There’s something about staring out to sea that slows one’s breathing, and no matter how rough the sea is, the mind calms, ideas stir, if you happen to be with someone, easy conversation flows. I was sitting on a bench yesterday, looking out to sea, friend beside me, take away coffees, scones in brown paper bag, and pronouncing on the sweep of life behind us, that still ahead of us. We noted the benefits of ageing, a more level-headed approach to all things emotional, being one – though neither of us were in any way regretful for the bumps we experienced along the road.
If I knew then what I know now, I admitted, I probably would have made all of the same mistakes anyway. I’d probably have done nothing differently, chosen the same path regardless, ended up right here, right now. It’s not as if I walk through life with aplomb these days, dressed in my suit of sagacity, is it? And look at everything I know now (which I say with irony), see these vats of wisdom I haul around, generously dispensing from to the young like a ladle from a punchbowl, and, as they sip, I watch their eyes glaze over in that unmistakable look of, ‘whatever.’ I was the same at their age, didn’t want to hear anyone’s thoughts on the matter, didn’t want your opinion on how to fix it. You wouldn’t understand me, I thought, because no one has ever felt this way before! And let’s not discount what young people do know: lots. Sure, much of it is useless and inane (how patronising) but everyone (even the young) has a sixth sense about decisions and choices, if we care to listen in to ourselves.
So, in that regard, I’m not sure age gives anyone the edge. What age does give you (me at any rate), is the knowledge that all these emotions and experiences, these triumphs and trials, these wins and losses, they’ve all been felt before: people have surrendered to them and beaten them, sat mired in them and then then pulled themselves up out of the pit. We are tiny little links on a massive ball and chain of humanity and all this angst we feel is nothing new. Nothing new. I’m glad I didn’t know that when I was young. It might have made my head explode.
All that just because I was looking out to sea.