Do You Live Life Forwards or Backwards?

It occured to me recently that most people live their lives backwards. Not in the literal sense of course – none of us have a tardis I don’t think. But backwards in the sense that many of the highlights come early in life in the conventional sense.

Take young people – they are often passionate about some cause or other, trees, whales, snails…. they might even become involved in protests and affirmative action programs, as they are sure this cause needs their help to succeed. Young people are idealistic and passionate. And of course, they know everything.

They travel more and for longer than when they get older and in my country, New Zealand, young people often complete what we call “The Big OE” or “Overseas Experience.”

This where young kiwis (as people from NZ are called) leave school or university and travel overseas for maybe a year or two, carrying not much more than a back pack and a credit card. The traditional destination used to be Britain, where friends of friends were telephoned and asked if a kiwi could sleep on their couch for a few days until they find accomodation of their own. Permission was usually granted.

The new arrival proceeds to find accomodation, and a job and then saves sufficient money to travel around Europe for a few months before heading back to the UK to start the process all over again or to travel back to New Zealand. A long overland trip home is often part of the deal. I know many people who have followed this pattern.

Then after settling back in NZ, it’s time to establish a career, and start a family. Work hard to support the family and attempt to advance your career. Some call this “the treadmill.”

After a great career, you suddenly find out you are a grandparent and it is time to plan for retirement. You start to sell or give away items of no further use and look at “downsizing” your house, car, aunty’s piano etc….

And then it’s over.

Is this living life forwards or backwards?

As we get older, we realise we didn’t know as much as we thought we did when we were younger. As the saying goes, “youth is wasted on the young.” I think this sort of means that as an older person, all the things we think we should have done as a young person are now not really possible due to age. We have regrets. Our lives are now getting increasingly smaller and we look back fondly at “the good old days.”

So why don’t we live life going forwards – in other words, hold off travel and devotion to “causes” until later in life when we have more knowledge and life experience to draw on. In our early years, we should still work hard but invest wisely and create a solid platform for later in life when we have matured a bit and are able to get so much more from different cultural exchanges through travel. Maybe we can take the kids at that time too just before we set them free – a sort of parting gift of wisdom to them. If we have planned well our later years can be the most rewarding ever.

I have been to places in the world that meant nothing to me really when I whizzed through them as a younger person on the well worn tourist paths that millions of others were on with me. Then, later in life, I went to the same places and it meant so much more that second time around, when I had knowledge and a bit of experience under my belt. It was a far more rewarding experience later in life.

You might have guessed that this is a bit like my own story. I got established in life as soon as I started working, and even though I wasted my fair share of money on food and alcohol, I was always careful to spend only after things like large mortgage payments were made.

Now that I am in my 60’s my life is opening up more and more. I have been sort of retired for 15 years or so. I have lived in Asia for 7 years and experienced a broad range of cultures up close and personally, which is impossible to achieve when you’re on the tourist paths. My wife and I do not have children so that could be said to be an advantage, but I am sure we could have worked a family into this equation if we had both wanted and planned for this earlier.

So rather than my life getting slowly smaller in my golden years, it seems to me that my life is still expanding actually. I have recently picked up the skills to create my own web site and blog and enjoy the interactions with people around the globe.

With all these new experiences as I get older (“living forwards”) and by simply using the powers of observation and thought, I see a very different world out there today than the one I used to see, when I was living “backwards” – that is, in a corporate career, focussed on things at hand instead of things further afield.

Today I see a western world full of propaganda and dis-connection. This exists in the east I am sure but as I now live back in NZ I’ll leave those issues to them to sort out. One of the worst aspects I see of western culture and politics and large governments today is the constant interference in other people’s lives, either on a small scale or even an unasked for, fully blown military invasion. And resultant death and suffering.

It really is outrageous the behaviour of those who claim to be leaders of the free world.

Anyway, that is getting back to politics.

This “magazine style” page is meant to be politics free and a place to simply swap thoughts, stories and ideas about every day life and experiences.

Why not add yours?

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"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." Goethe

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