Monday, March 2, 2015

The age of acceptance

The weekend of CNY, I received a head butt from the Goat - my pc crashed. It shouldn't have caused that much anguish because my pc had already started acting wonky a few days ago and I'd backed up my files. Except in a strange twist of fate, I backed up most of my files but inadvertently left out the ones I'm currently working on.

And when I bleated to my cousin (who's an IT engineer) for help, he came over and declared my hard disk truly dead. My files were gone. I had to rewrite an entire section of the annual report I'm working on.

That's when I decided that I hated technology and I hated Goats.

Even in this catastrophe, I realise it could have been much, much worse and in the past, I would have just berated myself and moved on. This time however, I found myself angst-ing over the situation more than usual and I wonder if it has anything to do with age.

My friends sometimes complain about how their parents have become increasingly paranoid with age, such that they whip themselves into a frenzy over the trivial things - like having family members over, or have irrational stress outbursts.

I see it too with my mother-in-law. Her sister was flying over from Perth one night and there was a thunderstorm. She woke up from her nap with great anxiety in her eyes and asked, "It's raining so heavily! How is the plane going to land?"

In the past, I would have just dismissed it as crazy talk but now, I'm not so sure I wouldn't be similarly afflicted in the future. Things that I would never have given a second thought in the past sometimes keep me awake now. Like losing a file to tech-heaven. Or maybe tech-hell.

It's not just anxiety too. I never used to think I had OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Sure, there are things I get slightly uptight about, eg I like all the books in one series to be the same edition. But in general, I like to believe I'm quite accepting of disorder. After all, I'm the one who can never keep a desk tidy.

For many years, I went for weekly aerobics sessions at a fitness centre. Then one day, I attended a step aerobics class (this was my regular class, mind you, not a first-time thing), and when the class started, I noticed that the step board was not parallel to the floorboards - it was just a little slanted. For some strange reason, the angular mismatch bothered me. I nudged it a little to the left, then it became too far to the left, so I had to nudge it to the right.

The whole time, I was huffing and puffing up the board, surreptitiously attempting to correct the wrong by jumping more vigorously on the board either to the left or right. I think it got to the point where even when it looked aligned, I was convinced it was just a few millimeter off. It drove me bananas.

And throughout the entire session, I kept having this inner monologue, "Stop it *huff*. Why are you *puff* doing this. Stop *huff* obsessing! Stop obsessing *puff* over the obsessing!" And finally, I thought, that's it. I've completely gone insane.

I've since stopped my aerobics sessions and no, it's not because of that loony incident. It's because my knees couldn't take the pounding any more. Another wretched reminder of aging.

Last week, I organised a CNY lunch for my writers. In the 13 years I've run my writing agency, the pool of writers had grown and this was the first time I'd organised a gathering for all of them. Since I'm very particular about engaging writers, I only take on people I know with proven abilities or on strong recommendations of friends. What inevitably happened was that my writers are mostly my peers.

It struck me as hilarious that when we heard that one of the writers was born in 1983, a spontaneous roar erupted over the dining table: "You were born in the '80s?" "That's so YOUNG!" In case your maths fails you, being born in 1983 means that writer is 32 years old. Which isn't considered that young in most circles (Incidentally, I started my business when I was 32. I thought I was totally mature then!). But in a sea of those born in the 1970s and even 1960s, 32 years old is practically a baby.

That lunch was the most fun I'd had in a long time. It's no surprise that I get along tremendously well with my writers but I didn't quite expect them to get along as famously with each other as they did. There they were, chatting about work, kids, food, with a familiar ease (some of them met each other for the first time that day). We laughed so hard I think my neighbours heard us. Somehow, the wavelengths just met. I told them I'd never wanted to run a large company because I hated managing people. If there's one thing I don't miss about corporate life, it's the drama. But then I met my writers and they made running my agency so darn easy and fun.

And you know what, I'm pretty sure that age contributed more than we realise. The unassuming intelligence, the sharp, wacky sense of humour, the genuine interest in others without suspicion or agenda, the adept ability to get things done without fuss. Much of it all comes from years of experience - from work and from life.

Perhaps that's what it means to age. To be so comfortable with ourselves that we don't even bother to pretend anymore. And that makes us interesting because we don't try so hard. To know that we don't know everything and that's okay, because what we DO know makes up for a lot (and there's always Google, anyway). To know that the ability to laugh at ourselves is what will keep us young, and the opportunity to laugh along with friends, priceless.

So there we have it. If I can't stop the aging process, at least I can spend it in the company of like-minded folks. We can wear our unglam glasses and curse fine print together. Or go to the loo 143 times as we drink our wine. Or commiserate about how our kids are not getting married/bearing us the requisite grandchildren/paying us enough attention. And because we'll probably forget that we did all that, we can do it all over again. Sounds like fun.

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