There comes a moment in one’s life – a tipping point perhaps we could call it – when old seems more significant and closer than young. Mine was between the ages of thirty-five and forty. I’d spent a lot of time thinking about and then working with a group of wonderful people to try and set up a training company based on multimedia and computer-assisted learning tools.
The project eventually folded due to a number of complex reasons the details of which I shan’t go into here. But the impact of this failure reached far into my soul and being, resulted in severe mental ill health for a while – from which I thankfully recovered – and led me to re-evaluate my understanding of and views about life in general.
I then spent almost seven years working in a bank in a most humble position – a place and environment where I learnt a lot about the kinds of things which actually don’t work for me.
This isn’t to say I’m not grateful for the opportunity to earn a living wage this offered me for a key decade in my life. Without such an opportunity, I have to admit, I would not be writing these words today.
Nor would my family be in the reasonable financial state of security and stability it currently finds itself in.
Initially, then, it was a strange place to be for me, after the illness I had suffered from. Paranoia was one of the symptoms – and yet I quite happily slotted, some months after a short period in hospital, into a habitat where every employee’s move was documented, measured, watched and evaluated. Soon after I joined, in fact, it became common practice for monthly one-to-ones to be held between my line manager and myself – meetings where, like my colleagues, I was obliged to collect and take along regular evidence of my “achievements”.
You can imagine how puzzled I was that – after a diagnosis of paranoia – this process of observation really didn’t cause me any pain or fear. It does beg the question how resilient and robust that original diagnosis was.
But – these days – I have come to what is probably a wise and sensible conclusion not to pursue the injustices or inexactitudes of the past. The present is far more important – even as the future will take care of itself.
I now believe I find myself at the edge of another tipping point. It doesn’t involve myself – though I am currently going through significant changes in my life as I look to fashion a career path based on self-employment. But this is something I rehearsed ten years ago, when I had very little financial cushion. A decade later, I am as ready as I can be for the challenge. And hopeful to boot.
No. This life change involves another. It involves truly growing old. It involves that moment in growing old where undeniable realities begin to irrevocably kick in. It involves trying to explain to another the lack of choices available. It involves helping another to come to terms with that bit of life most of us are able to ignore when we’re still on the right side of youth.
It involves helping another to deal with an end that may now be five years distant, ten or thirty – but will include an inevitable, continuous and unstoppable losing of faculties and physicality.
It involves trying to help another come to terms with their very deepest fears.
It involves trying to help another understand how to face up to an end – an end which their belief system doesn’t allow them to feel anything exists beyond.
And so I do not know if I am up to this series of tasks.
I do not know if I can deal with them.
I do not know if I have the wisdom.
All I do know is that after reaching this sentence, I am ready – where before I started I was not – to take onboard the responsibility for playing my part.