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[personal profile] peterbirks
I spent my 30th birthday in a Chinese restaurant in Hastings, or somewhere on the coast. I spent my 40th in a two-rosette restaurant in France, and my 50th where I am now, in front of a computer in Lewisham. The computer has changed, but (at least for me) technology has changed less from 2005 to 2015 than it did from 1995 to 2005.
That's partly because many of the more recent advances have been for "computing on the go", so I notice the changes in modern computing more when I am at a poker table in Las Vegas, or perhaps when I am using my Smart TV, than I do when I am at my office desk.
When I reached 50, 40 seemed a long time ago, not least because my life changed a lot in those 10 years.
Writing today at the age of 60, 50 seems like only yesterday. Far less has changed. Except, of course, I have now retired. But that's a recent event -- its impact will be felt far more in the decade to come (should I live all of it -- for the first time I am entering a period where a sudden death sentence is far from an academic theory) than in the decade passed, and past.
Indeed, most of my 50s was spent simply preparing for the (I hope) two decades and a bit to come. All that I really did was all that I really aimed to do - accumulate enough money to retire. In fact I made more money (certainly in percentage terms) in the decade 1995 to 2005. The past decade has been building on the previous decade. In 1995 I was effectively penniless, and by 2005 I owned my own home without a mortgage.
Now I one home without a mortgage and another with a (relatively small, but in absolute terms rather large) mortgage. That's been less of a percentage gain because I've lowered my gearing significantly.
So, I think that time passes faster when fewer things happen, when there are fewer events of note, be they good or bad. I deliberatly entered a period of emotional flatness. I did not have an alcoholic drink in my 50s. I eliminated as many emotional highs and lows as I could. It's not a recipe for Facebook posts of overwhelming joy, but it also isn't a recipe for posts of unalterable despair. Mainly, I've managed it. These are penalties that you have to pay for past foolishness, but they are also the consequence of being emotionally risk-averse. A very wise poker player once observed to me that the area of emotion is the one area where men in particular are not risk-averse. They take extreme gambles because the failure to take those gambles has a consequence that their subconscious mind cannot tolerate. Sometimes those gambles pay off (those are the ones we hear about and see photos of on Facebook) while in other cases they do not -- and those are usually the cases we do not hear about, because those males end up in solitary lives with no-one to record the failure. And most of them are not willing to boast about it.
And in some cases you get exceptions, such as me, who reach a balance of solitude; a balance that irritates a few (because I am not playing the game that males are meant to play) and baffles others (because I enjoy my own company quite enough not to have to go out to meet people at weekends). I'm a paradox of gregariousness and a dislike of the social scene.
I can't say that it's great to reach 60; although, as the saying goes, it's better than the alternative. There are consequences of growing old that you can only let the young eventually find out for themselves. The consequences are physical, mental, and external.
This might seem a strange thing to say when the Labour Party has just elected a 66-year old to lead it, but those in their 60s and 70s who carry on working generally do so for one of two reasons; (a) they can't afford not to, or (b) they have no other life.
I can afford not to, and there are many many things that I want to do outside of my old work. There are so many books to read, films to see, musical pieces to learn. There's so much knowledge out there and, thanks to the Internet, much of that knowledge is now free.
The downside is that being one of the voluntarily idle poor "kicks you out" of your old places in society. One of the things which I didn't think would hit me, but which did, was that I no longer had a business card to give to people. To your friends, your position in the working world is irrelevant. But most people you know are not your friends -- they are acquaintances whom you know because of who you are. And when you met most new people (people who might perhaps become your friends one day) you were meeting them because of what position you held rather than who you were as a person.
Not hearing anymore from people who never stopped phoning you when you were an editor is, of course, no loss, and I don't miss it in the slightest. But it does require an adjustment. You have to find something new about yourself that goes beyond "I used to be....". I'm still getting the hang of that.
I'm still somewhat in the honeymoon period of loving my time being my own, not having to take any shit from anyone. I remain strongly committed to free enterprise, but what 20 years of working for larger companies revealed to me was that employees of large companies are nothing to do with free enterprise. Most of capitalism is nothing to do with profit-maximisation; it's about covering your arse and climbing the greasy pole of corporatism. That, obviously, didn't fit in with my personality at all, and I disliked most people who subscribed to it. The miracle therefore is the large number of people whom I met within "the system" of private enterprise with whom I am still friends, rather than the large number of corporatism devotees whom I will, with luck, never cross paths with again as long as I live (most CEOs of large companies fall firmly within the latter category, BTW).
For the next decade, paradoxes remain. I have long suffered a lack of imagination and ambition. "Getting out there" requires a phenomenal act of will on my part. It's for this reason that I tend to return to the same places again and again on holiday. I like the familiar; I dislike the unknown. But the risks of the unknown, the "what's the worst that can happen" need to be faced. OK, Rome might be a nice place full of shits, and Paphos might remind me a little bit too much of Manchester in exile, but I only found Nice by accident; I only discovered San Francisco because I was willing to fly 5000 miles to see a movie, and I only saw Arizona because my job took me there.
Other places like this exist, and I need to find them before my health gives out. As, inevitably, one day it will. I need to balance that with not going broke. And, indeed, I've played with the idea of just trying to make a bit more money over the next few years. That would certainly not be through writing and/or freelancing. I've had quite enough of dealing with companies -- going cap in hand with the "have you got any work, please?" is so far out of the window that it might actually be in the house over the road.
But, as I have told people many times, making money is quite easy if all that you want to do is make money. Part of the trick is to enjoy making money, rather than (which is how most people see it) enjoy getting the money so that you can spend it. The making of money has to be the game in itself, rather than just a means to an end.
Where else in 2015 to 2025? Who knows? My only takeaways from the first 60 years of my life (there won't be a second 60 years of my life) are that (a) nearly everything that people tell you is wrong and (b) you don't need to get it right first time. If you don't repeat your mistakes, you are ahead of 99% of the population.

On being 60

Date: 2015-09-16 11:31 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
So, here we are. At last some personal time (enjoying so much) and balancing finances and adventure urges whilst I can. Identifying hugely with what you have written Peter! Getting used to being thought of as "retired" but relishing some "me time". Enjoyed your post!


Date: 2015-09-17 09:15 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Belated happy returns Pete - enjoy your retirement - and I hope to continue to enjoy your writing. As lucid as ever! Cheers, Peter N.

About time too!

Date: 2015-09-17 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
A belated Happy Birthday, young Peter!

Many happy returns!

-- Aardvark

(For simplicity I am posting this via "Anonymous.")

Re: About time too!

Date: 2015-09-18 09:09 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] real_aardvark
Who the fuck are you?

May 2017

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