THE BLOG

Age Is Just a Number, Do Not Let It Define You

19/07/2016 12:10 | Updated 19 July 2016

I rarely think about how old I am. Yet, for many, it is the first thing they notice about me.

I was 22 when I stood as the Conservative Party Parliamentary Candidate for the Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency. Standing as one of the youngest Parliamentary Candidates in the country during the 2015 General Election, I was met with a mixture of reactions.

Some praised me for having the courage to put myself up for public office at such a young age; others clapped me on the back for the effort, but then hinted I was too young to take on such a challenge; others insisted I needed to wait before pursuing such a career, some going as far as suggesting there should be a higher age limit on standing for Parliament.

I was accused, in tones of both admiration and scepticism, of having no normal life, no acceptance of my place in society and no consideration for the stereotypical things a young person does.

I am old enough to work full time, I am old enough to have a mortgage, I am old enough to pay my share of tax, I am old enough to have a family of my own. Yet, in some eyes, I was not old enough to have my say on those matters.

All of these reactions, while perhaps expected, struck me quite heavily.

Not because of what I was accused of. I have no problem in people thinking I 'have no life'. It is my life and I will live it how I feel called - in my case, by dedicating it to my local community.

What struck me was, for some people, the biggest factor that defined me during the General Election was not my politics, my experience nor my commitment to the local area...but my age.

My age. A number.

Why do we let age define ourselves so much?

It is one of the most commonly used clichés, but age really is just a number. Age does not necessarily reflect our ability, our experience or our knowledge.

During those moments when I am made to feel frustrated, patronised or incapable as a result of my youth, a good friend often quotes to me:

If you are good enough, you are old enough.

Queen Victoria came to the throne aged just 18. William Wilberforce, pioneer of the abolition of the slave trade and my personal hero, was 21 when he was first elected as a Member of Parliament. Mark Zuckerberg was 20 when he first launched Facebook.

If you are good enough, you are old enough.

Of course, this works both ways. You are never too young to run for your dreams, but neither are you ever too old to. If you have not yet started, why not start now? What is stopping you?

Winston Churchill was 66 when he first became Prime Minister, Our beloved Queen Elizabeth is now 90 and still continues to serve her country faithfully. Also, let us not forget Fauja Singh, the centenarian marathon runner.

What allows us to reach for our goals is passion, determination and a solid work ethic - mixed with an element of defiance. All things that are not limited by age.

If you are good enough, you are old enough.

As someone who is keen to encourage, inspire and help as many people as possible into politics, or whichever other path they feel called to, I regularly find myself reflecting on potential barriers people may face and how to overcome them. Many have often told me they find age is such a barrier.

I have said time and time again, the only barriers stopping you are the ones that you build yourself in your head. Age is one of those self-built barriers we tell ourselves is there, even though it is not.

On Easter Sunday this year, my Uncle who, until then, had been a fit and healthy man in his 40s, very suddenly passed away. What is of some comfort to us is knowing he had achieved his lifelong dream just that previous year. Imagine if he had waited even just a year longer to go for his dream, thinking he still had years ahead. He may never have actually got around to it.

Ever since that moment I have pledged to myself that I will no longer tolerate people telling me 'just wait, you have plenty of time' nor will I ever tell myself that. I will press on.

Today, promise yourself that you will look upon the barrier you have labelled 'age', smash through it and run forward in the race of your life.

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