What Does It Feel Like to Be Old?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Stan Hayward, film, TV, and book writer:

I am the same age as Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood. In dog years that is really, really ancient.

I am shorter than either but heavier than both. I am not sure if that makes up for it.

I was once the captain of the school basketball team. But it was in the U.K., and we didn’t have pom-pom girls.

Here I am on the diving boat in Italy. The man with the beard was Reg Vallintine—once the British spearfishing champion, he later became an environmentalist and the head of the BSAC, the diving society. He could swim down more than 30 meters on one breath. I could only do 20 meters. One day, we found a Phoenician wreck near the harbor. It was more than 2,000 years old and at the time the oldest wreck ever found. They made a TV show about it.

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The man behind was the Italian called Valdivio who helped with the boat. He was always friendly. One day when getting the boat refueled, Reg noted he never paid for the gas. Valdivio said he didn’t need to because he owned the gas station. I later discovered he was a millionaire.

The girls come with the job.

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I once lived on a desert island called Zembra in North Africa. I taught scuba diving. I was twice nearly bitten by sharks and had a friend who was killed by a shark. This is me with one of my students in Tunisia who I taught to dive. Her name is Dominique. She spoke several languages and was a qualified pilot and a racing car driver. She learned quickly.

I went almost totally deaf in a diving accident, but I can hear well with hearing aids.

I once lived on a sheep farm in Australia. I slept in an old chicken hut. I learned to shoot rabbits for the sheep dogs. I was quite good.

I also dug ditches on the railway there. Later, I worked making cosmetics. I became allergic to scents and never went out with ladies who wore scents, as it made me sneeze. After making scents, I worked as a lab technician taking X-rays of clay minerals.

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Here is a picture of me as a lab technician.

Not a good picture, but taken in 1954 when the transistor was invented (I think). It introduced me to computers, as the laboratory got all the latest science manuals.

I once briefly lived in a penthouse in New York next door to Charlton Heston—but I never met him. I was working as a scriptwriter on Madison Avenue. I met a nice Jewish girl, and she explained about Jewish history to me.

I am on top of the Empire State Building in 1962, but we weren’t struck by lightning. While in New York, I went to the jazz clubs in Greenwich Village, and Miles Davis put his whiskey glass on my table. I momentarily believed in God. 

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I once acted as Superman in a French film in Paris; it was called Fantorro. I murdered a man, but it wasn’t real, and I didn’t have to practice on anyone.

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I was once a sailor doing my national service. I had an argument with the captain of the ship, and I jumped ship in Australia. I had a warrant out for my arrest for two years. I gave myself up, but the police said they knew anyway and let me stay. Me bottom right on a tanker.

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I once lived in Montreal. I tried to learn French, but people there don’t speak proper French (so my French friends tell me). But it didn’t matter, as everyone speaks American anyway (at least to me).

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Here is a French-Canadian girl talking to me in American. It was 1962 and my film had just won an award. French-Canadian girls like people who win awards. They also like other people. I don’t know what she is saying, but it looks like, “Forget it.”

I worked at the National Film Board of Canada and met Norman McLaren, who was a great hero of mine. I asked him if it was possible to hypnotize people using film. He had made some experimental films with spiraling circles changing colors. I added a soundtrack of a hypnotist. When we screened it, the audience quickly walked out as it made them seasick. A hypnotist told me it had affected their sense of balance.

I once lived on a tiny island called Giglio in Italy. The Italian word for ice cream is gelato. It is the best ice cream in the world. I used to know the word for ice cream in 11 different languages, but not Chinese, but I never went there anyway.

I once played in a band in New Zealand. The stage scenery fell on top of us while we were playing, but the leader shouted to us to keep playing. This is me playing in a band in Naples. The scenery didn’t fall down this time. That was good, as I was not insured.

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I once lived in a commune on a boat in London. The boat leaked when the tide came in if someone forgot to put the bilge plug in. When it leaked, the cats would sleep on my bunk, as it was the only dry place. We had nine cats.

I was once mugged at knife point, but I talked to the burglar and told him to take care of his daughter, then let him out of the house. He was caught a few days later. I wondered who will take care of his daughter.

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I once wanted to be a painter. I liked Op-Art, but everyone was doing it in the 1960s. Here are some of my paintings. I couldn’t afford nude models at the time, and the other girls thought I made them look like explosions. 

I was once in a car crash near Venice. The car was smashed up and turned upside down in a ditch full of water. It flooded over me, but I got out with a bruised knee. We were helped by a former Italian soldier. He told us he had been a prisoner of war caught by the Australians and had such a good time with them he wanted to go to Australia. The car driver was Australian. He is the one playing the clarinet in the band photo above. He is a very famous Dixieland player and still plays regularly, even though he’s nearly 90.

I once met a lady, and we had a daughter. But we parted. My daughter is beautiful (her mother was a beauty queen). She teaches history and plays with an all-girls band. I never played with an all-girls band, not even as a musician. Here is a picture of my daughter’s first birthday in 1982. 

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Her name is Maya. She lives in Australia. I saw the word Maya in an article where it said that Maya means a dream come true in the Indian language. But I think it really means an illusion. The second is closer.

I once worked with special needs children. I got an award for this and met the prime minister of the time, Tony Blair. We only met for two seconds, though. It was not my 15 minutes of fame promised by Andy Warhol. Perhaps the rest will come later. 

So, what does it feel like to be old?

It’s a bit like this, with a cat that has luminous eyes and sleeps on its back.

Courtesy of Stan Hayward

From time to time, something reminds you of the past. You remember things. Mostly nice things.

There is a tendency to reminisce, meander, and ramble when talking and writing about the past, and I wonder if anyone is listening, reading, or caring much.

But that is not feeling old; it’s more like wondering if there isn’t something better I could be doing.

There is of course, but I can’t be bothered. That’s it.

When you get old, you feel you can’t be bothered because most things don’t matter that much.

Or not as much as they used to.

Or not as much as they ever should have done.

I just wish I had known that then when I was younger.

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