Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Youthful thinking

The depressing thing about getting older is that you'll never be young again. Yes, an obvious point (but bear with me). I look in the mirror every morning and I think, Rats - is that really me? What happened to my skin? Then I reach compulsively for my anti-ageing face cream...

The writer in a boat in New York
My glory days in NYC - boating in Central Park 
#MeAt20-ish
The other day, I was flipping through old photos and observing how youthful I used to be. But then it struck me: it's likely, when those snaps were taken, I'd already started worrying about my wrinkles. 

Which means, in a few years' time, I'll look back on any photos taken today and think, Wow, how young I was then! So you see, it's all a question of perspective.

It's fashionable these days to talk about growth mindsets (versus a fixed mindset). If you have a growth mindset, you go round thinking things like: I can learn to do anything I want or I like to try new things. Conversely, a fixed mindset means you get stuck in a bit of mental rut, muttering: I'm either good at it or I'm not... I'll stick to what I know.

We're back to that question of perspective. Or, to adapt the old adage, you're as young and proactive as you feel... In this spirit, I recently discovered that I could paint, in the decorative / house-improvement sense! For years, I've assumed I didn't have the requisite skills. The only detention I ever got at school was for not doing my art homework. Stick-people and two-dimensional houses were the limit of my artistic ability, hence (I told myself) I was not qualified to hold a paint-brush, even one from B&Q.


The study decorated in Farrow & Ball paint
Ta-dah! The newly decorated study
As our recent house renovation reached the end of phase one, I decided the art of painting walls didn't look as impenetrable as I'd once assumed. Following some research on YouTube and discussions with my 'handy' brother and dad, I ventured out to Gibbs & Dandy (pre-lockdown) to stock up on equipment. 

I started off slowly - finishing off bits and pieces in the bathrooms - before I worked up to decorating the entire study, including a monster of a bookcase. My husband and kids helped with the sanding and undercoating, but essentially it was my project. After three months, I have finally finished (walls, windows, woodwork, bookcase, built-in cupboard, threshold and door). I feel immensely proud of myself (as you can tell from the photos I've posted on Instagram). Best of all, I have a new skill, a new string to my bow.


Time-travel to #MeAt20


My next 'youthful-growth-mindset' project is in familiar territory. I've started a new novel that mines my experiences of living in New York during my twenties. Essential research has seen my poring over old photo albums and thinking myself back to those halcyon days. Writing about them - albeit in a fictional setting - is the only effective form of time-travel that I know of.

Finally, I happened to read a Times interview with Nicole Kidman's husband, the country music star, Keith Urban. He said something that chimed with my current youth obsession:
People give in to age too fast. I always think, 'If you didn't know how old you were, how old would you be?' I'm sure Mick Jagger doesn't feel like he's in his seventies...
Thank you, Keith. So there you are. Adopt the growth mindset, slap on your anti-ageing cream and go boogey like Mick Jagger. I bet Mick doesn't waste time muttering, I'm either good at it or I'm not. And - who knows - you might even learn a new skill.


You might also like to read:
Birthday lifecycle
Spring house makeover



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