I am spending a few weeks evaluating my life. I am not thinking about my life to date, but from this point on.
When I was a child, adults never appeared to spend so much time evaluating things; they just got on with it. Most people I came into contact with were poor. Very few cars, almost no holidays. Foreign travel was a myth enjoyed by the wealthy middle-classes who kept their distance from us as we kept ours from them. It was a sort of entente cordial without the cordial. As council house dwellers we were seen as possible (probable) trouble. We could steal apples from gardens or pass on an unwanted colony of nits to those who came within shooting distance of us.
I never had nits, but at one point I was very good friends with the son of the school’s nit nurse. Perhaps that is why they chose to avoid me.
Anyway, I had no idea if middle-class adults ever considered the point of their existence because I never got the chance to partake in existential exchanges with them. I do know that both my parents never ever considered theirs. Life was something that happened during the hours of daylight (when you were no working). None of them ever talked about the past. None of them ever considered the future. But this lack of thought about their time here on earth was not a philosophical choice; it was just how it was.
Back then people died early.
Anybody in their fifties was knocking on death’s door whilst those in their sixties were living on borrowed time. And time had a habit of collecting things owed. There was a pragmatism that was shared by those older generations. The pragmatism was borne from an acceptance of the unfair nature of it all. An acceptance that it just had to be accepted.
I am part of the naval gazing generation that was born after the war.
I am a child of the sixties, so missed out on the bountiful ‘Baby Boomers’ boon. Teachers taught us how to think, appreciate each other, and to value life (everybody’s). We were also part of that world-wide western movement of the individual. We knew about ‘The Man’ and understood that our best work would be carried out by undermining his inherited authority. We moved on from potato-picking in northern England to the gathering of grapes in France. I moved on to a collective Kibbutz experience on the Lebanese border and a hitchhiker’s life through Europe.
Boy did we take all that ‘Kerouac’ stuff for real.
Not everybody thought this way, but a significant amount of people who came from my village and town did share this common bond of carefree existence. Many of them remain as ‘subsistence lifers’ who do not share the commodity-led conformism that their peers, who did ‘get-on’, seemed to have.
I think that that is generally true of my generation. We were ideologically divided, not just through politics but through general life approaches. Many of my contemporaries are now enjoying a fiscally worry-free retirement after having worked hard, saved moderately hard in a pension plan, and done hard labour attempting to avoid the facile lure of freedom of thought and identity. Things for them are now fine; assuming that life does not turn nasty and give them a premature death (what a waste of servitude). And yet, who am I to talk?
I happen to be me; a literary and poetic fuck-up who once enjoyed the benefits of a small Jesus-complex and now enjoys the prospects of my declining years spent in diminishing financial health and wellbeing. But I am not complaining.
No, it was me who decided to live life a little. It was me who decided to ignore the magnetic draw of career advancement. It was me who chose to try to uncover life for what it was and then to uncover myself for what I thought I was. At that point it became a little romantic, but life may not like a loafer. On the other hand, life may like living it on the edge, not letting risk cloud its vision, doing the dreaming thing. Who knows with life? Here today, gone tomorrow.
This far and a little further…
I thought I had given up. Just over a year ago, I had stripped myself of all of my ideological accruements, spiritual support, and remnants of hope, in order to start again. I was throwing myself naked into the wilderness, eating berries, seeds, grass, shit and humble pie. I knew that by doing this, I would become stronger again. I needed energy for my final attempt, my last push, my long-awaited GO. I was beaten, but I wouldn’t fall down. My will had taken shelter in the deepest recesses of my soul, and it was hurting.
Now I have licked my wounds, shaken off the once bloody scabs, and pushed myself back into the light.
Don’t get me wrong, there are somethings that startle me still, things that still make me me jump, but I am treading the earth as if I had never fallen beneath its steady march. I am not Colossus nor a Titan come to claim back what had been stolen.
I am just a man who has come to realise that we only have so much time left and that everything we do counts towards something.