As we move into our ‘senior years’, a whole lot of new questions begin to emerge in our day-to-day thinking. Some of us may look into the future and begin to worry about coping with long term illness or, indeed, dying.
Others, in contrast, may begin to think about the past. Were we happier then? Was it easier then? Would we, in short, prefer to be young again? And, if so, how young?
Start with Childhood
Some people say that childhood represents the happiest years, when we were completely carefree and responsible for nothing much at all.
Circumstances differ, of course, but for most people, it was a time when we simply had to get up in the morning, get ourselves to school, play with our friends and, perhaps, do the odd chore.
Personally, I think childhood is greatly over-rated. Certainly, for some it was an easy and enjoyable time, but others will remember it as a time of great stress. You don’t understand the world, you don’t know where you are going in life, your ‘friends’ can be difficult and sometimes even bullies.
Worst of all, you don’t understand yourself – neither your strengths nor your weaknesses.
Some people look back and see only the positive. But I had problems in my own childhood and then watched both my children experience problems and now my grandchildren as well.
I would not go back to childhood for the world.
Becoming a teenager is undoubtedly exciting, as you begin to explore the wider world and its possibilities. But it is a time of such angst that it is hard to think anyone would ever want to repeat it.
Is there anyone who would want to be a teenager again? In my view, this is a question that answers itself.
20s and 30s
Once you are past the worst of adolescence, it does seem to me that life becomes a little easier. You have begun to settle into a profession or job of some kind. You are exploring personal relationships, perhaps choosing a partner and having children.
Yes, it is exciting. A lot of new joys. A new partner or husband! A new baby or two! Learning new responsibilities at work. Beginning to get a sense of yourself.
But as I look back, I also see a lot of problems.
The period of one’s twenties is particularly problematic. You are officially an adult, but frequently don’t feel or act like one. It’s not easy to find a permanent place to live and, indeed, many young people these days continue to live with their parents.
More difficult still, a lot of people feel the pressures of not really knowing where they are heading in terms of a career. If they have chosen something, they wonder whether they will be good enough. Some may also question whether their chosen partner is, in fact, the right one.
Perhaps it all becomes easier in your thirties. Some issues have clarified themselves for good or ill. But you see yourself approaching the big 40 and wonder whether you have done well enough.
Everyone is busy and pulled in many directions – the search for promotion, the needs of the partner and kids.
Often, you find that even your friends are too busy to talk.
Is that so great?
Midlife and Beyond
At least by the time you are in your ‘middle years’ you know yourself reasonably well. You have learned how to pursue your strengths and how to live with your own limitations.
You have finished having all the kids you will ever have, which may be seen as a joy or a relief or the source of considerable unhappiness. But you know where you are in this respect.
You may also be coping with menopausal symptoms, which may be no difficulty at all or be the cause of major problems.
And you may be coping with the famous twin pressures of adolescent children and ageing parents, both of whom need your attention. For some, this can be the most stressful period of their lives.
These are all very personal thoughts, which undoubtedly depend on the trajectory of your life and that of those around you.
In my own view, the older you get, the better it gets. Not everyone will agree. A lot of it will depend on the simple issue of health.
A friend of mine, for instance, who found himself quite ill and tired at the age of 70, asked me whether I would prefer the normal spread of ages or to be age 65 all my life. He said he preferred the latter. I was not so sure.
Perhaps, like me, you are glad you went through all those stages but are happy to be where you are. Or not.
Of course, if you could be all those earlier ages with the confidence and wisdom you have now, perhaps the answers would be different. But that would be cheating!
This was first published on sixtyandme.com (see https://sixtyandme.com/would-you-like-to-be-young-again/)