Are you too old to set out on your dreams? Forge a new path? Take on a physically demanding challenge?
According to society’s standards I technically have passed my peak (I cry tears into my wine glass while examining the grey hairs sprouting from my temples). Even my mother recently told me I was classed as old now. (Thanks mum!)
It’s certainly a shock to wake up and realise that getting out of bed in the morning is that little bit harder, that young’uns sprint past you up the mountains, that hangovers take on a new meaning, and that a night-in sounds so much more glamourous than squeezing into a too-tight dress and too-high heels for a night of awkward dancing, being bounced off the grimy, sweaty bodies of strangers in a club where the music is too loud and you can’t have a proper conversation.
Getting old means twinges and painful niggles, the flare up of old sporting injuries, that extra bit of love handle that doesn’t seem to budge, the on-going battle against gravity, which is always destined to win.
Yet in my head I don’t feel old – apart from when I can’t remember words or people’ names, of course (which seems increasingly often these days).
In my head, I’m not 36. I’m more like 26. But I can sense my body is beginning to struggle to keep up.
But this – what some might call a slow decline – doesn’t mean we are past our best before.
In March, this year, I was in New Zealand for a month. During the trip, the boyfriend and I took three days to walk the stunning yet barren Tongariro Northern Circuit – a 43km loop in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island that encircles Mt Ngauruhoe, the volcano that was the inspiration for Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
While sitting in the hut at the end of day one, chowing down on our dinner of couscous, we got talking to three delightful Kiwis. They were from the South Island and were avid mountain walkers – and they were in their early 70s but you wouldn’t have guessed it.
They were fit and strong, weathered in as much that they had a healthy tan and sparkling eyes that crinkled when they smiled and laughed – and that was often. They ate cheese that had gone mouldy.
They said they were big fans of camping, although on this trip they hadn’t resorted to camping in a tent – instead choosing the “luxury” foam mattresses, chorus snoring and the smell of worn, wet socks that comes with the hut accommodation.
They were taking four days to walk the circuit – they didn’t want to rush it, they said. But their experience was vast. The bloke had recently completed walking the length of New Zealand’s South Island – albeit in ad hoc segments over several years, but still.
I was impressed – and I admit, a little intimidated – by the prowess and stamina these septuagenarians had. To them, age was no barrier. Their muscled calves were testament to that.
These three Kiwis in their 70s were sprightly, courageous and worldly wise. Boy were they an inspiration – I spent the next two days willing myself to be like them when I reached 70.
It was an important reminder: we often use age as an excuse for why we can’t do something but it’s really poppycock.
Age is no barrier. You’re never too old to start chasing those dreams.