It would be great. Just think of the mistakes you could avoid. All those ‘If only I’d…’ moments that you could correct. Friendships that you could forge deeper. Time that you wouldn’t waste on the things that don’t matter. The focus you could really give to the important stuff: family, love, friendship and fun.
I don’t mean living life backwards in a ‘Back To The Future’ film way, where you’d know every sporting result that had ever happened – where really would be the fun in that? Uncertainty is what makes sport so exciting.
Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards. So with age comes experience and wisdom to help yourself or help others to live differently, get more things right, be happier and healthier.
As scientists now believe that one person born this year will probably live to be 150, that would be a lot of life experience to look back on.
Warts and all
I’m comfortable in my own skin, warts and all – and I have no wish to change, even if I could. So it seems reasonable to accept others for who they are too.
When I was young, my dad always seemed to me to be a fierce manager with a short fuse. But later in life he was usually affable, humble and patient. I remember thinking that his former work colleagues must have found it hard to recognise the mellow picture that I painted of him when I wrote his eulogy after he had passed away.
As I’ve got older, I found it easier to accept diametrically opposing views to mine with interest and with a smile – without it leading to a full blown discussion – or even worse: an argument. So I don’t try to change them – I accept them for who they are.
All of which reminds me of the story of the young woman who marries a man, but thinks ‘I’ll just need to change a few things and it’ll be perfect… I’ll end those annoying little habits of his, stop him doing this and that… change him a bit’. Then after 5 years when she’s made those changes, she realises that ‘He’s not the man I married!’
History with hindsight
Living life backwards would make taking exams so much easier. I often thought that my answers to history questions would be very different if I had taken them aged 30, rather than 18. Why? Well, I would have experience of life and knowledge of world events – which both make it easier to understand people’s motivations.
Celebrate your milestones or just ignore them completely?
My wife is 38. Actually she’s been saying that she’s 38 for at least the last decade. So I say that she’s 38 plus VAT! Some people want to mark the milestone. Others treat birthdays, even a significant birthday as just another day. If you’re one of the latter, remember that if a dinner or surprise party has been organised for you, then in some ways it’s for other people – your friends and family want to celebrate your day, showing their love and affection for you.
Whatever you might have done if you had lived your life backwards, it’s perhaps best described by Woody Allen:
“In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap and larger quarters every day!”