Growing abundantly younger
Recently I read a quote by the British actor John Gielgud who, at the age of eighty-seven, said that he was growing older but also abundantly younger.
At first, I didn’t quite understand what he meant. How can you grow older and younger at the same time? But then I realised that as I get older the many layers of learned behaviour that have piled up over the years seem to steadily peel away. I no longer care about what’s expected of me, and it’s not so much the result of my endeavours that I’m interested in but the process of getting there.
I also noticed that I think of my early years a bit more often than I used to, not so much out of nostalgia but because I’m curious to know what I was like then.
I even went to look for the drawings I made in primary school that my stepmother sent me several years ago. When I received the package I merely glanced at its content before putting the drawings away in a plastic container together with old photos, letters and report cards.
I remember my youth as rather colorless, like an over-exposed photograph, but there was no sign of that washed-out quality in my childhood drawings. I drew knights dressed in blue and yellow armor riding white horses, orange medieval castles, bright green palm trees, skies filled with glowing stars and radiant pink and purple flowers.
At the time I was mesmerized by the many shades of the pencils I used for my drawings. There were at least seven yellow pencils, from the palest, reminding me of the biscuits we had with our tea, to a warm gold, like the setting sun.
It felt magical that when moistening the tip, the pencils could be used as watercolours. I wanted to physically connect with them, so I wetted them with my tongue instead of using water.
The smell of the box captivated me as much as the pencils themselves, with its heavy aroma of wood mixed with crayon and another scent I could not identify, a new fragrance that held the promise of adventure.
Last week, seeing a set just like my old pencils in a Barcelona shop window, I decided to treat myself. When I opened it, I was delighted to smell the familiar scent. It aroused in me the very same excitement as then, the thrill of a wide-open space with infinite possibilities to explore.
I’m very much looking forward to how I’ll feel in about twenty years’ time when I reach the age of Sir John Gielgud, to find out how abundantly young I have grown.