The journey of growing old

By Adilah Ismail

I can’t quite comprehend why we were in such a hurry to become adults when we were kids. At five, we were cheerfully smearing lipstick on our faces and parading in clumsily knotted ties, in an effort to look “just like a grown-up person”. At 13, we longed to be 16. Sixteen was hastily brushed aside to reach the 18 milestone. At 18, the world is your oyster. No dream is unattainable. Your ambitions are bigger and bolder. You are going to change the world, one fantastic accomplishment at a time.

But somewhere between finishing school and stepping into the Real World, the horrible disillusionment that most adults are plagued with gradually envelopes us. In-between staring perplexedly at piles of bills, working a nine to five job, tearing your hair over exams and (and if you’re living alone) worrying about trivialities you had taken for granted thus far (did I lock the front door? Oh my goodness, I have no clean underwear!) you realize to your utmost dismay that growing old is not as alluring you thought it to be. In fact, it’s enough to make you run in the opposite direction manically yelling, “I want my money back!”

Yes, the independence is great and yes, it does open an overabundance of possibilities. But the amount of responsibilities that are forced down your throat and the pressure of ‘making it in the world’ is overwhelming to any young adult.

You struggle in balancing the fine line between pursuing your lofty dreams and coping with reality - Is it financially viable? What are my career possibilities? What if things go wrong? Will I (gasp) die friendless, homeless and penniless? – and while some succeed, others become disheartened and jaded.

My greatest fear is that I will be so dazed by all the lemons that life throws at me that I will forget to maintain perspective and take pleasure in the smallest of things (the trusting glance of an animal, chocolate, a good book, clear azure skies).

That my soul will be sedated by responsibilities and problems that I will look at a sunset and be numb to the bruise coloured clouds and eruption of colour. I’m scared that I will get so caught up in the rat race I will forget that failures and mistakes are scars which are not to be hidden, but humbly worn as remnants of lessons learned.

Or that I will be deluded into thinking that having a materially high standard of living automatically ensures quality of life. During my admittedly short existence, I’ve discovered that the key to truly living (as opposed to plain survival) in the adult world is to remember is that while growing old is inevitable; growing up (thank goodness) is still optional.

The inner child within all of us - the one that makes sure we keep unerring faith, the one that convinces us to reach for a treasured childhood book instead of the latest bestseller, walk along the beach munching on achcharu or blow soap bubbles in the garden – is what keeps us going amidst the uncertainties and imperfections the future holds.

Ps – I had to stop near a playground on my way home yesterday and as I waited for the lights to change, I noticed a father and child on a see saw. The son’s peals of laughter as his father gleefully dug his heels and propelled himself up and their illuminated faces remained embedded in my mind long after the lights changed green.

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