Monday, July 16, 2012

God willing and the creek don't rise

Full disclosure: I have grey hair!

Or rather I should say that I've started getting grey hair, and "started" should be read as "found the first one at least four years ago," although that makes no sense grammatically. Given that I'm 25 right now, you can do the math on this one yourselves. But seriously, what the hell? Luckily it's still (I think) not noticeable in the rest of my hair, but every time I see it again I have a quiet conniption* about what I'm going to do when it is noticeable, since I really dislike the thought of dying my hair to cover up the grey as a vanity thing, but I also really dislike the idea of being a greying twenty-something, because I already have enough trouble getting dates as it is.

That's not really what I want to talk about, though.

I've had an overly healthy sense of my own mortality pretty much ever since I can remember. I'm not sure where it comes from, but I'll throw out a few wild guesses about it having something to do with how the food I eat can kill me** and Rescue 911 being my favourite show when I was 5 years old.

But while I'm always busy contemplating how I'm going to die suddenly and horribly, I'm opposed to maxims about living every day like it's your last. I can tell you right now that if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I wouldn't be at work, I'd be busy having an orgy while under the influence of as many hard drugs as possible. And maybe I'd have dinner or something with my family. Not exactly a lifestyle that can be maintained over the course of a potentially long life.

I'm not about to tell anyone else how to live, but for me personally I think this means that the most responsible approach is a balance between seizing the day and playing the long game, which is to say that it's important to me to be happy right now but also recognize that, if average life expectancy is 80 years, I still have over two times as many years as I've already lived ahead of me i.e. a pretty incomprehensibly huge amount of time. So, one day, I'll actually be old, not this current old where I'm getting grey hair and my metabolism is slowing down a little bit. It's really important to me to keep that in mind when I'm thinking about my quality of life, and what I want the big picture of my life to look like.

And as nervous as I am to lose my (relative, at this point) youth, I'm really excited to still have all that experience ahead of me. I realize that this is a bit of a cliche, but life's surprises are pretty much my favourite thing. I'm not going to be a jackass and say that I love the bad surprises, too, because that's not true. What I mean is that I think the unexpectedness of it all makes it less daunting to think that I might live another, Jesus Christ, fifty or sixty years. Those years aren't all going to be the same. I mean, I'm not exactly adventurous and I can safely make certain assumptions about things like my job and and where I'll be living a year from now, but people can pop up in your life unexpectedly and mess up everything, or relationships with people you've known for a long time can change, and then things end up differently than what you expected.

It's not just about people, either, it's about things like self-knowledge and learning, too. The passing of time means learning new things and refining my perspective on the world. I'm the one constant in my life, the only person I have to put up with no matter what, so it really helps to know that so far the older I get, the better I become as person (if I say so myself *collar tug*).

What I'm clumsily trying to get at is that aging is the trade-off for experience, and if we're lucky we all have a lot more life ahead of us than we're really able to conceptualize after only a quarter century, most of which was spent on the progression from baby to child to angsty teen. I feel like there's a sense of hurry in one's 20s, because life after 30 doesn't look as bright and shiny. Really though, there's all this time***, and I sometimes wish people would calm down and realize that. Our society values youth because it's so sparkly, and the intensity of experience seems to fade as you get older e.g. how things that are awesome!!! or terrible :( :( :( when you're a teenager become completely trivial in hindsight. I think this can be as insidious as a lot of the gender role messaging that people get.

In conclusion, life is short and long, and don't be in such a hurry to cram everything into your young, beautiful years, because you have lots more to go and you'll need to occupy them somehow.


* My use of the word "conniption" may also suggest that I have bigger fish to fry when it comes to how old I appear.
** I have anaphylaxis to peanuts and tree nuts.
*** "for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse"? Yep, I am that terrible.

4 comments:

  1. Good post Megan. I liked the optimism you portrayed. And don't worry about those grey hairs; it just means you will have more years as a silver vixen!

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    1. Haha, thanks!

      I feel personally like it's more straining toward realism than optimism, and also trying to convince myself that I'm not a failure because I haven't published a novel yet or something, hehe.

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  2. Two things -
    1. I know a few people with greying hair (who're in their twenties) and it actually looks pretty badass. Plus, the greyer you get, the more cool colours you can dye your hair(s)! My one friend dyes her white streaks purple sometimes.

    2. The sense that you have to accomplish as much as possible in your twenties is definitely something I find daunting. That's part of why I really like reading about who did what when (in their lives), like Ursula K. Le Guin, whose writing career has mostly been from 40-80, though she's still kicking around in her early eighties!

    Good post indeed.

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    1. 1. I'm less concerned about, like, the grey streaks phase or whatever than I am about the awkward couple of grey hairs sticking out everywhere phase. I've been wanting to dye my hair a crazy colour for a while now, but I need to make sure that I pick my moment (I missed out while I was in university, alas).

      2. I also love reading about writers who didn't start 'til later, because that way I feel like there's still hope (e.g. Anna Sewell basically writing Black Beauty on her death bed, hahaha).

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