Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Today is my fiftieth birthday. I've always been quite sanguine about the passage of time, feeling that a birthday was only a marker, another day in a stream of days... but fifty does seem so very old.

The trouble is, I think everyone is born a particular age. I have met eight-year-olds who seem to be forty and forty-year-olds who seem to be eight. I think my perfect age was around 25: throughout my childhood and teens I was constantly told that I seemed older than my years, and since my twenties people have told me I am young for my age; not in appearance but in attitudes and outlook.

That's my biggest problem, I can't seem to feel the way that one expects a fifty-year-old women to feel... I still want to walk barefoot in the park, watching the sunrise, find new things and do them, be silly, wear hippy clothing and dye my hair purple...or blue... or green. Not in a blue rinse sort of way.

I'm constantly mediating between the part of me that fears looking like 50 trying to be 20, in ruffled skirts and knotted beads, and the part of me that wants to say "sod it! who cares what people think?".

I think that once you get to a certain age, you can get away with anything... my mother wears pink and turquoise and looks amazing in it... but I think that there's a dangerous period for women between the end of your forties and the middle sixties where you can definitely look silly if you try to wear clothes or styles that are too young for you.

I was interviewed by an Australian the other day about things I had witnessed in Second Life and ended up feeling as old as Methusalah, even though my avatar is only 4 years old... but it made me realise what a lot I have observed in my life, that my children will never know. Mundane things like the move from black and white television which only broadcast part of the day, to the introduction of colour television, the start of the terrestrial channels like Channels 4 and 5, the change from telephone boxes on every corner to mobile phones in every pocket, the rise of he ATM for cash, the credit card for purchases.

The beginning of the internet... when I started blogging in 1998, I could find fewer than 10 English bloggers, and hardly any English websites apart from the BBC - which took ages to load and quite often failed because too many people were trying to get to the same page. Things have developed so fast, there are millions of bloggers of all nationalities, some blogging to camera now.

Sometimes I think that people are recording so much noise that future generations will find it very difficult to pick out the important stuff from the dross... what will the sum of human experience tell us about when someone's twitter stream really does appear to measure out their life in coffee cups? How many people throw away their email and who keeps their MSN messages. What does the level of recording achieve, except to feed the need we have to make our mark, leave some sign that we passed by and breathed for a while.

I've been considering the nature of fame and the responsibility we all have to do our best with our lives, recently, because I have been looking at the history of Uxbridge Quaker meeting and at the things which it is interesting to learn about that. It is a recitation of the famous people who visited Uxbridge, George Fox, William Penn, Elizabeth Fry, Kathleen Lonsdale, but it is clear from the things which are written in journals and accounts that there were a huge number of other people who contributed to the life of the meeting, who are unknown and unsung, but may have worked more powerfully for the good of the meeting or their fellow Quakers than the ones who are celebrated and well known.

I don't think we are called to become rich or famous or celebrated, and that's beyond the most of us anyway, all we are called upon to do is our best to live the things we believe, within our sphere of influence. If you can do that successfully then I think that's cause to celebrate - it's much harder to do that job if you do it as a housewife or road sweeper, than it is if you are a celebrated author or doer of great good works.

Anyway, I'm fifty. I expect I shall adjust to that idea over time, but I don't agree to put away my ruffled skirts or hair dye just yet awhile.