I'm fifty-five years old although I act more like sixty-five. I could blame it on having a wife who's older than me but that's really got nothing to do with it; I've always looked, acted and felt older than I was. When I was thirteen there were bus conductors who'd insist I pay full fare when my friend, who had already left school, could still get on for half fare. Of course when I was thirteen there were still bus conductors on the buses and none of this exact fare malarkey.
If you'd asked me where I expected to be in five years when I was thirteen it would have been a much harder question to answer. Eighteen seemed such a long way away but what I was hoping for was a degree of freedom and independence. As it happens that's what I got, albeit one month shy of my nineteenth birthday which is when I married my first wife. Five years later she'd left me so any guesses I would have made at eighteen would have been completely wrong. I thought we'd grow old together. So wrong. So wrong.
My point is that a lot can happen in five years. When I look back on my life I can pretty much break it up into five to seven year chunks. Seven years ago I was in a job that was killing me and I didn't know if I was coming or going or if indeed I'd been and gone. I couldn’t see any farther than the following week. Had you said to me back then, “Jim, in five years’ time, in fact in a few a months’ time, you won’t need to work here and all life will ask of you (and even then only if you can be bothered) will be to sit on your arse and read and write all the livelong day,” I’d’ve grabbed a hold of you and sobbed on your shoulder until I’d no tears left to shed.
I marvel at people who've lived in the same place with the same people doing the same job they did when they left school for twenty, thirty, forty years. Something has always come along in my life to compel me to move on and that's usually meant going back to square one and starting again. And I know there's something Sisyphean about that but with me it was always a different rock or a different hill, often both.
Now as far as twenty years goes… Both my parents died in their mid-seventies so I'm aiming for seventy-five meself and anything after that's gravy. Realising—or at least believing—I was in the third act of my life (it’s a sobering thought) I became acutely aware of how valuable time was. According to the BBC:
Middle age starts much later than previously thought—at the age of 55, research suggests. And Britons do not see themselves as elderly until they are nudging 70, the survey of 1,000 UK adults aged 50-plus for the Love to Learn online learning website says, “Previous studies have pinpointed the start of middle age as early as 36.”
Horace had it right: Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero--“Seize the day, putting as little trust as possible in the future.” I take life one day at a time. The furthest ahead I'm planning anything is about five minutes from now when I hope to have a cup of coffee in my hand and maybe a cookie. To hell with five years. We could all be dead in five years.