Never too old

Aside

Never one to turn down a free ticket (or, let’s be honest, a free anything), last night I went along to a gig at Barfly in Camden. In truth I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. Despite my dad having been a talent scout in the music industry when I was a teenager I’ve never considered myself to be part of the in-crowd where new and emerging artists were concerned. Whenever I went to a gig I’d stand at the back in my River Island jeans and H&M top, clutching a pint of cider and feeling beyond awkward as I watched all the hipsters in their drainpipe jeans and black-rimmed glasses bopping away at the front, collectively pouting as their directional hair valiantly fought the forces of gravity.

It wasn’t a conscious decision to stop attending gigs, more of a natural progression. So when I was offered a free ticket to last night’s event I was forced to re-examine my position. Was I really up for spending three hours standing in a dingy room above a pub, face-in-armpit with a bunch of hairy hipsters? Did I really want to re-live those awkward memories that had long since been buried? Surely now I was at an age where I knew what I liked and what I didn’t and this just happened to be something that I didn’t? Was it so wrong to admit that?

So, after considerable soul searching I went along to the gig. And it was dingy. And it was full of hipsters with directional hair, drainpipe jeans and black-rimmed glasses (has the trend not changed in a decade? Maybe I’m not so behind the times after all). But you know what? I had a fantastic night. The bands were brilliant, especially the last one, Slow Club, whose lead singer was just mesmerising. At the end she jumped into the crowd and sang a song standing directly in front of me. She didn’t have a microphone to amplify her voice but it didn’t matter as the crowd were so silent you could have heard a pin drop. It was quite, quite beautiful. And utterly inspirational – I even started formulating a character in my mind for my next story.

Afterwards we went downstairs for another drink (at 11pm on a school night – I really was pushing the boundaries!) and ended up dancing until midnight, casting off the restrictive shackles of ‘age’ (that I’ll admit I impose upon myself) and simply having some good old fashioned fun.

I learned something about myself – and life – last night. When you pigeonhole yourself because of silly things like age you close yourself off to new – and wonderful – experiences. And it’s only through new experiences that you can grow as a person (and, in my case, develop as a writer). Getting older doesn’t make us old, telling ourselves we’re too old to do things makes us old – so from now on I’m going to try and hold that in mind.

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Time flies

I can hardly believe my final week at work is already upon me. It’s a cliché, I know, but time really does fly – not so sure about the ‘when you’re having fun’ bit, but hopefully that’s still to come. This time next week, quite possibly, as I recover from this weekend’s 16 mile Wholefoods run in style with a trip to the Big Apple to visit the girl I affectionately call my ‘spiritual twin’ (so named after the two weeks we spent helping each other  cling to our sanity in an ashram in southern India in 2011).

After the events of the past few weeks a holiday is just what the doctor ordered, and I’m very much looking forward to taking some time out to reflect on the imminent changes in my life (not to mention start tackling the enormous writing-related tomes I’ve purchased in preparation for going freelance). The plan, thus far, is to sip coffee, nibble (oh alright, scoff) cake, down wine and eat inordinately large amounts of CHEESE – with a bit of sightseeing and a LOT of nattering thrown into the mix to boot. In short, we’re going to set the world to rights one mouthful at a time and I cannot WAIT.

Because of all the recent changes in my own life it’s no surprise that I’ve been ruminating on the nature and importance of change as a life driver. Should we, I wonder, embrace it regularly as a way to rejuvenate ourselves, or should we rather seek out a more preferable state of equilibrium, in which we can be happy to see out the rest of our days?

At the moment I’m inclined to think the former, not least because of this article I remembered having read a few years back about how the brain perceives time. The article discusses the central concepts of a book, Making Time, written by Steve Taylor. In it, he claims that as we get older it seems as though time is speeding up, but that’s only because we fall into hum drum existences and get caught up in the same old cycle, day in, day out. If we seek out new experiences – for example by filling our weekends with trips to art galleries, coffee in kitsch new coffee houses and lunches and dinners in new locations with friends and family – then our perception of time actually changes and we view it as having passed more slowly than it actually did.

It could be argued that this is counter-intuitive, since the sensation of being bored often feel s as if it spans a lifetime, but if you stop to consider how fast the last five years have gone since you joined your current company you might begin to give credence to the idea.

As I’m no expert in how to live life, I’ll close with a quote from Steve Taylor’s book:

“Make sure your life is as full of new experiences as possible. If you live a life that’s full of routine, then time will always speed up but if you make an effort to travel to new environments and expose yourself to new situations, new challenges, even something simple like a new route to work, new interests, new hobbies, then this degree of newness slows down time.”

It seems a pretty compelling argument to me. Now where DID I put that passport….?

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I fell in love with this clock in the main square of Prague’s old town. It looks like a time machine!

Challenging perceptions, one feel-good programme at a time…

In recent years the time I’ve spent watching television has diminished considerably. In (large) part this can be attributed to the fact I have become busier (with increased responsibility at work comes long hours, and both fitness and writing are at the more time consuming end of the hobby scale), but the other reason is it feels to me there are fewer ‘feel-good’ programmes to watch.

By ‘feel-good’ I don’t mean comedy, sitcoms or shows featuring cuddly-looking but rip-your-head-off-dangerous animals trekking across vast ice plains with their babies in tow (though I’m rather partial to the last example, David Attenborough being my absolute hero). I mean programmes that make you see your fellow men and women in a different way, helping you to better understand their motivations, strengths and weaknesses.

Such programmes challenge stereotypes and prejudices, providing insight into others’ lives that might not be possible any other way. They are also, in my opinion, a valuable medium through which to foster empathy, an emotion many people in today’s ‘me-first’ society struggle to connect with.

Examples of programmes I would include in this category are Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss-both versions of the same premise, where rich senior level executives step out of their lives and into the lives of ‘ordinary people,’ enabling them to get a better understanding of the challenges they face before deciding how they can best offer help.

Two different but no less relevant examples are my current favourite programmes, Supersize vs. Superskinny and The Undateables, which happen to run concurrently on Tuesday nights. Being a psychology graduate I’m fascinated by the way people perceive one another, and these programmes bring to the fore the many facets of the human spirit.

In Supersize vs. Superskinny overweight and underweight people are paired up and taught to overcome their problems with food by swapping diets. It’s amazing to see how much their attitudes change over the course of their ‘treatment,’ and truly heartening to see the strength of the bonds they form as a result of stepping into one another’s shoes.

The Undateables shows that everyone not only deserves to but can find love if they look in the right places. All too often people with disabilities are written off as not being capable of having meaningful relationships, but for me this programme has successfully challenged that misperception and shown there’s someone out there for all of us if we simply try.

To the critics I’ll admit that to some extent these programmes are contrived, some may even say patronising, but they reach the masses in a way that other media may not always manage. Maybe I’m taking it a tad too far by saying this, but I believe that if we really let the messages of such programmes sink in, they can provide a platform from which we can better ourselves.

Right, that’s quite enough time spent discussing feel-good programmes. Time to get back to the petition to bring back Spooks…

Image

After twenty minutes struggling to find a relevant image for today’s post I’ve given up and chosen this, which was taken on a day trip to Borabadour in Indonesia and bears no similarity to my post other than maybe the fact it doesn’t look like a normal tree….?