Growing Old?


“How old are you?” is a typical question that’s asked by many of my students. With the whole emphasis on student participation, I usually reply with “how old do you think?”. A big mistake. After gesturing “lower, much lower” for an extended period of time, it quickly dawns on me that no one has said a number below thirty-five. I feign frustration which gets a laugh. But do I really look that old? Am I not the epitome of the modern twenty-something year old?

Of course after thirty minutes someone eventually gets it correct, by which time the school bell rings and the class ends.  “Yes. I’m twenty-five years old” I say, and a barrage of comments like “really!” and “that’s a lie!” are hurled from around the class. I continue to feign shock and horror, which continues to get a laugh. The real kicker is that my teachers and people outside of my job often appear surprised to find out my real age. I’ll admit that physically, my appearance doesn’t exactly screams youth or good-looks, except for my beard (yeah!). My pudgy exterior, slowly receding hair-line, the first signs of grey hairs, and my weight continuously fluctuates, contradict a relatively active lifestyle. Just two months ago I successfully climbed to the top of Mt.Fuji. My image is not a huge concern of mine. I’ve never really cared about how I look, never straying away the beard, medium length hair, jeans, t-shirt and a jacket. I could care less about fashion. Shopping for clothes was more a case of comfort rather than appearing in an issue of GQ. I’ve always been more of a judge character and personality rather than looks.

Maybe it’s not entirely a physical observation but also a mental one. I’m frequently told by co-workers, family and friends that I’m mature for my age. My daily conversations with friends back at university would be about films, T.V, music, games and stupid crap that we found funny. Now, they’re more about the English language, education, politics and other intuitive thoughts (I think). My manner of speaking has changed dramatically. My grandparents frequently comment on how my Yorkshire accent has weakened, and my speech has become more deliberate and measured.

I feel that my thoughts have changed also changed. The sense of independence and responsibility required to live and work in Japan has forced me to focus on being an adult. I’m thinking about my future, career, money, and health with much more mindfulness. The constant profanity still rears its head when talking with my brother or friends, or when I’m annoyed. But it has subsided in general, primarily because of my current employment, I can’t really be swearing at the students though sometimes it feels deserved.  And while this blog was created as a space for me to rant and critique things in my life, it’s evident that I’m still holding onto my cynical way of thinking and conceding to negative thoughts too often.

Maybe it’s a trait of people from the Asian Continent, in that they find it hard to guess a person’s age. My mother often says that its true about Japanese people. About 10 years ago, my father, brother and I arrived at Nagoya Airport, and a Japanese “Custom Declaration” officer asked “Are these your grandchildren?” to my father. He wasn’t amused. But do I care about growing old and the thought of my elderly, wrinkly self? No, not really. But I sometimes find it interesting to hear what people think about it. In the end, it’s an inevitability that people try to prevent, but ultimately fail in a pile of expensive surgery, and a toxic slurry of anti-ageing cream. And I have no intension of doing any of that. So for now, I’ll gracefully accept the “mature for your age” remarks, and just go with it.