By Debbie Ogunjobi
A life goes through many phases, we grow from the time we are born and pass through many things. Through the course of our life’s journey we evolve with the passage of time becoming different things to different people.
Our personalities change from time to time and we adapt as a direct result of our experiences to whatever reality confronts us. Around this time every year; its customary for me to take stock of my life and my experiences and surmise my existence; ponder my journey, take a look back and move forward.
In a couple of days I turn 43, when I was young that seemed so old. I am at that age where nothing is a big deal; its the time of life where one settles into reality and accept what cant be changed with peace rather than rage.
At a graduation lunch abroad a few weeks ago, I had been fascinated by the beautiful young ladies at my table. I was amused at their shock when they discovered I was a few decades older than them and while I give thanks to God for aesthetics, good genes and a life time of healthy habits; I was quick to impress upon them that life gets better when we get older.
In my opinion, at least based on my four decades of existence; we go through life in ages determined by the decade. The first 10 years of life I would call the age of innocence. It is that time when our lives are run by limited information and very little wisdom. Most of us are innocent in our first decade because we don’t have a first hand experience of the real issues, the changes that occur are gentle and fun.
We don’t remember pain, we barely keep malice and our fun is determined by our intake of food and play. I look at my children’s simplistic attitude to life and marvel at their naïveté; in an adult their attitude would be classed as stupidity but children get away with it because we know they are true, they have not perfected guile, their lies and mishaps are based on nothing but innocence.
The age of ignorance begins at puberty. I don’t think anyone is ever fully prepared for the onslaught of changes that come with this age. For girls, the changes are invasive and pervasive and from what I am seeing with the children, boys don’t fare much better.
The changes to one’s body alone is directly responsible for the precociousness that scare parents silly. The body primes itself for recreation and reproduction and it doesn’t help that hormones are running riot making common sense very uncommon. Its also the age of awareness; its that period when we speak just to be heard, we rebel just to feel powerful and we defy just to assert authority we don’t have.
I remember my teenage years very well and I would even go further to class it as the age of resentment. Resentment as a result of the tight controls parents and authority figures have to enforce to keep us safe. The funny thing is that most teenagers think they know it all; their parents are old fashioned and not current; that mind set is what makes them ignorant. Would I do it again, live life as a teenager? Oh no, not for all the tea in china.
The next decade I would call the age of expectation. It is a decade laden with expectation and obligation. For some reason people in their twenties are in much of a hurry than anyone else and who can blame them?
If things work according to plan, education is done in this decade and it becomes a matter of urgency to settle down; its a lot worse for the women. For the men, the right job and steady progress in their chosen profession can influence their choice of life partners but they are also not immune from the expectation to settle down.
I felt like I was being judged for my choices in my twenties and I almost crumbled under the weight of expectations. Being passionate about my career meant I was always criticised for being over independent. Apparently success drives away suitors and while that may not be politically correct; it was a view held by the older members of my family.
I would say the third decade would be the age of desperation. The thirties for most people is almost as bad as the teenage years. There are so many changes and adaptations in store that the personality of all but a very few is split. Some of us get married and start a family and become acquainted with a new world of responsibility. There are demands from spouses, children, friends family and work and it seems everyone is jostling for our time. Money is never enough and for most marriages; it’s the time emotional or full blown affairs happen.
Those who are single are desperate because they feel left behind; they don’t fit in with friends anymore because they don’t have the same interests; it can be a very emotionally turbulent and even lonely time. this is when most people settle for bad partners just so they can marry and have children.
It takes a special grace to navigate the thirties, to settle into responsibility and embrace its changes but its worth all the trouble as the foundations laid often turn out well eventually.
I wont claim to know all about the fourth decade as I am only 3 years into it. From where I stand i would call it the age of acceptance. Its an easier decade as the mind set of a forty year old is more forgiving, more accepting. Its the time to accept that you cant be everything to everybody, not everyone will like me and thats fine. Its the time to embrace all I am and forgive all I am not.
I told the young ladies one truth about this age and it is this. After forty you and accept who you are; your mind is not running riot trying to conform to expectation. Its the time to walk away from arguments and enjoy peace, its the time to choose to be happy rather than prove a point and be right. Its the age to start living, to accept that life just began…