This is one of the sentences that I heard most often whilst making the new series Old Before My Time. On one hand I understand its meaning - there is no point in wasting our precious time on this great Earth by fretting and worrying. But on the other hand, I think it's an incredibly unhelpful modern statement. Yes we only live once, so surely it's worth looking after ourselves so we can make the most of it? If we only get one run at life, surely we want the longest and least sickly stint possible?!
A good friend of mine recently told me, after I questioned how much pot he consumed on a daily basis, that he was going to eat, drink and take whatever he wanted while he was still young as he didn't want to be "a wrinkly, unwell old man" and would happily "die once he'd had some fun". The problem with that logic is that:
a) the older you are the more you have to live for. Imagine finally retiring after decades of work and being too unwell to travel or play with your glorious, much adored grandchildren
b) I doubt you get to 70 and think "yup, that's enough for me, I might have a lovely wife and children and house but I'll check out here, I'm so glad I didn't look after myself"
c) by living to excess now, you pretty much guarantee that you will be an unwell pensioner
One of the best things about being young is the feeling of invincibility. At the ripe ol' age of 32 I can still remember that feeling. I'm now a mum of two and my sense of self-preservation has intensified. I imagine this is a fairly primitive response to being responsible for someone else' life. I am so much more interested in keeping my body going as long, and as well, as possible.
This wasn't always the case. When I was in my teens and twenties I smoked and drank as much as I could get my mitts on. Admittedly, this wasn't much (the days before you could buy online) but the intention and enthusiasm was definitely there. As long as we could swipe a bottle of Malibu from a parent's drinks cupboard and a half pack of cigs from someone's older sibling, we were set. The only reason I didn't eat with the same glee was down to a body consciousness that has been generally pretty vexing. But I suppose the silver lining is that it was one less assault on my body.
I remember aged 16 going to a talk at school given by an ex-alcoholic. They passionately talked about the dangers of drinking too much and, whilst it must have had some effect as I can still remember it now, I certainly didn't consciously decrease my drinking after that. When you're young, being given a lecture about moderation is about as boorrring as it comes.
So why make a series that investigates excess? Well, the intention was not to wag the finger of disapproval, nor tell people to stop partying - I am no party pooper. Rather, the intention was to provide information about what happens when you really, really push it to the limit. We all know that you shouldn't drink too much (snore) but how many of us really know what happens inside our bodies if we go bonkers with the booze? We know that drugs are bad, but how many of us actually know the physical effects of ketamine (one of the most popular party drugs at the moment)? And of course, chips everyday isn't going to keep the doctor away but why? What is actually going on?
By providing clear and, often extremely compelling, examples of the results of excess, the series hopes to allow people to make their own lifestyle decisions in a more informed way. After making this, no one on the production team suddenly became a vegan teetotaller but, for me at least, it has increased my awareness of what's going on inside my body.
I'm going to be giving birth in a few days and I am already excited about being able to go out on the razz. But now I can at least make decisions knowing the risks, rather than blindly getting stuck in and cursing the consequences later. And by doing that, I can potentially have my cake and eat it.
Cherry's new series Old Before My Time starts on Monday 21 October, BBC3 at 9pm
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