Letting the Future Control the Present - The Time Is Now!
I've spent a lot of time lately being very present, immersed in the here and now.
Living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, a rather beautiful nowhere, certainly helps. Our goal at the moment is to gain our 2nd year visa days and so we are just making the most of our little temporary homestead.
*UPDATE: We got our visa's and then went on to work on Fraser Island!*
It's a bit of contrast to 3 years ago. Back in England I was working at a bank. I hated my job, there wasn't really a thing I liked about it. Maybe the hot chocolate machine wasn't so bad.
I remember receiving details about my pension scheme in the post, and it felt like a big scary sad joke. I had one of those 'Is this it?' moments.
Plenty of people my age are in stable fulfilling jobs, and are thinking about, or already have, invested in buying a home. A part of me always wanted to be able to buy my own home, forever watching 'Grand Designs' and 'Homes under the Hammer'. Then since my mind started changing a bit over the past year, I thought about it differently. It occurred to me, the notion of 'investing' money in a home, and the commitment associated with that, is quite a frightening prospect.
We work hard, save up, and then take the plunge, assuming one day that we will see a return on this investment, basing this hope on the assumption of a future. Morbid I know. But nonetheless we make this big commitment in the hope that in the future, this thing will work out exactly as we want and need it to at that given moment, even though the world will be a very different place. We make huge sacrifices now, towards a future based on very little or accurate foresight.
There is a lot of sense in planning for the future – but is there sense in giving the entirety of your best years to the preparation for it? Maybe that's why I don't regret walking away from my own business, and from that path of heading toward owning a home.
That doesn't mean I have dismissed the notion entirely. If I can forge a career I love, a career that enables me to save or contemplate a mortgage or another financial commitment, then maybe it will make sense for me then.
But travel is my foremost priority, living for the whim and spontaneity it brings. But back when I was working at the bank, I was driven toward planning for the future. I was to go through with a set of motions to reach certain outcomes in my old age. A sense of predictability, even comfort, can be found in that. Most people centre their job choices or even select a certain career purely because of how it will work for their distant future.
As someone who has worked since the age of 16, and feared unemployment like the plague, to find myself removing that concern from my mind, well it feels like a mid-20's rebellion. I am resisting something which is sensible and pragmatic, something which works for plenty of people.
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What got me considering all this?
I saw an item on the Australian news the other night, about a retirement community with a difference, 'co-housing' it's called. Residents live together in a semi-independent, semi-communal fashion; they cook together, socialize, share some of their living space and amenities. So it's basically university halls of residence without the sambuca and bed-hopping (as far as I know).
In the news report, the retired people, lithe couples in their mid 60's to 70's, all looked super healthy and very relaxed. And I thought it looked great. They were doing yoga for god-sake. And then I remember the way some older people live back in England. Confined to small but perfectly fine flats within special units.
I have older relatives who have suffered from depression and felt lost. Many were living alone, with their husbands or wives long gone, they're children forging ahead with their lives. In theory they have the time, the funds and the ability to enjoy life and yet they can't. There most mobile years where freedom was possible are simply past them.
Many of them are suffering numerous health issues, issues that prevent them enjoying any financial freedom they might have obtained through years of hard work. Essentially, the end result of the game of life isn't always great. Its sometimes mundane, difficult and not always satisfying. There is no guarantee of a fulfilling and easy old-age. Some people avoid retiring and work themselves to the point of exhaustion, pushing the limits of their body, reaching the age of 70 yet still working like a 30 year old. There's a fear for what might happen once they retire, even if they spend plenty of time thinking about their twilight years. Do they fear a loss of purpose? Having little reason to have any get-up and go?
And yet some absolutely relish retirement, doing things they never dreamt about doing before.
My great aunt for example, she holidays abroad 2-3 times a year, but hadn't stepped on a plane until about 6 years ago. She is using her time and money to enjoy her life the way she wants to. I admire her bravery as a widow, her sense of hope for what enjoyment there is to be found in her life, even if it has not turned out as she imagined. I hope that if I reach her age, I look half as good and live half as well.
And yet, might she wish she did the things she's doing now before she got a knee replacement? Before she developed a chronic lung condition?
Do our older relatives envy our ability to explore our options thoroughly, far beyond the imagination of their own post-war world? Many were brought up with simpler aspirations, and have lead a good, if humble, life. But at the age of 25, whilst I feel good, and my noggin seems to be firing on all synapses, I want to make the most of it.
I want a good quality of life if I get to reach old age, but I also don't want to hold back in doing what I love, giving it all up for a 9-to-5 for 40 years. It might be the secure option, to buckle down, work, and save. But life is so utterly unpredictable no matter what measures you take to control and prepare for it.
My mind boggles at the concept of my present being entirely geared toward a distant future. There's so much more I want from my now, that has little if nothing to do with retirement. And then again, maybe I will be satisfied in my later years, pleased that I followed my heart whilst I had the freedom to?
I want to do stuff that terrifies and exhilarates me. I want to feel myself sick with nerves before I do something crazy and confront my fears. I want to become more tolerant of my own idiosyncrasies as well as other peoples. I want to fight the inner battles not deny them until they become bitterness. I hope I can see as much of the world as possible. I am not entirely sure I could do all that whilst pulling a 9-to-5.
I want to see the world though my clearest eyes, and I don't want to feel like I can't because I might be harming the comfort of an imagined distant future.
Whilst I'm backpacking Australia, a pay-check doesn't mean pension, it means more travelling, sky-diving, snorkelling the great barrier reef, camping on the Whitsunday islands, and maybe eating a lot of subways.
That simplistic, maybe reckless choice, is what's working for us right this minute. That's the shape of our life at current; maybe it will change one day.
But all that truly matters is what's happening now, and now is so full of possibilities beyond the life I had 3 years ago, or the life I might have in another 33 years.
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at Nomad'erHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!