Is 60 really the new 40? Author Roisin Meaney has her say

Roisin Meaney at her home in Farranshore, Limerick. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

Turning 60 is undoubtedly moving on to part two of the adventure but Roisin Meaney is convinced she still has plenty more to offer as a writer and a person.

In September I will be coming face to face with what Ronan Collins politely calls a roundy birthday. 

Now, I’m no stranger to roundy birthdays, my spring chicken days being well behind me, but up to this I’ve laughed them off and moved on without any major trauma. 

Only a number, I tell myself – but for some reason, this particular number is giving me slightly more pause for thought, and I think I’ve figured out why. 

For the first time, as I blow out the candles (the many, many candles), I’ll know for certain that I have passed the halfway mark. 

You might argue that my last roundy birthday would have delivered that message loud and clear – how many people actually make it to a hundred? – but I’m convinced I will. 

I fully intend to be among the select few who collect that cheque from Áras an Uachtarán, and I mean to go on collecting it for as many years after that as I can possibly manage. 

That said, even I’m not optimistic enough to imagine that I’ll still be going strong, or going at all, at one hundred and twenty, so my sixtieth will definitely confirm that I’ve crested the hill, and moved on to part two of the adventure.

So what have I got to show for myself, after nearly six decades on this earth? Sadly, I can’t claim the maturity that generally comes with age and experience. 

On the contrary, I find myself making the same foolish mistakes as I remember making in my twenties and thirties and beyond. 

I still manage to put my foot in it with depressing regularity, due to my ongoing habit of speaking first and thinking later. 

I have yet to learn the art of making small talk in social situations with any degree of comfort or polish. 

I’m just as bad a judge of character as I always was, and every bit as impatient and impulsive as my twenty-year-old self – and I have yet to stick to a New Year’s resolution, or any kind of resolution, for longer than a week or so. 

If I could reclaim all my unused gym membership subscriptions, I need never earn another bean.

But guess what? I’ve also become far more accepting of my foibles. I recognise my limitations, and I’m OK with them. 

These days there’s no kicking myself, no wishing I wasn’t such a klutz. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve developed a soft spot for the klutz. 

She means well, there’s no badness in her. So what if she doesn’t get everything right? Who does?

And although I may lack maturity, I think I can safely claim to have picked up some stuff along the way. 

It may have taken me longer than others (it’s definitely taken me longer than others) but at this stage I’m reasonably confident of the following:

  • Life is not fair. Once this is accepted, it becomes easier.
  • There’s a lot more good than bad in the world: we just hear more about the bad.
  • Money is useful, but it never leads to lasting happiness.
  • Grudges give you ulcers: forgiveness heals.
  • Negative people are to be avoided, because they can’t be changed.
  • The benefit of the doubt should be employed with caution.
  • The power of kindness is vastly underestimated.
  • It is this last lesson, learnt slowly over the years, that has come to mean the most to me. 

    One of the wonderful things about kindness, I’ve discovered, is that it is infectious: do something kind for someone, and chances are, he or she will pass it on.

    Moreover, being kind, in however insignificant a way, makes you feel good too. 

    It’s not a self-congratulatory thing, just the quiet little glow that comes from doing something nice for someone, just because you could. 

    I’m convinced that kindness, if practiced widely enough, could change the world. 

    A friend and I manage Random Acts of Kindness Limerick, a Facebook page dedicated to promoting kindness. To date we have over eight thousand people interacting on the page. We shall overcome.

    I have regrets. Of course I have. I regret that I wasn’t kinder to someone before he died. 

    I regret not having children: I would have enjoyed being a mother, and I think I’d have made a fair stab at it. 

    I regret not drinking more water in my younger days: I suspect I’d have kept the wrinkles at bay for a little longer if I had. 

    I regret not starting to write until I was forty – who knows how many other books I might have created if I had? 

    Then again, if I’d started at twenty I might have burned out by fifty. I might be a raddled old has-been by now, instead of a writer at the pinnacle of her career. Ahem.

     Is 60 really the new 40? Author Roisin Meaney has her say

    So what’s next? Hopefully, I’ve inherited my parents’ genes: he’s 92 and she’s 90. 

    They’re independent, and mentally and physically sound, and still living in the house where we all grew up, so if I go the same way I have thirty good years ahead of me. 

    A lot can be done in thirty years. I’ve made a list.

    I want to learn to play the ukulele. A few years ago I came into possession of one – someone didn’t want it – and after trying and failing to master the piano and the guitar over the years, I feel I may have found my instrument. 

    I have a teacher lined up: watch this space.

    I want at least one of my books to be adapted for the big screen, or even the small screen. I’m not sure how to achieve this, apart from persistently nagging my poor agent. I’ll wear her down yet.

    I want to be better. I want to be a better daughter/sister/brother/aunt/friend. Much work needed.

    Most of all, I want to leave this world a kinder place than I found it. I’m doing my best there. I’ll keep trying.

    The Birthday Party by Roisin Meaney is published by Hachette Ireland in trade paperback, 28th June 2019, €13.99

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