Lesson 8: You’re Never Too Old to Start Something New

Or, more specifically in my case, you’re never too old to start rollerblading.

My friend Gabi and I are 27 and 31. After much persuading from her (I’m usually not the strap-wheels-to-your-feet-and-risk-accidentally-rolling-into-the-very-cold-river kind of person), today we took the metro to Decathlon and bought ourselves rollerblades.

We also, very sensibly, bought all of the kit that comes with a very-dangerous-activity (sarcasm (mostly)), including knee pads, elbow pads, hand-guards (is that what they’re called?) and, of course, matching pink helmets. It might sound a bit overkill, but you know I was all for it. (You don’t need three guesses to find out who fell over first.)

I’m realising as I’m writing that some themes are starting to appear more frequently in my columns: my age, being an immigrant, and writing. 

I wonder what that says about me?

I’m not quite at existential-crisis-level yet, but as 28 creeps up on me, I do find myself thinking more and more about my age, the 2.5 years I have left of “being in my twenties”, and what I’m going to do with them.

Sometimes when I’m thinking about starting something new, I think: nah, if I was going to do that, I should have done it when I was 20. I’m pretty good at casting those thoughts aside and just doing it anyway, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind.

If you ever find yourself having those thoughts, I urge you to cast them aside, too. I have a pretty strong feeling that, no matter your age, in five years time you’ll look back and wish you had started right now.

Starting something new is not just about the activity itself. It’s also about challenging this internal narrative that you missed the boat on something. Perceiving yourself as “too old” or “past-it” can be really bad for your self-esteem.

Age is All Relative, Baby

I’ve always been the youngest in my family. And then, when I was an adult, I always spent time with people a lot older than me. This wasn’t necessarily by choice, but because I went into full-time bar work straight after school, skipping university and learning how to Adult the hard way, under the guidance of thirty-something-year-old colleagues and much-older pub regulars.

I was always the young one, the small one, the one that other people took care of. Now that I’m a real adult (I know that sounds daft, but in my early twenties I definitely still acted like a teenager), I look after myself and a part of my identity has disappeared. 

I’m more responsible, I think things through before I do them, I stopped taking drugs and I actually get my five a day.

I’m not “the young and reckless one” anymore, and for me that’s a big change. I’m okay with it, and I’m very happy with my life. But it makes me very aware of the fact that I’m getting older and I’m never going to revisit those days of feeling completely invincible.

If I was rollerblading when I was twenty, the last thing I’d be thinking was “man, it’d be really inconvenient if I broke my ankle” but alas, here I am, seven years later.

Is There a Right Age to Start?

Sometimes, I wish I had started dancing when I was younger. I always loved dancing, and I tried to reconnect with ballet and tap as a teenager, but the bus schedule from my parents house was too unreliable and getting stranded in the city centre when it was dark, raining and 0 degrees was too big a match for 14-year-old me.

I know that if I’d started dancing younger I’d be able to spin faster, bend further, and progress more now. I also know that my life would be completely different.

Discovering dancing when I first moved to Lisbon completely changed my life, and I’m a big butterfly-effect kind of person, so I don’t ever really wish that I could turn back the clock. Risk changing where I am now? No way, not ever.

Anyway, there’s some food for thought if you’re having any kind of doubts or regrets.

Although twenty six is relatively young, it is very old to start dancing. It’s a bit like football. You can’t match someone who started playing when they were four by kicking a ball for the first time when you’re in your mid-twenties.

There’s also another element to this: You don’t have to be perfect at everything. I’m usually not the best dancer in the room, but that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it. I’m still obsessed with the music, I love moving my body, I’m spending time with my friends and I’m doing exercise. You can’t be the best at everything, and you don’t need to be, either.

But, back to my original point: If I discovered dancing today, and you asked me: “Do you wish you’d started a year and a half ago?”, of course I would say yes. 

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