This fella was very unfortunate. He was hunted to extinction. He now lives in the Natural History Museum London, partly as a lesson to us to not eat those birds in such great numbers, whoops they’ve all gone. They were apparently docile flightless birds who more or less sat there whilst ‘hunters’ despatched them. I’m saying he because I can only speak as a he and he looks like a he. Well I think he does. He most likely sat there watching two strange creatures approaching and before he could ask them politely their business, he was bumped off. Dead as a Dodo. There’s something very sad about those eyes. As if he knew his days were numbered but couldn’t do anything to prevent that.
Some days I wake up and I feel older. Not as old as him and certainly not stuffed and on display. But he is knocking on a bit. He probably never reached middle age. Mind you the alternative isn’t too appealing.
I can’t remember what it was like to be 20. Its further away now you see. Did I think, behave, act differently or have the years taught me something? I am reminded by some of how old I am. Some delight in telling me I’m past it. They have their own agendas of course. In truth I generally don’t see middle age as the descent to decrepitude. I lost my career too early. My close friends who remained in nursing have gone on to greater things although we all have experienced loss and hardship of some sort. They have careers though. I have had to reinvent myself (which at times doesn’t always feel like its going very well). I cannot blame anyone else only my lack of ambition. Early retirement is a curse in many ways. Yes its a new start but on the other hand it is a curse. No job, no status or identity that goes with a job, loss of respect. Respect is still associated with position, wealth, material accumulation.
Deciding to become a writer seems at times a foolish decision. There are thousands, tens of thousands of accomplished writers out there all chasing a very small and illusive market. We all want our work to be published and to earn money from it. Admittedly most of us also write because we have to because the alternative would eat us up. I enjoy writing enormously but it is frustrating and at times hugely disappointing.
It is hard to live with the feeling that you may have outlived your usefulness. Speaking from the male perspective, the prospect of becoming a grandfather does not reverse that. Grandfathers seem to have less status than Grandmothers, slightly more detached. Having a growing family prepares fathers for this. Teenagers often detach from their parents which is and how it has always been. It is a preparation for adulthood. It is hard to be an active father to teenage children as they often fail to see your relevance. Why do you need a father when you’re growing up and becoming independent? Mum can be a taxi, bank and the other roles often carried out by fathers. Maybe that’s why some men take up golf or mend things in sheds. I don’t play golf and my handiwork is rudimentary at best. To top that of course, I don’t have a proper job. If I was a published author bringing in handsome book advances then maybe it would be different.
I’ve said before that none of my children have ever read any of my work. I don’t expect that to change. I am past worrying about that. I am in truth not worried about being over 50. It has its advantages (apart from Saga Holidays) and I haven’t died early. If I died tomorrow would it still be regarded as a tragic waste of one so young? No, more like he was only 52. To a 20-year-old however, that must feel geriatric. I still have all my limbs, my eyesight, hearing, majority of internal organs ( although cancer treatment did remove a few) and my mental faculties. I only have a couple of years left on my mortgage and debts only equivalent of a very small insignificant African state. I look around at friends with successful careers, lovely houses, new cars, endless foreign holidays and I’m not the slightest bit envious. I am also a terrible liar as you may have gathered. Yes they all have worked for their wealth and good luck to them. They didn’t decide that they were going to be writers. Maybe if I had started writing at 20, I would have been a success now? Maybe I would have ditched it and got a safe steady job instead. I think I’ve got things arse about-face frankly but it’s too late to change that now.
I’m not really sure what conclusions I can reach from this rambling stream of consciousness other than it is easy to feel lost, empty, invisible, forgotten by the world. I am lucky to have a significant other who feels otherwise about me and I her. It isn’t easy being a middle-aged unsuccessful writer. I won’t stop being a middle aged writer until I’m too old to qualify as middle aged but hopefully by then the ‘unsuccessful’ bit will not apply!