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Cultural Observations

Better late than too late, I say

by Shelley Mckibbon

Like, I suspect, a lot of people in our forties, I make a point of looking for the good things about getting older. (Might as well, since there is not one thing I can do about it!)

I’m sure there’s more than one, but the one I turn to most often is this: I’ve almost stopped caring what I look like to other people. (Not, I should add, in the sense of wearing old rags to work or not brushing my hair.)

What I mean is, I no longer care nearly as much if I look silly to other people, because one of the benefits of getting older is, I’ve had considerable time to notice that I am so busy worrying about my own issues that I don’t pay much attention to silly things other people are doing. I strongly suspect I’m pretty normal in this regard, and that means, in the most liberating way possible, nobody else is paying much attention to me.

At least not in the sense of caring whether I make a fool of myself occasionally. Which, I find, means I’m suddenly a lot braver about trying new things and admitting to preferences that don’t impress other people. Having spent a surprisingly, unfortunately, long time sticking mostly to doing things I was pretty sure I was going to be good at, it’s a lot of fun, instead of, “I wish I could do that,” to hear myself thinking, “I would like to learn to do that.”

That’s the crucial thing for me: when I stopped wishing I already knew how to play guitar, I finally signed up for lessons. Am I good at it? No. Do I learn pretty slowly? Yes. Is it still fun when I manage to string together a few basic chords and they turn into “Yellow Submarine”? Definitely!

Likewise, I recently, finally, signed up for a yoga class. I’ve sort-of wanted to do that for years, and never quite had the nerve. After recovering from a painful back injury a few years ago, though, I figured the benefits would outweigh the embarrassment of being the oldest, stiffest, clumsiest person in the class.

Am I the oldest person in the class? Yes. By a considerable margin.

Am I the stiffest, clumsiest person in the class? That I couldn’t tell you. Based on the fact our instructor seems to make the same number of small, quiet corrections to everyone over the course of the class, I don’t think I am. But it turns out that even very basic positions involve so much concentration that I actually have no idea what anyone else in the class is doing, or what I look like compared to anyone else.

I can only assume the same thing is true for the other students, and they have better things to think of than, “What is that clumsy old bat doing, trying to learn yoga at this late date?”

Well, I can’t learn it at an earlier date, can I? So it’s very likely my contribution to this blog will consist largely of me talking about hobbies I’m not very good at, but still enjoy a lot. You can’t go back, so you might as well go forward, right?

“Anyone who says writing is easy is either lying, or I hate him”–Farley Mowat



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March 2012
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