Is that a birthday? ’tis, alas! too clear;
‘Tis but the funeral of the former year.
~ Alexander Pope
Seriously, fuck it. From young, I’ve disliked my own birthday. I will (almost) never forget the birthday of a loved one, or think twice about organising or attending a birthday celebration. But mine? I will gladly forget it and hope that the whole world does the same. Of course I think that it’s sweet when friends remember it and message me birthday greetings throughout the day. I thank them sincerely for keeping me in their thoughts, or on their calenders as how it takes for some of them to remember my birthday. But hey, that’s still a great effort to be grateful of, and considering that I can never remember birthdays except for a handful (and I’ve small hands), truthfully I have nothing to complain of.
I guess I just don’t like to be fussed over on one particular day every year. Sure, I do need attention from time to time just like any other normal Homo sapiens, but I prefer to have the attention well distributed over the days. I just don’t see what is so special about my birthday. Well, you may say that it is because it’s the day I was born, but if you are also brought up in a family where we don’t make a big fuss over our birthdays and most likely just have a nice simple dinner together, then I guess you won’t be bothered as well. Every year when my friends want to have dinner together, I always want them to treat it simply as a get-together rather than a birthday celebration. And no one should dare to have a cake and sing the much-dreaded birthday song in public, or worse, have me blow the candles out. I might just set the person’s hair on fire with the candles. And I’m not joking.
Perhaps the thing that bothers me most about my birthday is the fact that the cake just gets more crowded with candles every year. What cake? you may say, since I don’t want any, but you get my drift. Aging is one bitch. Ok, ok, the truth is that I do have a phobia of aging. Yeah, that’s just so mature but I guess I can afford to have some immaturity in my life. Afterall, as they say, you are only young once, but you can stay immature forever! I will have to opt for the latter since the former is no longer an option for me. But seriously, what’s up with Father Time?! Why can’t he slow down? He’s already so old, he can’t afford a fall if he continues with his mindless speed; and if he can be so fast because he’s eternally youthful, then fuck him. Why can he get to stay young when he has to make the rest of the population older?
Age is a slowing down of everything except fear.
~ Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
Reminiscing about the past days, I found irony in how as a child, I always wished that I could grow up faster so that I could have the freedom to do what I wanted to as a grown up, and now that I am older (certainly not by choice), I’m regretting that Father Time heard my wish and fulfilled it so selflessly! Now, I am just like a younger person trapped in an older person, wondering what the fuck just happened! It seemed like yesterday when I was 13 at my first day in secondary school, and with the blink of an eye, I am 25 with 3 toes in the grave!
The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.
~ Doris Lessing
If you think that I’m freaking out, it’s true! I AM FREAKING OUT. Aging is scary! There’s a part of me which feels like my life is ending right before my eyes, and another part which says that my life has just begun. Thankfully, these days I’m 60% of the latter and 40% of the former, which is looking mighty optimistic in my opinion. It’s true, you know, that at 25, I’m just about as significant as the pea in the dustbin. Let’s face it – we are no one. I am not looking down on myself, no one is looking down on you and there may actually be people admiring or envying us for what we have or who we are, but we are still the Bukit Timah Hill in the Himalayas in many aspects. There are always others who are way better than we are. Now, I do not need to be the best but I have to give my best and for me, I can see a long way to go, plenty of space for expansion. I do not have to be somebody. I just need to be one person and that person is myself. I just have to craft a more defined and improved version of myself slowly.
When I can look Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange – my youth.
~ Sara Teasdale
That said, aging is of course not without any virtue. Like what the above short poem said, time has permitted me to look at life more carefully and analyse it like on a slide under a microscope. It’s wondrous, really, to look at things in the way I do now, as opposed to the wide-eyed manner I did two decades ago. Sure, you can say that the real world is a lot craftier and more sinister, but you also can’t deny the beauties only an older person can see and appreciate. I will never wish to return this hard earned ability back to Father Time. Just my wrinkles, body aches and joint pains will do. And if he’s kind enough, I will like my old metabolic rate back, please. Anyway, one always has a choice – to turn into the Knockturn Alley or the Diagon Alley of life. I prefer to look at my world with my rose-tinted glasses, and a third eye behind my head to watch my back.
So, I guess I enjoy growing up as much as I hate it. Great, as if I need another contradiction in my life! Lately, I’ve been finding a lot of these in my thoughts. However, not to sidetrack, what is it exactly that I’m so fucking scared of aging? Is it the physical process of looking older and perhaps less attractive – of gaining fats in all the wrong places, wrinkles on the face, cellulite on the butt, losing elasticity in the skin, sagging boobs, just to name a few horrifying facts? Is it the diseases that find you and become stuck like parasites, the resulting medical bills, the pills and the pain? Is it children calling you an auntie? Or is it the eventual destination in life, i.e. death in a 7-feet by 3-feet wooden box?
I guess what I am most terrified of is to find myself standing at the same point as time zooms by. It is not that where I am now is not good enough. It is, for a 25-year-old. When I’m 30, I hope that I can be more. Of course, “more” can be anything depending on how one defines it. You may want more money, more status, more of this and that, more of everything. I think that what I want will change with time but most importantly, I want myself to be 30 and thinking the exact same thing as I am now – what I have now is good enough.
I fear vastly more a futile, incompetent old age than I do any form of death.
~ William Allen White
It amazes me how, like friends and family always comment, I always skip through phases of my life. Like how I start thinking about babies before trying to find their daddy. Like how I accepted death before I could even deal with aging. I guess I just like to skip the harder part. Aging is scary. Yet it has been happening all this while without me noticing it, or rather, minding it. It certainly didn’t seem like such a big deal when I was young and all of a sudden, it is becoming this bulldozer literally chasing after my life and I found myself at a loss. I wish that there is an instruction manual in life for this, or how about the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Aging, or Aging for Dummies. Looking at their respective impressive ranges of books, who knows but they may just have the book for me.
Otherwise I can just get through like how all the older people got through – scrutinise life and uncover for myself the much needed answers hidden in life itself. Ironically, I will need time to do the trick. Hopefully, it won’t take me too long to find the answers so that I still have many good years thereafter to enjoy the calmness the truth will bring.
To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.
~ Henri Amiel
Shit, suddenly I realised that I resembled Peter Pan chanting “I won’t grow up! I won’t grow up!” How childish, I mean, child-like! I guess I could use a bit of this!