Wow. Do I love this picture:
Freddie and KP, just 27 and 25 years old, respectively, KP just having made his Test debut two months earlier, posing in front of 10 Downing St. in a pair of ill fitting suits like two school boys who had just pulled a prank on their prep school headmaster.
Which, of course, they were.
The two of them — along with their England teammates — had pulled a prank on the whole cricketing world: beating Australia, winning the Ashes, and making England care about cricket again. They did it with substance and they did it with style. You look at that picture and you see youth, and ego, and that sense of invincibility that those two things combine to create. Bad luck injuries and controversies and the IPL and a short lived boxing career and Peter Moores were but glints in their eyes. The whole world spread out before them, nothing was impossible.
And that’s how we all are at that age, more or less. When you’re 25, even if you haven’t just won the Ashes, you still feel like you could take on the world. Aging and death are deep in the distance, and are barely concerns. You can drink all night and get to work in the morning. You can play soccer and take a hard tackle and not hobble around for days afterward. You can take risks — in work, in love, in whatever — because you don’t see consequences, you only see reward.
But you also feel like you are pulling off a prank on everyone. You are just faking it while everyone else around you has adulthood and life all figured out. You are wary of the future and scared of all that you don’t know. Time is moving fast, and the fear of life just passing you by while you try to figure out how to simply be alive and exist and be happy without the safety net of home.
One of those feelings goes away, the other never does. We are spend our whole lives feeling like we are going to be found out at any minute, that everyone will learn that we just frauds who are just faking their way through life. Meanwhile, we simultaneously lose our sense of immortality, our belief that we can do just about anything we set our minds to. It’s hard combination.
In the picture, you can see both. Flintoff, the elder statesman, who’s been playing Test cricket for seven years, who’s distant, serious stare speaks not of pranks or immortality, but of world weariness, of fear of creaky knees. While KP has the look of a total chancer, in love with the world that he is king of.
It’s the Yin and the Yang of life, of aging, of existence. And the key is to try to be both. To be humble in our fears, but to also remember that life is really damn short, and to live a life without a constant fear of consequences, to instead concentrate on its rewards. To be KP, and to be Freddie. To live in the present, to not worry so much about the future while still keeping a close on what’s to come, and to remember that we are all — every single one of us — just faking it, every single day.