I acknowledge that being 32 makes me far from being old in life-expectancy terms. Fingers crossed. But it does make me one of the oldest in my otherwise very young working team, certainly above the office’s average age. And so it is that I began to draw the conclusion that I am getting on. It was a curious and unexpected discovery as being my first non-teaching post, I am now spending more time engaged in adult conversation than I have since graduation. Nevertheless I’m beginning to feel older. Not so much past it, but an adult in real, and frighteningly significant terms.
I spent some time chewing the fat over this, dissecting the subtle hints that have culminated in this conclusion.
Firstly, there’s the significantly different attitude towards work-place equipment. A few years ago, I bought a small case which may or may not have been designed for use as a toiletries bag. You’ll notice here that I have used the word ‘case’ to describe said item and I felt distinctly uncomfortable when I inwardly challenged myself to type ‘bag’ instead. This is because I actually use said container as a pencil case. It has served me well as such for a number of years now and I the fact that it is covered with images of various sheep making it both undesirable to thieves and an excellent conversation have made ownership especially enjoyable. During my year at home on the farm with Farmer Tim, my long suffering father, it wasn’t something I regularly needed. One might say that it was neglected, even. And so when I dusted it off to start my new role, I felt that reviving the case was reason enough to accept the role.
With a mixture of pride and trepidation, out came the case on my first morning. It wasn’t until a few days later that a colleague asked, “is that a pencil case?” that I gave its presence any thought. With my confirmation came the old blow: “Oh, I didn’t know people even made them anymore.” Looking around the office, I noticed that mine was the only pencil case present a clear hint at what I suspected I am getting long in the tooth. Then there’s the office itself: who knew that chipboard was a respectable, no, a cool choice of material for office interiors these days..? Perhaps this is more attributable to me being so very country than my age. You wouldn’t catch that at, for example, behind the local country surveyor’s new desk but still..!
On Friday night, we went out for drinks at a bar just round the corner from our offices. Before leaving the house, I mentally calculated the time I would need to be walking in the sleet to decide on an outfit. The ‘old’ alarm bell rung out once again: whatever I wore would preferably work with my walking boots. I checked myself at that point, realizing that whilst it was snowy, I was frequenting a bar in Shoreditch, not hiking in the peaks, and opted for the chelsea boot and Kooples leather skirt-and-tights combo with a roll neck. Functional, but not THAT functional!
Once I arrived and swiftly got into the spirit of happy hour: merrily supping 2-for1 cocktails for the duration of the hour. Away went those alarm bells. Until the next morning, when I woke with a fuzzy head, a stiff neck and a multipack of KitKats. KitKats?! When the mood struck me to carry something home, why wasn’t I more creative? Like, for example, the time some hotel staff informed my sister and I at breakfast that they would take the road signs found in our bath back outside should we decide not to keep them. “Errr…yes… Thanks.” I replied, looking perplexed at Maggie as she mouthed, shoulder-shrugging, “I don’t know!” back at me.
It was the stiff neck that really got me, though. I realize that it must have been an injury incurred around the time the exhibitionist in me came to play, throwing some of my best ‘moves’ including having one hand holding one ankle behind me and the other on my head as I thrust my knee around vigorously, doing the chicken dance from circa 1996. Though tempted, I’m just grateful a desire to preserve my skirt and tight prevented me from attempting the splits. Again.
Let me clarify at this point, whilst my idiosyncrasies, my penchant for book and pre-9 pm bed over 2am Netflix binges, and my perceived antiquities like a pencil case and hand-written notes amuse my colleagues and place me resolutely past youth, I am not at all offended. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t care. And on Friday night, they giggled and I loved it not only because I am an extrovert drunk. Nobody fell out of love with their friends as they got older. Quite the opposite. More visit stately homes, castles, museums than the new flats flying up down the road. My grandparents were and are, heroes in my eyes. We hang onto the words of the elders we admire – industry leaders and local legends alike – reveling in their stories, investing in their anecdotes and advice.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m any sort of legend – no young Sir David Attenborough or Meryl Streep in the making. But in a world obsessed with youth and anti-aging and staying fashionable or cool, there’s a lesson to heed. True, I love a face cream that keeps me waking up looking (relatively) fresh, and I’ve even shared a shelfie! But fresh or not, I wouldn’t want a different face: it wouldn’t be mine. And true, I love the heady feeling that comes from a brand new dress that makes me feel invincible. But it’s not at at the cost of forgetting the coat that hangs in my wardrobe, the wonderfully cozy and beautifully made one that my grandmother wore. Therefore, instead of beating ourselves up over getting older, I propose that we accept that lines merely signal stories and that a preference for an early night simply means we’ve settled down. I think I will embrace my new role and my vintage pencil case! I am in my thirties and if they, my young colleagues want to, they can call me Granny. I’ll take it as a compliment.