I have been reading some books by Dr Martin Shaw on rites of passage and his ponderings on whether this is one of the problems with young people today.
I became 60 in May and, as I have mentioned before, feel like I have stepped into a new place, a new season. It feels like a very clear demarcation between my 50s and my 60s. I now own a bus pass which means I can travel anywhere in Wales for free on the bus. Ok so this does take longer but it is still a thing. And I have just bought a senior railcard which gives me 30% off journeys across the UK by train. I went to Brighton to see a friend and saved the cost of the railcard in that one journey. Very clear rites of passage.
When I was 18 I did not have any of those things. Yes I could legally drink alcohol, but I had been doing that for the previous three years so nothing much changed there. I did get to vote the day after my 18th birthday so that was a something. But very much else changed for me. Most of the things I could do after I was 18 I had been doing previously. So yes I can see why I didn’t feel any change at that age.
Then one just sort of potters on through birthdays with people either saying you are “x years old” or that new and, what I find infuriating thing, people saying you are “x years young”. To my mind that is stupid. I feel much more content in being 60 years old than in being 60 years young.
We went to see Ben Elton on stage before away before lockdown and he was talking about how one likes to say “I still feel like I’m 25” and he got his usual Ben Eltonesque irate about it, and I do agree with him. I don’t feel like I’m 25. At 25 I was insecure, scared, full of issues, doing many self-destructive things, trying to find out who I really was, and much more, but now at 60 I feel settled and secure. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I no longer beat myself up about being who I am. I like myself, which I didn’t when I was 25. I think I would be sad if I still felt 25, also because I’ve experienced another 35 years of life which has alter and changed me and my views.
I do think we need to bring back some rite of passage for younger people where we can release them into the big wide world. And I do think school which runs into university, with the much needed parental support, doesn’t help our young people be released into adulthood. But maybe we need more than a graduation ceremony. Maybe we do need a rite of passage.
But also let us acknowledge, rather than be ashamed, at the rites of passage that come with growing older – in my case the bus pass and railcard – and enjoy them.
No matter what age we are rites of passage as we age and grow are important.