I get reminders about my age on a regular basis. It seems that once you are in your thirties that age takes on an importance it never previously had. The fact that my office appears to be split between people in their late 40s and above and people in their early-mid 20s with me smack bang in the middle means that I’m consciously aware that I’m transitioning from the young person I want to think I am into the next phase of my life.
Technically, I’m well past middle aged as both my dad and my uncle passed away at 53. Following that logic, it’s no wonder I feel old sometimes (especially after footy training).
Recently, I was down in Margaret River for their Readers and Writers Festival. While there I stayed at a backpackers and on the second night there was a conversation between a couple of blokes who were saying that one of the girls appeared interested in one of them until she found out his age (28) at which point she moved on to his friend (22). It was another reminder that, for the age group I find myself surrounded by regularly, I’m now at a point in my life where my age makes me less attractive – thank goodness my wife snared me before I reached this point.
I used to consider myself ruggedly handsome. You know, like Wolverine. Admittedly I was never in Hugh Jackman’s league but my mum made a point of telling me once, “you know you’re not ugly, right?” I’ve also got a mate who says I’m aging gracefully (despite the grey that dominates my chin whenever I grow facial hair). Point is, I’m not hideous.
The only reason I mention this really is because age and beauty seem to walk hand-in-hand. If this wasn’t the case then our TV screens and magazines wouldn’t be dominated by advertisements for anti-aging creams and hair replacement treatments.
Anyway, I don’t feel old. Working alongside 20-somethings and dealing with teenagers gives me an energy reminiscent of my own youth. I’m a brat at work, a pest. I annoy people on a regular basis. Sometimes I cross the line because I get carried away in my own fun and forget about how other people might react. In the classroom the story isn’t much different. I’m a better teacher when I’m enjoying myself but I know I have to be more aware of my responsibilities as a role model. It’s great to have a laugh but it’s important to know that some things will offend others and I have to filter things before they leave my mouth. Often jokes or conversations appear fine in their context but when they are reported back you can’t help but cringe.
That doesn’t mean I tone down who I am. I can’t be a classroom Nazi, barking orders at the front of the room. It’s not in my genetic makeup.
Last week I rapped along to students tapping their pens (my improvised lyrics essentially telling them that they’d get detention if they kept tapping). I’ve worn costumes (mostly dresses, although one time I got to be Spider-man) and I’ve even danced in front of a whole school assembly.
I’m also the first one to admit that I’ve gotten carried away on occasion and I know that the teachers I wish I could be don’t muck around like I do. I’ll never escape the fact that I’m me. I was never a great student and I’ll probably never be an excellent teacher but I know I do a good job – I’ve had enough comments from ex-students to know that I’ve made a difference for a number of them.
I don’t know how long it can last. I don’t know what stage of my career it’ll be when I go from funny to creepy, from eccentric to bat-shit crazy. In the meantime, I’ll continue to siphon the essence from my younger colleagues like some kind of psychic vampire and use that to maintain my energy in the classroom.
Or something like that…