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A fact of life for most, if we are lucky. We never give it much thought until we wake up one day and it dawns on us. I started seeing grey hairs on my head when I was about the age of sixteen but at the time it was exciting- we all couldn’t wait to grow up and do grown up things- there were several myths connected to early onset grey hairs, it means prosperity in my culture, and I remember spending many hours in front of the mirror counting them, at one point, I had ten and I prayed for more.
More right?! Oh to be young and so carefree.
Going grey can jolt your perspective into that endless sphere on wonder- Life. Did you do it right? Have you done it right? Are you doing it right? Marriage. Children. Partners. Career. Hopes and Dreams. Happiness. Have you been or done all these things? Have you been happy whilst doing all these things? Are you happy now? Where are you today? Is this where you thought you’d be? Want to be? Do you have any time to get there? Most of my friends are married with children, those who aren’t are engaged or in long term committed relationship, being around them, whilst not as trying as it can be, I cannot help but sometimes feel like the odd one out. I don’t have children, and I am not married.
This morning looking at my silver hairs (depending on the light sometimes its silver other times its light grey) in the mirror I suddenly found myself wondering if I would get to do those other things that society places so much weight on, things that they say we should set much store by. Things we see in others, but not ourselves. I stopped making to-do lists a long time ago, but when I was nineteen years old I had my whole life figured out down to the picket fence. I was meant to have one million dollars in the bank by my twenty-first birthday, (it felt like a billion back in the day), be married at twenty-six, and have two children by age thirty. Twenty-six? I was meant to have had my wild and sloppy days with my partner in crime, who was to become my life partner, from twenty-one to twenty-five. We’d break all the rules together and make up ours as we went along, at twenty-six he’d pop the question and we’d get married over a seven day ceremony with two hundred people in attendance. We’d travel the world for the first two years of marriage whilst holding down high rolling careers, and by twenty-eight I would have twin boys or triplets. (Listen I am a writer my imagination is as it should be). And you have to agree, it was a perfectly flawless plan, but life and plans mix together like water and oil. This plan almost was, except the million dollars, there once was my other with whom the twenty-one to twenty-five and twenty six almost was, but it felt like settling after the rose coloured sunglasses came off. As if I would always look back and wonder what could have been, question where I am, and be petrified of where I am going. Walking away was the right decision and that earned me a few grey strands.
They say if you want to make God laugh tell him all your plans. I am sure he got several good laughs on my account, growing up.
For a split second I toyed with the idea of dying my hair, as I wasted more time dissecting the new grey strands, but dismissed the thought, apart from the fact that I have painstakingly grown out my afro over five years and one lick of dye would make it all fall out, (a perpetual fear not supported by fact) dying my hair wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. I love to look my absolute best even when I am not feeling it, you might even call me vain, I own it, but this was another commitment to add to my tedious hair care routine. Oy. Grey hair is not a sign that one is shrivelled up and at death’s door, nor is it a limitation on your abilities, no matter your age- Harriette Thompson 92 years old is a marathon runner, Ida Keeling broke the record for 100 yard dash in 80 years, can out push-up just about any youngster, and she is 100 years old. Actually 101 years old. Virginia McLaurin is 106 years old and can still get down with the Obamas. Heads full of grey hair but living life with no limits. At a third their age I am yet to achieve anything remotely mirroring that. Heck waking up at 5am to run walk 30 minutes is a chore in itself what with life and work getting in the way.
My grey hairs take me back to my wild youth, clubbing all night, rolling into the exam hall in the morning after a wild cramming session, amped up on red bull and kicking all asses in my Law A-Levels, crazy fashion sense, sex… yes the sex; the good, the bad and the forgettable, cold pizza and cheap champagne drank from the bottle- actually I still do that and it makes me feel so grown up! and heels too high to make any sense. Today, things creek and crack if you don’t use them often enough, staying up until 5am just because is not the jam when you have to get into work at 9am, eating anything you want… my hips certainly don’t lie, and Sex all night? Sex more than a half hour, good luck with that… ha!
I look back at my life sometimes, and wonder how I got here, but my grey hairs remind me of the stories from years gone by. Growing. It is a fact of life, growing up or growing old is a choice we make. Growing means rolling with life and moving on. My mom always used to say to her mom, “you’re not old, you’re wise” when she would make fun of her old age before she passed away. Grey hairs bring with them wisdom and carry our stories as our crowing glories. Like the smile lines on our faces, wrinkles in our hands, grey hairs tell stories of where we have been, and are a testament to the life we have lived. It is our story. I have old hands, I always have, like my grandma’s and now that she is long gone, when I look down at them they remind me so much of her, of where I am from, the legacy before me. I am left handed as she was, and a writer- she wrote one of the most widely celebrated African children’s folktales- as I hope to be. This is my story and I am owning it, one hundred strands of grey hairs and all. Yes I counted them.
If 2016 has taught me anything its that life is mostly a game of shoots and ladders, you just never know from one moment to the next so hug your darlings and embrace your grey hairs.