Grey (The Big Birthday)

It was there.

I saw it glinting in the mirror. Forcing a double-take and a sharp intake of breath.

Thin, smooth silver root to tip, trying unsuccessfully to hide between the blondes and brunettes.

I let it be, for its colour surprises but does not terrify. Neither do the slight creases forming at the edges of my eyes. Without contact lenses I can’t even see them (or anything else for that matter). I know this because on the day of the Big Birthday I spent a good 20 minutes in front of the full length mirror. Do I look fatter? Older? Rougher round the edges? More like my mother? Even a little bit?

Little scars of life which have marked the passing of years are all present. Souvenirs, from white chicken pox rounds on my stomach to the half inch line under the right eyebrow, reminder of a drunken altercation with a pint glass. There are some, lumpen whitened slices, that I am even less proud of. They are remnants of a former self, not the wholesome, new and improved recipe me (with added vitamin C).

I am waiting, still, for the myth of the promised saggy edges. I have been told my metabolism won’t cope with KFC in my thirties. To be fair the women in my family end up crippled and sportless with arthritis by the before they are 45. I refuse to submit to their disease. Refuse to admit that I may, one day, be unable to run.

Anyone who has watched a skincare advert will know how to fight the body aging. Cleanse, tone, moisturise, sleep, eat well, exercise. Nivea and Nigella have got it covered with some help from early morning ‘bootcamp-for-busty-birds’.

Personally I don’t mind the physical manifestations of time but I see others getting older and slower. In mind as well as body. They sit, ensconced in reclining armchairs in front of a box of moving pictures, slowly losing their curiosity. And then their lust. Finally they lose their motivation to change.

As I watch, a particular kind of fear is dawning in my conscious thought. The fear of getting older without anything to show. Wrinkles, grey hair, cellulite, scars; these are inevitable.

I’m talking about a lack of achievement. My parents in their twenties settled down, got careers, a mortgage, a family, happily married and then divorced. They found their conformist place in the world. That was their achievement. I happily wasted my twenties on indecision, fruitless relationships, weekend alcoholism and office temping.

I succumbed, like so many others, to the easy life of 9-5, decent pay, ok pension, debts in check. In routine we forget to think for ourselves. Stop pushing our boundaries. We accept life as it is handed to us. A reasonable enough existence but not enough to force a change.

How do we resist the irresistible draw of complacency?

Look back at the ambitions held as children, teenagers and 20 something’s. What happened to those kids? Have we changed so much as adults that we forgot we wanted to change the world or do something amazing?

Maybe you won’t be an astronaut (there aren’t many vacancies) or maybe you won’t go trekking Asia for a year or run a marathon or build your own grand design house. It seems unachievable, and sometimes it is, so we put it in a box, find excuses and forget about it or continue waiting for the opportunity to arrive. Meanwhile wages must be earned and bills must be paid.

I wanted to be a writer from about the age of 8. There were occasional dalliances with other professions (Tank Driver, Entrepreneur, Professional Athlete, Jazz Singer) but writing was what I came home to after every extramarital fling. Twenty odd years on I was still waiting for the time, the opportunity, the right moment and the relentless wage-slaving to let up.

On the day of the big birthday I looked in the mirror and did a thorough assessment of the grey and the wrinkles. Then a light bulb moment occurred.

I have been procrastinating.

I need to stop waiting for life to come to me, or to at least stop avoiding it altogether.  In a bull-by-the-horns moment, I decided to get off the bench, get back in the game, and start doing.

I made a decision to refuse to stagnate.

Want to join me?

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