There is no such thing as becoming ‘old’.

Hi, yes I’m still here (this introduction is becoming all too familiar), though I am rapidly drowning in a sea of past papers.

I once had an enlightening conversation with a stranger when waiting for a train, and I feel like now is the time that it is really relevant to speak about. Perhaps it was fate that I had forgotten my headphones for that particular journey, as I am not usually the type to speak to strangers on a station platform, as romantic as it may sound. Let me set the scene for you, it was a very early morning, and I was impatiently waiting for a train to take me to a talk about future careers, in London, and to be perfectly bleak with you, I wasn’t looking forward to it. ‘It was going to be like all the rest’, I thought, other eighteen year olds will come up to introduce themselves and bare their teeth at me in some sort of perverted grin, simply looking to rip my hopeful future prospects into pieces in their imagination to make themselves feel better about their own. I’ve done it before – smelt the competition in a room full of other adolescents, hoping that I’d never have to come across them again, because quite frankly, they’re all a hell of a lot better than me. The rain was pouring, my clothes felt uncomfortable, my hair just didn’t seem to sit right on my head, and all I could think about was whether my mascara was smudging. I wasn’t even thinking about the people around me.

In hindsight, it was clear that this day was going to be different. Well for a start, it is the only time I have ever witnessed chivalry at a train station; a man saw that I was stood next to the bench and offered me his seat, which I took, which is strange because thinking of it, I would usually say ‘Oh no thank you, I’m fine’, using the forced smile I give to customers at work when I’m holding a plate that is practically burning my entire hands off to convey ‘Please take the sodding plate from me before I Frisbee it across the table’.  Being exceptionally British, I had arrived at my platform in time for another train to arrive and depart before mine came to collect me, meaning that the chivalrous man had left, and there was only myself and a few others left on the platform, including a very elderly woman sat on the others side of the bench. I hardly even heard her when she spoke, mostly because the birds around me were fighting violently over a croissant crumb that somebody had dropped. I had to do a double-take at what the lady had said, though. It was one of those moments where you need to know for definite what the person had said, due to the danger of looking like a complete idiot by giving a random reply. The lady had said ‘Everybody looks at you the same when you get old’. I’ll admit, at first I was tempted to get up and move to another bench, which is completely awful of me, but I really wasn’t ready for a lecture like this, but there’s just something about people that really intrigues me, and my curiosity kept me firmly planted.

She continued without me having to ask her any sort of awkward question, and she went on to tell me that she hated the way when humans become older people look at you with such pity, as if you haven’t lived, and she had lived, she assured me. The thing she said that stuck with me most was that ‘there is no such thing as becoming ‘old”, and if you think about it, she was completely right. We describe fashion trends as ‘old’, or we may say that we have ‘old friends’, and in these cases it means to be in the past, to be gone, not to relevant any more. It is truly terrifying, to think that as soon as your skin creases, and your posture deteriorates that automatically you are described in this horrifying term. No wonder people say ‘Oh no, I’m getting old’ so often, and being described as ‘elderly’ doesn’t make it any better, it’s simply an adjective. It’s like describing somebody as ‘big’ rather than ‘fat’; we all know what it means. It made me realise, there is no deadline in life, no point at which you can stop doing the things you love, no time that you have to admit your expiry date, and so my impatient wait for the train was seriously minuscule in the big scheme of things. Your revision? It isn’t the end of the world. You have a whole life to lead, living your life never really stops unless you admit defeat.

So this stranger, who I never caught the name of, and who simply uttered a few sentences my way, really got me thinking. I’ll probably value the words of strangers more, instead of only viewing myself in public strangers.

I wanted to dedicate this blog post to Stephen Sutton, who very sadly passed in the early hours of the morning. Reading his story, and connecting the words spoke by the stranger I met made me realise that I don’t believe in comments such as ‘He hardly got to live his life’, because I believe he did. Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow, and I believe Stephen lived with this philosophy as much as he could, even having terminal cancer. He is one of those rare people in the world that are completely honest through and through, and even though I didn’t know him, I am so proud of his achievements. I think it’s a really beautiful thing to rise through your own personal tragedy to care more about the needs of others. Rest in peace, Stephen.

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