“Am I envious of the young? Would I want to be young again? On the first count — not really, which surprises me. On the second — certainly not, if it meant a repeat performance. I would like to have back vigour and robust health, but that is not exactly envy. And, having known youth, I’m well aware that it has its own traumas, that it is no Elysian progress, that it can be a time of distress and disappointment, that it is exuberant and exciting, but it is no picnic. I don’t particularly want to go back there.
And in any case, I am someone else now. There are things I no longer want, things I no longer do, things that are now important. Writing survives, for me — so far, so far. Other pleasures — needs — do not.
This someone else, this alter ego who has arrived, is less adventurous, more risk-averse, costive with her time. Well — there is the matter of the spirit and the flesh, and that is the crux of it: the spirit is still game for experience, anything on offer, but the body most definitely is not, and unfortunately calls the shots. My mind seems to be holding out — so far, so far.
[I]t is of the varieties of myself that I am aware, seeing how today’s response to Browne links me to that Oxfordshire self, in mid-life, busy with children, but essentially the same person. The body may decline, may seem a dismal reflection of what went before, but the mind has a healthy continuity, and some kind of inbuilt fidelity to itself, a coherence over time. We learn, and experience; attitudes and opinions may change, but most people, it seems to me, retain an essential persona, a caste of mind, a trademark footprint. A poet’s voice will alter and develop, but young Wordsworth, Tennyson, Larkin are not essentially adrift from their later selves. There is this interesting accretion — the varieties of ourselves — and the puzzling thing in old age is to find yourself out there as the culmination of all these, knowing that they are you, but that you are also now this someone else.”
— Penelope Lively, 'So this is old age'