Resident Debut Agony Aunt and #DebutGirl Deborah Hodge, tells us all the things she would say to her younger self of she had the chance…
We are living longer in Britain – that’s an actual fact. The three big reasons for this are; food supply and nutrition, health and hygiene. To prove my point, did you know that over 14,000* Britons are in fact over one hundred years old.
We used to consider 40 being middle aged. Once hitting that magic precipice, life would suddenly start to slow down.
Personally I think we are too hung on birthdays because I hate the random, socially constructed guidebook associated with how old you are.
Teenagers are supposed to talk in a certain way. Sixty-year-olds are apparently supposed to be boring and ‘always wear beige‘.
Or in my case I get: “Deborah: you are 43 years old, should you really be wearing pegs in your hair?”
The thing is, I see age as just a number. Besides, biology aside, the life course of each individual is so subjective. There are 20 somethings who are married with a full-time job, and there are 40 year olds who are still in school. There are 25 year olds who own their own homes, and people in their late 30’s who live with their parents.
But yet what it means to be in your twenties is so much different from what it means to be in your forties – no matter how your life pans out. For me, there is so much more responsibility, like now having four mouths to feed for example (especially as I hate cooking).
I remember the freedom and liberation of being in my twenties but not really appreciating it at the time. And to be quite frank, not stopping to appreciate my life around me is a big regret. Living in the now and being mindful are things I have only really learned with age.
Even our biological changes are inconsistent which make life even more subjective and precious. While some youngsters suffer from serious illnesses, their old mums, dad, uncles and aunties are in perfect health. Yet we still feel compelled to see our live in neat units; our twenties, thirties, forties and so on and so on.
I can certainly vouch that significant changes happen to a woman’s body at 40. Muscle loss and weight gain are the most obvious, of which I am dealing with and addressing right now.
I have also become more aware of my own mortality, as your risk to breast cancer increases and the first symptoms of menopause can kick in from anytime. I have indeed had my first night sweats, and a terrifying trip to have a mammogram because of a lump I found in my breast. All thankfully clear.
I look back at my self-conscious twenties, worrying about what people thought of me and having crippling self doubt at times: the time lacking confidence was certainly time wasted.
But as I have got older however, my age has been an excuse to not care about what people think.I would even go so far as to say I am now using my older years to explore and get away with things that I never would have dreamed of doing before.
In effect, I am having a prolonged and exciting mid-life crisis. So much so, that I am calling it a party.
With age comes a sense of liberation but also a realisation that death is inevitable. It is only the awareness that our time on this planet is finite, that gives us the freedom to really explore living.
So, looking back on my crazy, immature twenties, if I could have a stern chat with myself I would say the following 10 things:
If he doesn’t make the effort to see you or contact you then move on. He does not like you enough.
Always trust your gut. If something is telling you this doesn’t feel right, the situation will be wrong.
Do you really need that other glass of wine/shot/pint?
Tell those you love how you feel every day. You never know when it is your last moment with them.
Wear flatter shoes when going clubbing.
If he behaves weirdly on a first or second date, the chances are the whole thing is going to end up in a mess.
Invest in life experiences more. Spend less on things and more outside experiencing life.
Those who stand by you through the dark times will be there as the sun comes up again. Cherish these friends as they choose to be with you.
Embrace the time you are in completely. You will only be this age once so enjoy it with all your heart.
Words: Deborah Hodge
*Statistic provided by the Office for National Statistics 2014 report