I was recently talking to a group of students about the differences between my teenage years and theirs. They were incredulous that I survived without the internet, a laptop or a mobile phone! I tried to explain that my teenage years were probably more fun without technology i.e. you actually spoke to friends instead of sending a text or tweeting, you went out and did stuff together that didn’t always involve a Mall or eating pizza – but I don’t think they believed me! One asked me whether I’d like to be a teenager again. I didn’t hesitate, definitely not!
In retrospect most of of us probably consider our teenage years to be e-a-s-y in comparison to what came next – the bumpy, exhausting, fast-paced, bill-laden road of modern day life. But really, would you want to go back to those years? Why go back to a time when no-one took you seriously; when you thought you knew everything when in fact you knew absolutely nothing about life or people; when the main topics of conversation with friends were boys, the latest pop stars and boys; when hours of homework seemed completely pointless; when arguments with parents were either about something insignificant or involved butting your head against an invisible barrier that you just couldn’t get past and, worst of all, when world events and the news were nothing compared to the latest school gossip.
On the plus side of course, all you had to do was to go school, come home to meals cooked by someone else; find your clothes washed, ironed and put in your wardrobe; get given money to spend (pocket money); meet up with friends at the weekend; lust after inappropriate boys; not really think about your future since it was so many years away and generally have no responsibilities at all! You didn’t even have to plan dentist appointments! Obviously not everyone was as lucky as that: some teenagers were full-time carers, others were in foster care or a state-run facility, yet others were neglected, abused or unloved. For some people their teens were not easy and probably a part of their lives they would rather forget.
But back to my tale. Obviously when I said NO to going back to my teenage years, my students asked what part of my life I would go back to. It was a difficult question to answer (and I didn’t) but, thinking about it if I had to choose it would probably be my twenties and forties. In my twenties I was free, single, as were most of my friends, so we went out a lot, travelled and had fun. I was at the beginning of my career so work didn’t really involve long hours or huge amounts of responsibility. At that time, the Internet was in its infancy and computers were by no means ubiquitous, so the process of work involved memos, mail deliveries, electric typewriters and frankly, a considered more personal approach. By my early forties all that had changed. My career was established, as was my home. I was used to new ways of working and had adapted to the crap that came with corporate life. No-one questioned your commitment and you knew how to make things work for you. Friendships now spanned decades and you shared a history of good and bad memories.
As for the years in between, well I think for a lot of people in my age group, the thirties were the hardest: kids arrived and were exhausting; careers were taking off and proving your mettle meant long hours and ‘playing the game’; you saw your friends less and less as the commitments of family and work took their toll. Gone were the days of all-night partying and hour-long phone conversations. At the same time, technology was changing at unbelievable rate and affected everything. I remember the first word processing package I used in my late twenties was by Phillips and involved learning loads of different keystrokes – drop-down menus, what were they? Then Microsoft, the Internet and digital technology arrived and the world changed before my eyes and with it, friendships and how you worked, played and communicated. For my students this is all ‘normal’ and though I definitely wouldn’t be without new technology, I sometimes miss the slower pace of life in my twenties. But life is all about change and adapting to it I guess. Isn’t it?
So, which part of your life would you like to re-visit? Did your thirties suck? Or do you never look back, only forward?
Categories: Just Plain Blog