Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Dolittle and the Great Three-Oh

I have a friend who, in the weeks and days leading up to his thirtieth birthday, would tell everyone, with a smile, that he was still in his 'mid-to-late twenties'. He kept this up heroically for as long as time would permit but eventually, inevitably, time's licence ran out. I was at university when this was going on, a gawky youngster of about twenty with life at my feet and most of the third decade of my existence still before me. I treated the comment with the gentle humour that it deserved. Thirty was a world away; a dismal number hardly worth consideration. Oh! for the short-sightedness of youth! Now the hour has come when it is I who am saying with a sardonic smile that I am 'still in my mid-to-late twenties'. The unstoppable tide of time has marched inexorably on carrying me with it and at the time of writing there is less than a day to go before the first number of my age will be written with a 3 rather than a 2.

Thirty is a number rather unfairly looked upon as the line between youth and sudden, overnight maturity - maturity in age, that is, not necessarily in behaviour. If numbers had a character the number 3 would be one of the least attractive - stodgy, unimaginative, totally lacking in spark or energy. If the twenties are the domain of dreams, the thirties are seen as being the realm of reality and a pretty dull reality at that. Life has caught up with us; it's payback time for all those wasted hours in adolescence. Noticed those signs of ageing yet? Realised the springs have gone from your legs? Oh, ho ho! You soon will! Welcome to the great three-oh big guy!

Nonsense, all of it. Few people, myself included, stop and consider that to reach the age of thirty is a mercy not a burden. As I stand upon the brink I am fairly sure that tomorrow will feel much like today, yesterday or any day last week. We pillory the number but after all that is all it is - a number. Why shouldn't I dream at thirty as much as I did at twenty, with all the added benefits of (questionable) maturity and (definite) experience? The world has shrunk in ten years but I still can't see over the horizon.

Actually, I'm not someone who's ever been given to saying to himself 'I wonder what I'll be doing when I'm such-and-such...'. I can look back - the past is an opened book with well-thumbed pages - but the future is a blank space. None of us know what is going to happen in ten seconds, let alone ten years. One thing however is certain. If, at the tender age of twenty, I had given a thought to my possible condition ten years hence it would not have involved being a married, stay-at-home dad with two lively boys to look after. Job and career success, perhaps - anything is possible in the misty land of make-believe after all - but never the present reality. Regrets? Life is full of regrets but, as the last hours of my twenties tick unstoppably away and the dawn of a new decade breaks upon me I look around me and find that I am, in so many ways, content.            

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