Lately I’ve started feeling a bit old.
This August I’ll be 28. I tell you this for two reasons: 1) I know being in my late twenties doesn’t make me old, but more importantly 2) it gives you time to save up for a present.
I suppose it’s not that I feel old physically. I’m still relatively supple, I haven’t got a bad back, I’m not losing my mind. It’s more of an emotional ageing. It’s a strange feeling, hard to put my finger on.
Let me give you an example. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I used to play football every Friday against people of varying ages. I would always be one of the first on the pitch, even when it was lashing with rain or throwing down hailstones the size of sugar cubes. We’d play ‘Youngies’ vs ‘Oldies’ and, of course, I’d be on the ‘Youngies’ team, and I’d be legging it around without even breaking a sweat.
I played football again the other night. Fortunately it was a clear evening on that occasion; but otherwise if I see it’s raining I’m more inclined to stay inside. Instead of running from end to end, I find myself lingering in the middle of the pitch, waiting for a lucky ricochet to bounce the ball into my path so I can swing a lazy boot at it. If I attempt a run it takes me twenty minutes and a whole lot of resting my hands on my knees before my heart rate returns to normal. The only thing stopping me from wearing my coat if it’s a bit cold is the fact I might lose my keys. I’ve turned into an Oldie.
The other day I watched a video of a group holiday I went on when I was 11. There I am, all scrawny, with my huge gold-rimmed glasses and cheap Adidas shirt. It was a real old-school piece of footage, all jerky frames, fuzzy colours and cheesy piano music in the background. I felt like I should be watching it whilst sat in a darkened room, the film reel clattering through a vintage projector over my shoulder onto a wall. I had nothing to worry about when I was that age.
The feeling is still difficult to explain. Being a grown-up has sucked away most of my enthusiasm, and instead of running around a pitch I spend most of my time worrying about money and the future. If I think too much about how many years I have ahead of me (provided I don’t get struck by lightning, hit by a bus or crippled by some horrible disease) I start to freak out a little. What’s going to happen? What if I lose my job? What will we be doing in ten years?
When I was young the most I had to worry about was an exam or two. Money wasn’t a problem; living at home and earning a wage meant I didn’t blink an eyelid when I paid £1000 for a flight once. The numbers on my online statement would all be black. Not any more. But I count my blessings, and move on.
Sometimes I think about just how long my children will be dependent upon me and my wife, and I wonder whether the next holiday we’ll be on, just the two of us, will be a Saga one, surrounded by crusty pensioners in varying states of decay who douse themselves in cod liver oil just to obtain the suppleness to get out of bed.
Youth doesn’t last forever. I have grown-up things to think about now, which in a quirky puddle of irony mostly involves children. My days of playing in the rain are pretty much over.
They say you’re only as old as you feel. And right now, I feel like an Oldie.