrong with the scenario—it was the end of the workday, after all, not that I would have had a problem if it were during regular working hours—until, with my back behind them, while fumbling through my desk drawers for what I came back for, maybe my mobile phone or my wallet or my car keys, I’d notice that the chatter, along with the music, would slowly reduce itself to a whisper.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life. You’d never wholly know you. —Marilyn Monroe

It wasn’t anything like that when I was young myself in a roomful of older people, when, starting out as a copywriter in an advertising agency, I had no compunction installing my boombox on the shelf above my writing desk and play Nirvana in not-so-busy mornings. Maybe I was inconsiderate, but my intention was to share my music with my “rockstar” bosses, who also shared theirs with mine. As a young man with much to prove in the lifestyle media, I would always find a way to hitch a ride with my boss, a multi-awarded book author, columnist, and editor, just so I could pick her brains, just so I could take full advantage of the fact that I was working with her.

I had no issues with grownups, though I’ve read both J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince at least a million times. And I didn’t think of old people as old or past their prime. I found kindred souls in people no matter what their age because to me age was the destination and youth was the journey—no matter how fun the journey is, you need to arrive somewhere, right?

But as I turned from forty to fortysomething, with grey hair on the sides of my head to prove it (my hair is a total virgin to anything chemical, including black dye), I had occasions when I felt I had no choice but to look at age as sort of a limiter of happiness, a barometer of what I could and could not do, what I was capable and incapable of doing. Those are my bad days when I’m afraid a simple flu could lead to death, that pain on my knees could soon trap me in a wheelchair, that an episode of acid reflux could be a heart attack.

But then those are only the bad days, as inevitable as aging, even and especially among the young. On good days, which are as often as I choose to look at the bright side or at the silver lining or, better yet, to make the most of each passing day, I feel I am stronger than I have ever been, definitely stronger than when I was seventeen, now that age has given me the wisdom and wherewithal to take better care of my body, my mind, my soul, and—most important, now that I am not and should not be too focused on my self anymore—the people around me.

[Lifted from the edtior’s note of this month’s issue of Sense&Style magazine, published and printed in the Philippines.]

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One thought on “COMING OF AGE

  1. I know it’s a cliche but I do believe we’re only as old as we feel. I also think there are many erroneous beliefs about ageing, held my most people. People generally expect to get old and lose their physical abilities, so they do. I’m very much of the use it or lose it school. Stay fit and healthy both physically and mentally and age becomes irrelevant. I do know what you mean about the generation gap of course. We meet, and enjoy many young people on our travels but sometimes I think they are speaking a foreign language (chuckle) and nothing can eliminate the vast difference in life experience.
    Good to hear from you again!
    Alison

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