Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Growing old... well, older

I wonder how old I look to other people? (No, I’m not seeking flattering remarks.) Do I look as old as a 55 year old man might have looked to me when I was a child, or a teenager, or in my early twenties? I look at myself in the mirror and, of course, I see the grey hairs among the vaguely mousey brown ones. I see the odd patches of white in my eyebrows – which, incidentally, if I did not restrain them from time to time, would quickly overgrow my entire face like the jungle reclaiming an abandoned city. I know, if I permitted my beard to grow out, there would be more white than brown. I see the wrinkles, I see the sagging jowls. All this I see; but it creeps up so slowly on one, that it is easy to think that one has always looked this way.

How we see ourselves physically is mirrored by how we see ourselves on the inside. There are experiences – more like impressions – that have stayed with me throughout my life. I seem able to put myself right back inside that experience at that particular time, relive the sounds, the smells, the emotions. At least that’s what I think I’m doing. There is no real way to assess this objectively. Am I the “same” being as that little boy who used to play alone so often during the English summers? Am I the “same” being as that awkward, strangely hairy, long-limbed teenager who would blush at the drop of a hat? When people look at me, don’t they realise that I am still actually only forty years old, or thirty, twenty, ten? In many ways I have the same fears still, the same hopes, the same dreams.

Yes, I am on my third change of spectacle lenses. Yes, I groan now when I rise out of a chair. Yes, hair now grows from places where previously there were no follicles. Yes, I probably forget more than I once did. But I still feel like me. I sense continuity with that little boy, that teenager. Sometimes they still pop up their heads and take charge for a while.

PS. This is my first blog from Australian soil. I hadn’t realised how much I missed the sound of Australian magpies carolling in the morning! 


  1. Now that you're home, I'm interested in how you see yourself in relation to your children and granddaughter. I find that when I look in the mirror here at home, I feel like I look young and vital. However, by the time I travel the 3.5 hours to visit my children and grandchildren, a glance in the rear view mirror tells me that I've turned into Grandma. It's funny how that happens. I swear, I think there's a time warp somewhere along the highway!

  2. Welcome back to Aussie soil Philip. I hope the weather is kind to you while you adapt. As far as getting old goes, toss the mirror and be as old as you want to be.