When I am Old I Shall...

Shobana Vetrivel   |   January 19, 2015 


“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells…”
Warning by Jenny Joseph (read the whole poem)

When I first read this poem, I remembered all the times I picked up an outfit or accessory which caught my eye and reasoned myself out of buying it because I felt it didn't suit my age or personality. It was too bright or too loud or too sparkly and the list goes on. I wonder whose opinion rang too loud in my mind to kill the initial excitement or who defined age appropriate colours?

We live in a culture where people’s opinions and thoughts have a substantial influence on the way we dress, behave, speak, who we talk to, etc. Sometimes we place those limitations on ourselves and are too afraid to act on our dreams, passions or creativity.

At times we find ourselves stopping short of expressing who we really are because we feel we won’t be understood or accepted. Or because we are crossing socially accepted boundaries. Or because we think there is an acceptable time to do all that-- and it's not now.

I absolutely love the way Jenny Joseph describes the freedom old age brings to dress or act in a way which is usually frowned upon. There is a lot you can get away with just because you are old or even just because you are a child. Idiosyncrasies and eccentricity explained away because of a season of life.

I find myself experiencing that now in small ways. When I sit on a comfortable chair while everyone else is sitting on the floor or when I ask embarrassing questions and people question how I can be so direct or when I finally wear the bling that has lain hidden in my wardrobe. I usually follow it up with the tagline, “I’m old, so it’s totally fine” (usually I'm older than everyone else present).

More so, the underlying reason being that more and more people’s opinions don't matter much to me. It is a liberating experience and I am emboldened to take it up a notch and not just because I am getting older.

Too often, we are scared of what people might think if we express ourselves unreservedly. Too often, we pass up opportunities to live out our dreams and passions or serving God because we want to reach a level of success or achievement before we can allow ourselves to risk the time and energy.

Too often, we get caught up in building a future that we forget to enjoy the present. Unfortunately, time actually does wait for no man and life passes us by and we allow our dreams and passions to die a little every day.

This doesn’t mean that we give way to irresponsibility and indulge selfishly at the expense of others. A caution she clearly elucidates in the poem – paying the rent, being good examples to children, etc. We don’t throw responsibility out and cater to our whims and fancies.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes, reflecting on the fleeting and elusive nature of everything under the sun, states,

“There is nothing better for a person than he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy…” (Ecc. 2: 24- 26)

Amidst all the frustration, brokenness, seeming futility and meaninglessness of life, God enables us to enjoy his simple gifts.  Lifting us out of not merely pleasing ourselves but also our Creator. Enjoying the present creation, as we await the new creation.

So I encourage you to pursue the small joys and the joy of living out your dreams, passions and creativity unguarded. What you sometimes hold back from doing because you say to yourself “When I am________, I shall _____________”. So that people are not too shocked when you actually begin to do it!


Photo Credit: Simon Ingram via Flickr cc

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Shobana Vetrivel

Shobana Vetrivel enjoys the hustle and bustle of city life and the adventure of living in New Delhi. She has an educational background in social development and theology and has worked in both development and ministry settings. She currently works with Delhi School of Theology and is pursuing a PhD in Practical Theology. Books, travelling, theology, coffee and deep conversations are a few of her favourite things.  

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