By Tinky Ningombam
Some people say age is just a number. Sadly all practical theories seems to point otherwise. For people unwilling to face inconvenient truths, a diplomatic truce.
Just a few weeks back, on the eve of her birthday, my dear friend Linthoi went into a depression of sorts lamenting over aging, over the loss of an “era of innocence.” Call her a drama queen, but her words not mine. And I, true to my garb of an empathizing friend, played Oprah and tried to convince her otherwise. I told her about the rich experiences we have had, the maturity we have attained, the wisdom that our age has brought us and the inevitability of linear time and our need to be at peace with it. The futility of arguing with a philosophy scholar is one that only a first-hand experience will demonstrate. For my elaborate opinions gave her more fuel to enter into a debate that not only lasted for hours but managed to make both of us more confused of the presumably “mid-life crisis” that she thought she was having. The same state which I also partook by virtue of being of the same age.
The only good thing that came out of that conversation was our resolve to “never grow old”. That we vouched, we shall remain as true to our young selves and not become middle-aged ergo boring women who only talk about marital woes and skin problems.
Being in the wrong side of 20’s is in fact a slow and treacherous torture, more from peer pressure than anything else. Like someone just dresses you up for stage impromptu and throws you out to play your part without a rehearsal. Where we are expected to “act our age” and give up “behaving like a kid.” And somehow if you don’t, you are judged for being insecure. But that is life I guess, life means just action, no rehearsals.
The entire episode reminded me of Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde’s book “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. For those who have not had a chance to read it, the story revolves around the “age-less” and quite narcissistic Victorian gentleman called Dorian Gray who wished that he would remain forever young and his face and body would not age a day. That in his place, his portrait picture should be the one to grow older and he was willing to sell his soul for it. In a supernatural turn of events, his wish is granted and he never ages a single day but the portrait does, showing every wicked frown, every heinous scar that his life of debauchery takes him through.
And so it goes, Oscar Wilde’s classic example of the Faustian crossroads that humans always seems to face in life. Are we willing to sell our soul for something that we believe is most important to us? Which in the case of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was Dorian’s everlasting youth which he bargained for, leading him down to the path of crime and immorality. Therefore, making us question how vain we are, for our youth? How important is youth to us that we want to bargain the lines on our face made by a frown, a scar, a smile; signs of all the good and the bad in our lives, signs that tell of our passing time on earth.
A lot of people that I have met over the years have always told me that the only regret that they have about growing up is the loss of innocence. The “metaphorical” innocence or ignorance if I may, that is attributed to childhood. The carefree days where you are not expected to know everything or have an answer, in contrast to when you grow up, when you are expected to know everything and be wise.
But is ignorance indeed bliss? Will we be happier not knowing? Will it be good to forever trust people and be gullible to lies and be naïve to the rest of the world?
I truly think the grass is always greener on the other side. The self-important pain in the neck that I am, I know that I will always be restless to know. To know the answer, to find out the truth, to ask the unquestionable. So will I still want to be ignorant? No, I don’t think so. But has it made me happier to lose my childhood innocence? Of course not.
However I do believe that the protected environment that the most fortunate of children grow up in, not having to worry about earning a living or protecting oneself from physical dangers is an ideal world on its own but which is not the reality of life. The tragi-comic reality is that whatever muck and misery that adults seem to dive into, mingled with some momentary materialistic or man-made pleasures is the life that awaits us when we close that door of uninterrupted bliss. And in my personal opinion, the sooner one comes to terms with that, the better adept one will be to venture forth and prosper.
It is ok to be nostalgic about youth. After all, in youth, you are in the pink of health, you are not bogged down by responsibilities and you look as fresh as a daisy. But that is exactly why you have friends and peers, people who will age the same way as you and have similar ailing. How else will you complain and feel better?