Metropole Magazine

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10 Jan Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

How Hath the Young Aged

I hate to think of it but ten years have passed since I left secondary school; a decade and a year to be sincere. Only a few years ago, it seems, I was a schoolgirl, wearing cornrows and no makeup, mis-matching colours before colour-blocking became fashionable, and at times criminally matching colours― blue jeans, pink top, pink shoes, pink earrings. Just yesterday, I was an undergraduate. Overnight, the people I considered children have achieved the same feat and some have gone even further.

It is a difficult reality, the admission of one’s (old) age. It is sad to grow from one about whom it was said with a tone of envious felicitation, ‘really, so you are now in the university, how fast?’ to being the one perplexed about the velocity of time and the growth and development of children of nowadays.

I first came to the realisation that I was no longer young in my early twenties. It had been a tolerable notion. That idea has since evolved and it has dawned on me that I am actually getting old. The diamond birthday may signify the full coming into old age, but the process starts long before, in the late twenties. Here, about this time, is the beginning of old age. Evidence of ageing asserts itself in more ways than wrinkles. The transition is gradual and continuous.

The neighbour’s son, who I baby-sat from infancy through nursery school, is grown lanky and does not  acknowledge my sacrifices of love, neither does he recognise me, however hard I try to sell to him the story of his childhood. The neighbour’s daughter, too, whose coarse hair I plaited every Sunday, has trouble recalling the past. Like other children in the neighbourhood, I know the time and circumstances of their births but they do not know me.

When one of these children passed by without salutation, I thought, ‘what is wrong with these kids?’ The origin of my indignation can be traced to an age-induced sense of entitlement, an indicator of advancement in age. More signs of the times abound: appropriating the authority to deal punishment to an erring preteen cousin; neighbours of their free-will bestowing on you the title of ‘aunty’; mum, after exhausting her restraint, asking if there are any plans for, any inclination towards marriage, which she deems her final maternal obligation.

This is the era of indulging in aphorisms like ‘age is just a number’, ‘it is not how fast, but how well’. Later, it would be time to adopt the concept of being ‘young at heart’, even though deep inside feels rusty, corroded by age. For the moment, the compliment, ‘you look younger than your age’, is of great value.

I look with pity on excited corps members as I know that this phase for them, too, shall pass away. I, too, was once a corps member. I felt like a youth, I felt young, especially considering the environment in which I served. People would reinforce that feeling, marvelling and saying I was too young to be a 'corper.' That was the last time I felt young, the apex and end of youth.

Now, I am not too young for anything. I am older than everyone I know. Everyone doing what I do at this level is younger. Sometimes I feel underachieved. Time would not be still for a second. My self-imposed deadline for about every dream has long passed. I am five years behind schedule. Eleanor Catton, at just 28, has won the Booker Prize.

There is no record to be broken, no schedule to be met. Now I am free of anxiety. I live at my own pace. On my next birthday though, when well-wishers gather and sing me a birthday song and ask, ‘how old are you now?’ I might well answer, ‘very old’.