Lifetime Retrospective

On my FaceBook timeline I have several groups, including some for the area where I live, and also the area where I grew up. Reading those Wednesfield and Wolverhampton groups, they are mainly populated by people that grew up there, and still live there. They have spent their entire lives probably within 30 miles of where they were born, just as their ancestors did for hundreds of years previously.

I couldn’t help wondering if my life might have been better spent if I had remained in the area rather than moving around, and I also notice that their lives seem to revolve less around work than mine seems to.

One time, when I was laid off (AOL), they paid for some counseling courses to help find new jobs. I already had a job lined up, but decided to go anyway just to see if I could learn anything useful. One of the first group exercises was to sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. “Who are you” was the question. The circle answered, one by one. At the end, the counselor said, “Fine. Now lets do it again. Tell us who you are, but DO NOT tell us what jour job or trade is. I am not interested that you are a manager, a computer programmer etc. I want to know who YOU are.”

It was really very hard to answer. We are our jobs. But we shouldn’t be.

So, remembering this, I tried again to ask myself if my life had been better than if I had remained in the area where I was born, and had taken a more classic job, which may well have paid as much, or even more, and would have kept me with people I knew.

To answer this, I decided to forget about the jobs I have had, but to concentrate more on what have I done in my life. The list I drew up probably answers my question.

  • I have lived in three different countries, taking my family with me, and dropping off kids in each as we moved (England, France, USA).
  • I have learned French. (I learned American too, but most people don’t understand the distinction).
  • I have surveyed Paris from the top of the Eiffel tower.
  • I have stood on a bridge over the Seine, which was vibrating to the loud music played celebrating Bastille Day, having my teeth rattled by the explosions of the best fireworks display I have ever seen.
  • I have stood on the top of a mountain in Switzerland after midnight, seeing the entire mountain range lit by starlight, and the glow of the village thousands of feet below.
  • I have sledged down the above mountain, to the village with only stars to light my way.
  • I have crossed the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound.
  • I have been in a 747 as an engine blew up.
  • I have flown in a hot air balloon.
  • I have fired a machine gun.
  • I have walked on the deck and ridden on the lift of an aircraft carrier.
  • I have eaten BBQed sardines in Portugal.
  • I have visited the catacombs in Paris.
  • I have seen the Coliseum, and walked the same streets as Cesar.
  • I have explored lava tubes.
  • I have learned to dive.
    • I have seen “walking stick” eels 300′ down.
    • I have seen a 15′ white tipped shark cruise by me.
    • I have heard the whales sing.
    • I have had a giant sea turtle swim beside me.
    • I have seen a Moray eel too close for comfort.
  • I have walked on the black sands beach in Hawaii.
  • I have looked down into an erupting volcano from a helicopter.
  • I have walked on still hot lava, and stood as close as heat permits to flowing lava.
  • I have experienced a -40˚C Calgary winter.
  • I have experienced a 2 hour long day, with the Sun just kissing the horizon.
  • I have seen England change until it is no longer the country I grew up in.
  • I have stood at the base of the New York Twin Towers, looking up and wondering how much of a mess it would make if one fell down.
  • I have walked part-way down into the Grand Canyon (past the notice that says “Do not proceed beyond this point unless you have food and at least two gallons of water per person” — who would not, upon encountering such a sign?)
  • I have experienced the heat of the Arizona desert.
    • I have experienced being in a car in the Arizona desert, miles from a main road, with its wheels sunk into soft sand (I was not driving).
  • I have experienced the desolation of the Eastern Oregon high desert lava plains.
  • I have seen the desolation caused by the explosion of Mt. St. Helens.
  • I have been in a large earthquake in San Francisco.
  • I have seen the giant Redwood Trees.
  • I have been to a Beach Boys concert in California.
  • I have watched an auction where several billion dollars changed hands.
  • I have eaten live shellfish in Malta.
  • I have flown more than one million (physical) miles.
  • I have been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
  • I have held a (baby) alligator in the Everglades.
  • I have experienced Independence Day celebrations in Boston.

Many of these experiences have been related to, or as a result of my job. Many have not.

Do these sorts of experiences make for a “better” life? I don’t know, but looking back, I can hardly complain that my life has been boring.