The joy of ageing. No, really.


Reinvention. It sounds like something you do quickly. Like a makeover.

In fact, when my marriage ended, I thought I had done it. I moved from the suburbs to the inner-city, got an expensive new hair-do, spent weekends partying instead of baking.

All positive steps indeed. But they weren’t the real reinvention.

Because we don’t reinvent all at once. We do it bit by bit, like cells slowly dying then regenerating. The new ones are similar, but not quite the same.

And that’s what happened to me.

Now, I am the old me, but a new version. The difference is tangible but hard to define. People I haven’t seen for a while say, ‘you look happier’. I never know if it’s just the result of the liberal application of fake tan, or something more fundamental.

So, what has changed? What have I learnt?

The first thing is that happiness is a subtle state. You think you are happy … broadly speaking. Kind of. You know, happy-ish. Well, you aren’t living on the streets or anything. So you must be happy right?

But not being sad all the time is not the same as being happy. There is a state of general dissatisfaction with your life that becomes like a chronic injury. It’s just how things are, you haven’t found a way to fix it, so you live with it.

Until you can’t anymore. You roll your ankle or slip a disc, and all of sudden, you’re forced to confront the pain.

What I realise now is that I spent a lot of time distracting myself from the truth – that I wasn’t happy. How do I know? Because I am now. It’s only when that nagging injury is fixed that you see how much pain you were in before.

Realising what’s required to fix it though – the trauma you’ll cause yourself and others – is a good reason to ignore it for as long as possible.

When you finally see that to be happy, you need to pull your whole life apart, then put it back together again – that prospect is breathtaking and terrifying. No wonder we shy away from it.

So the difference between then and now is not my surroundings or the people around me. It is my ability to poke at the truth, to scratch away at what I am doing, and ask in a fierce and unflinching way: ‘is this what you really want?’.

The difference is, bascially, my ability not to believe my own bullshit.

I don’t claim to have nailed the process. I am by no means an enlightened being. But as I stare down the label of ‘late-30’s’, I know that the best thing about getting older, for me, is being more authentic.

I have a saying, acquired from a t-shirt, that “I’d rather be somebody’s shot of whisky than everybody’s cup of tea”. And the best thing about growing up is when you actually come to believe it. That the person you are is ‘enough’ – not for everybody – but for the people who matter.

And the people who matter are the ones who think you are enough.

  1. You’ve always been more than enough for me. And the trauma you think you might cause others is probably a wild miscalculation anyway.

  2. Beautifully written. And happy birthday!

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