I have, over the past few weeks, become evangelical about exercise. I downloaded a walking app and, while its preposterously gentle workouts and relentlessly upbeat messages of encouragement (“Great job!” the disembodied American voice enthuses after a mere five minutes of light jogging) were at first almost humiliating, I see they were part of a bigger plan. Three weeks after first using this app, I am stronger and fitter, healthier. I run around the park, gulping in big breaths of cut-grass-scented air, the setting sun turning the sky above me pink. I come home from my little jogs, sweating and panting. And then I do things like clean the kitchen or power through a list of admin. The exercise gives me more energy, not less.
It is amazing. I tell everyone I know about it. “Exercise – it’s great,” I say. “I thought exercise would make me more tired but actually it makes me less tired. It makes me calm and happy." And people smile politely. Because everyone already knows about the benefits of exercise; they are very well-documented.
When it comes to exercise, I am late to the party. I have come to realise the rewards of running actual decades after most of my peers. And, while I pride myself on being quick to spot a talent or a trend, there are, admittedly, lots of things I was late for. The Wire premiered in 2002, but it was only in 2017 that I began telling people about this must-watch show I’d discovered. Last year, when I saw – and was blown away by – Phantom Thread, I became obsessed with this director guy Paul Thomas Anderson. It turned out, Paul Thomas Anderson was pretty well-known...
The concept of precocious youthfulness is behind me, too. It is too late for me to be impressive just by virtue of my youth
But even when I’m not actually that late, there is often a sense – I think compounded by the internet and the industry in which I work – that I am late, that we all are late. Michelle Williams gives an interview to a magazine, but before I’ve had a chance to buy the magazine and go on a train journey or laze in the park on a Sunday or arrange some other magazine-reading opportunity, the interview has been dissected in dozens and dozens of websites, every quote parsed, every angle exhausted. It is a month before I actually read the Michelle Williams magazine article, and afterwards, when I mention it to colleagues, they look as though I’ve mentioned the moon landing or some other historical event. Yeah, that was ages ago, their eyes say.
For any of us who spend our days with one window of our internet browser constantly tuned into Twitter, the feeling of perpetual lateness looms. Before a TV show has actually aired, we’ve seen countless takes and thoughts on it; we know whether it’s problematic and we probably have a good idea about who the killer is and whether or not the romantic plotline is a little stalkerish. The constant chat means we feel slightly late before the show has even started.
Being 35 means there are lots of things for which I am late. There are whole worlds I can’t even understand (YouTube stars, Fortnite, cryptocurrencies), because I am fundamentally too late. I am too old, too late, to enjoy the romance of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson. I see the joy this celebrity news brings to people younger than me, but I cannot care, I am far too late.
The concept of precocious youthfulness is behind me, too. It is too late for me to be impressive just by virtue of my youth. I would have to win a Nobel prize for my age to be considered impressively youthful.
At 35, I must accept that I will be late to many parties. I will be late to road trips because, as yet, I cannot drive. If and when (hopefully when) I become a mother, I will be late. The doctors will write “advanced maternal age” in the file, underlining my tardiness. But it won’t matter, I don’t think, it won’t be any less sweet. It might be even sweeter. When I run around the streets and the parks near my house, giddy with endorphins, I don’t feel bad about being so late to exercise. I feel happy about discovering it, even belatedly. Being late to the party doesn’t make the party any less fun.