A while ago I attended an introductory talk, kindly sponsored by my employers, as a precursor to a quit-smoking campaign. I know that it's bad for me and I can't stop on my own, so I went along to listen. The person addressing us was a sprightly retiree with 20 years' worth of quitting experience under his belt, and a skin as thick as a rhino.
He needed it. Having been consigned by someone disdainful to a noisy corner of the lunch-room, he opened his talk without even a chair or whiteboard. One of us arranged a chair for him and, after we were already well into the presentation, another disdainful somebody wheeled in a dirty whiteboard. To cap it all, she proceeded to clean a very narrow panel on the whiteboard – somehow implying that he'd only have a narrow amount to say.
He spoke, we listened, we interacted. And he explained how the programme worked, that we'd have assignments and we'd be thoroughly involved in the process of regaining freedom. At no point were we led to think that the appearance, personality, age or creed of the retiree before us would be the thing to loosen the choke-hold that nicotine has on us – the programme and our participation would be the thing.
I signed up, and immediately took myself outside for a cigarette to celebrate. Which is one of the things I'll be learning to do as we go along – how to argue, worry, eat, socialise, talk, think, write and celebrate without cigarettes. While lighting up, one of the disdainful people appeared on the balcony and a colleague asked if they'd be joining the programme. The answer: "No, I don't think he's right for our people….."!?
The truth is: at the core of myself, I feel the same even as I pass the milestones of each decade. The downside is mechanical wear-and-tear, but the upside is wisdom gained by pure experience. I only found out that heartbreak wouldn't kill me after I'd survived the first one. Similarly, I discovered that laugh-lines don't immediately render you hideous – it's the laughter that made you attractive to begin with.