Monday, 28 July 2014

It Feels So Scary... Getting Old

Every now and then, I look up from my book and glance at my not-so-exciting surroundings, taking in the views which are captured by my camera lens (a.k.a. eyes). It is a habit that, as a short-sighted person, I'm supposed to do at least every twenty minutes, but often discover a half-decent excuse to wiggle my way out of doing it - and keeping up my end of the bargain with Specsavers.

On the occasions that I do take my attention away from either a book or laptop, thoughts swirl like streaks of white and blue in toothpaste inside my mind as all potential distractions - this blog included - fade away. And, provided that I've completed this oh-so-vital stage, I can finally think in the peaceful sanctuary which I refer to as my bedroom.

So, as all nosy people (including myself) are desperate to hear, what do I think about? Depending on whether I've hit a high or a low in relation to my mood, my thoughts vary from hormonal anger to tranquil calmness. However, there are times when I'm neither on top of the world nor have sunk below the surface - my position therefore becomes quite awkward because I'm stuck in the middle. When I say stuck, no other word describes it better.

Stuck and trapped in a land of neutral feelings and thoughts is as boring as your imagination could conjure: nothing stirs any emotion within you, nor are you given any indication to how you might be feeling. Although nobody would put their hand in sheer joy at being down in the dumps (the secret is that you cannot be joyful), at least you and your mind are put at ease with the knowledge that you are aware of your sullenness. Meanwhile, being caught in-between crossroads restricts you from choosing which path - either one of Happiness or Misery - you wish to follow, until the fogginess exits your mind.

Yet staying neutral from both ends of the scale has enabled me to discover thoughts and opinions which would neither be associated with breezy cheerfulness nor melancholy despair. In fact, a fear that, like a rash, flares up from time to time doesn't have an opportunity to be lumped into one category because it's existence is only temporary. It appears out of nowhere while my mind is focused on other matters, catching me out with no warning given before it arrives. And, once the sheer shock has been flooded out of my system, I gain the necessary tools to ward it off back to where it belongs... which, of all things, I don't even know. All that I'm aware of is that it is randomly resurrected, and preys on me like a cat eyeing up a chunky-looking pigeon. Unless I shrug off its fearful powers for good, it will return again and again when it is least expected.

And the fear? Getting older.

Though I have a long way to go until I near a mid-life crisis or yelp with excitement when a revitalizing anti-wrinkle cream in released at Boots, getting older is a fear which sometimes crosses my thoughts and plays with my mind. Like death, it is one of the few certainties during our several decades on this planet and, regardless of our desires to stay eternally young, nothing can prevent us from aging.

With age, we are given access to several privileges which come into force as soon as we reach a certain point in our lives. For example, it is our right to learn how to drive a car once we celebrate our 17th birthday which, if we were younger, would not be allowed by Law. So, there are plenty of things to look forward to while we are growing up which, depending on our level of maturity, we might wish to have sooner than later.

At school, seeing fellow classmates emulate adults with 'cool' slang and excessive make-up both amuses me and fills me with horror. To the naked eye, it is obvious that they are trying to look much older than they actually are, but the lack of subtlety ruins the aura of maturity they are so evidently failing to put on.

If I have to contend with ghastly sights - which would not look out of place at circus - on a daily basis, how could I not unearth some amusement from it? You would think that, with plenty of compact mirrors to hand, they would see the downsides of over-applying mascara and orange foundation which makes their skin resemble a glass of Tango. But no, they are reluctant to realise that they don't have to be in grown-up mode all the time - especially if they wrongly believe that exposing their thighs is an adult's role.

That's the complete opposite of the scale, and is a stage which is often explored by many teenagers and young adults. We detest the slow rate at which we are getting older and, while puberty all but wrecks our bodies, we decide to take some inspiration from the ever-so-mighty adults in the meantime. But, beneath the skin-tight dresses and vibrant eye shadow, does it bring us any actual happiness? It is an escape from the present which provides a perfect distraction while our need to ignore our current life is at its most desperate. We don't wish to be reminded about whether we have caught up with the rest of our classmates, nor do we want to be left out, so walking in the shoes of an adult occupies us for the meantime.

On the other hand, getting older carries more responsibilities than the amount of homework we are given in a week, both inside the classroom and outside of it. The faults in society and life itself are no longer disguised as you are expected to recognize and put up with them, in the hope of making your own way in the world safely. The chores that our parents would used to do for us are then handed over to us, with the threat of losing out on a week's worth of pocket money if we fail to do it - or even perform the action well. Schoolwork gets tougher as the all-important exams approach us, their results determining the outcome of future careers and success.

And all of this pressure just makes you want to scream - and wish that you would never grow up!

Growing up is hard work and, as it goes on without a moment's rest, the toll that it can take on you is too great to even contemplate. Before we are legally allowed to work full-time, we will have gone through eighteen years of birthdays, learning, developing and growing up. And, unlike adults, we don't receive a penny for our hard work. Then, once we have finished our A-Levels or our time at college has come to an end, we are tossed into the meanest lion enclosure: work.

In order to survive and relish independence, making a living is vital for not only paying the rent but being successful; after all, isn't that what we prize above almost everything else in life? As the world is still struggling to regain the power it held before the recession hit, the prospect of finding a decent job are enormously low for the next generation of workers - and my future. Success at school is paramount if I aim to seek a well-paid job - or at least an internship - and, with less than two years until I take my GCSEs, the pressure to succeed is stronger than ever before.

Pressure is why a small, yet significant part of me doesn't want grow up. It scares the hell out of me that, in only two and a half years' time, I will be old enough to vote, work and watch The Exorcist without my parents' permission. As for the working part, another year will go by until I finish my A-Levels or apprenticeship (for now, a decision has not yet been made), so I won't be thrust into the lions' den until I'm 19 at the most.

But it doesn't change how I feel on rare occasions - and the nail-biting fear it creates. It only seems like yesterday when I was eight years old and being home-schooled for the first time; where did all of those years go? One moment, I was having the time of my life whilst playing with Bratz dolls, then I'm enclosed in a cage with eight hundred people at my new school. How could time pass so quickly without my realizing it? It doesn't make any sense. Confusion is meddling with my mind and mixing its contents into one spectacular mess which, if Dad isn't around to clean it up, I'll have to hoover with the nightmarish Dyson.

Giving up past habits and embracing new ones play important roles in the Cycle of Life, and is a tradition which will forever remain. Like the annual ritual of re-watching The Lost Boys, some things never change. It doesn't matter how often I wish for a change of circumstance - especially one as great as staying young - because the world cannot be altered for the sake of satisfying my needs. My greatest need is to pass my GCSEs and move onto higher education which, after the pre-exam stress hell, will relieve me of an enormous weight of my shoulders.

If luck is on my side, the next two years will pass by in a blur, and I'll be attending my first day of Sixth Form before I know it. That is what thrills me when I think about growing up, but there is a long journey ahead until I reach it.

Getting older might be part of the deal, but it won't be such a burden once exam success is mine.

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