This week I did something VERY exciting. Well, very exciting in Jenny Stallard world. I went for a swim. But not just any old swim. This was at the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park. It’s only two tube stops from my flat, and with shame I admit I never got tickets for the Olympics. I didn’t even try! I can’t for the life of me ever explain this. Pure laziness, I think. That and feeling a bit unlike myself at the time (but we’ve done therapy, so onwards to swimming!).
I flipping love swimming, have done since I was very small. I know this because of the badges on my first proper swimsuit, which show that even when I could fit into the tiny costume they’re sewn onto, I wanted to just go, go, go through the water.
One of the most fun things for me when I was younger was swimming under water, going right to the bottom and totally being in my own little world, under the surface. And that’s just what I did this week at the giant Olympic pool. (Top Tip: want to feel slimmer while exercising? Go to a HUGE POOL. You will feel tiny).
At one end are two huge digital clocks, and as I fought off a cramp I kept looking at them and thinking ‘that’s what the OLYMPIANS saw when they were racing!!!!’
At the counter, I paid and had to ask: ‘Is the biggest pool open? The Olympic one?’
The assistant smiled and told me there were lots of signs to the pools.
When I got in, I went under one of the lane dividers and actually squeaked out loud like an oversized, overexcited mouse with goggles.
The point of writing about this is a little mixed. Not Little Mix, that’s the music one again, which I keep planning to write but then putting off. Next week, maybe. Or, ooh, when I’ve been to the gig I mention at the end. Yes, then.
So, first point about the pool thing: At 40 it is important, I think, to channel our inner child. To do things we love, have always loved, and embrace them like a child rather than as a big boring grown up.
When we were younger, not all of us wanted to get in the big pool. For some, swimming and sport were not so much fun. Same with museums, right?
Approaching a segue…
Second point: You see, one of the best things about being a grown up and nearly 40 is that things that were a bit naff or you didn’t want to do when you were younger can now be rather fun.
Like going to the Natural History Museum, to see an exhibition. Which I also did this week. I mean, who wanted to go to a museum when they were little?! I know, none of us.
When I was younger, there were four words that would instil mild horror in my brother and I on a Sunday morning: Grandma, Grandad, National, Trust.
Sorry Grandma and Grandad, no longer with us. The picnics were always very good, but we wanted to be out on our bikes not being shhhhh'd in Kipling’s old house.
These days I have friends with National Trust memberships, and kind of want to go and see country houses with them. And not just for the gift shops – well, partly for the gift shops. Ok, a lot for the gift shops.
But I get it, now, I get what the grown ups were on about when they’d say things like: ‘You’ll enjoy it once you’re in the water’, or ‘you’ll enjoy it once you’re playing the game’ or ‘But the museum is full of facts and interesting things’ and ‘This ticket cost a lot of money!’
And oh, how the museums are full of interesting things. Wildlife photography, and amazing fossils, and more than £5 allowance to spend in the gift shop. Which inevitably we often spend on kids, but hey, there’s no shame in that.
Although I did buy a print of a penguin last time I was at the Natural History Museum. £8! More than I’d have had on a school day out. Bonus!
Being nearly 40 means there is no shame in going to galleries, to museums, to adult-y things without permission. Like expensive gigs. When I was 15 I was denied the chance to get a ticket to a Guns n’ Roses gig. Now I don’t have to ask if I want a ticket to a big, loud rock concert. Or an ‘18’ film. Although, don’t you still feel odd going to an 18? Like it might be too much for you? I do…
Which leads me onto point three: following dreams is a ‘thing’ at 40, and I say go for it. But I think the mistake we can make is that they don’t have to be huge ones.
The swimming thing was a bit of a short-term dream – to get into that pool and swim where champions swam. I feel emotional thinking about it. It’s stuck with me all week.
And as for gigs, well it’s not Guns n’ Roses (thank goodness). The Boyfriend has bought us tickets to Green Day, who I’ve wanted to see in concert since I was 15 and won a tenner on the lottery and bought their album on CD in Our Price.
Those were the days. And now I shall channel my indie-grunge days and see them live.
So 40 is never too late to try and realise a dream, whether it’s a swim, or a gig, or a huge holiday, or a change of career.
It’s never too late to re-connect with something you loved when you were small. And it’s never too late to do something that would have made you grimace in your teens but now quite appeals. A GCSE, or learning to sew. Ooh, or sanding down a desk, as I did this week also - The Boyfriend built me a desk for this freelancing malarky. He's a practical soul like that (did I say that already?)
There I am sanding. who'd have ever thought!
And in the meantime, go forth to the museums and swimming pools, and loiter, and read the plaques holding facts and marvel at the giant clocks. Just bear in mind there might be some bored kids to try and step around. They’ll learn one day.