Friday, 22 April 2011
How old is too old? It's a question that probably vexes us all in myriad circumstances once we hit our mid-30s. I'm not overwhelmed by melancholy just yet and indeed in many ways this is the perfect age - at 35 one is still young but old enough to sense that one has to seize the day. Nevertheless, I find myself looking back (calmly, so far) and considering missed opportunities.
I should have learned the guitar as a boy rather than the violin. I'd love to be able to pluck, pick and strum but I struggle to make any sense of a guitar when I find one in my hands. Still, while it would be great if I had known my way around an axe for years, it's hardly too late to take lessons. The same applies to foreign languages.
Sport is a cause for greater regret. A former professional footballer once offered to coach me and some friends. I was giddy with excitement at the idea, but for reasons that still rather pass my understanding, I failed to act on it. I regret that to this day, not least as I fear it may have seemed like a rejection of a real act of kindness. But I don't delude myself that I would have made the England team if only I'd grabbed that nettle. There aren't many Sunday League teams I would have made.
What I really regret is spending all of my twenties overweight and inactive. I would have benefited in multitudinous ways from playing rugby, say, or throwing the discus. But I was put off rugby by the boorishness and casual athletics doesn't seem to exist.
Then we come to those things which I do now but didn't do when I was younger. Foremost among those is stand-up comedy. I look at comedians my age and they've been performing for a decade-and-a-half. That's a lot of stage time, and stage time matters. (Similarly, although he still looks like a teenager, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day was 30 when Shenanigans was released the best part of ten years ago. Those guys have been around forever!)
But, and here's the rub, there was a reason that I didn't do stand-up then. I didn't think I'd be any good at it - and at the time I was right. What I have lost in stage time is compensated for by the fact that I didn't lose heart and quit.
We do miss opportunities, and that's a shame. The game isn't over yet though, and achievements and experiences are all the sweeter when you've waited a long time for them.