Sunday, 21 November 2010

Life

I was a teenager in the 80's. Aside from producing REALLY cool music and REALLY naff hairstyles, the 80's also invented the Yuppie, and the world has never been the same since!

One phrase probably describes the 80's better than any other: Greed is good. And therein lies the problem - all of a sudden everybody wanted everything and they wanted it without delay.

The 80's painted a picture of a world that was full of opportunities to make money, regardless of the impact that may have on anybody else. A world where you simply had to have the latest gadget, car, fashion, etc. or else be branded a failure. Because that what the 80's gave us: everything was black or white. Either you're a success or you're a failure - no room for anything in between and no shades of grey.

It was a brand new world being invented right before our eyes. It was hip, it was now and it was bloody exciting.

The 90's simply extended the theme, resulting in two generations having grown up believing that you simply HAD to have a car, or if you were too young to have one, you had to dream of having one. To even contemplate any other form of transport was to admit that you were an abject failure!

As a teenager I cycled a lot and I loved cycling. However, I got my first motorcycle by swapping my Raleigh 10-speed racer for it, and that was the end of me cycling for a very long time. Looking back now I realise that the other guy had the far better deal!

I was a good product from the 80's, which is to say I bought all the bull, hook line and sinker. And do you know just how badly I want to be able to say I saw through the lies? But I can't, because I didn't.

I landed my first job and life mostly revolved around making money, and spending money. Live for the moment was my motto and I did a damn good job of demonstrating that it was! Saving was something done by "old" people, not young, up-and-coming shining lights like us, oh no.

We were laughing at "losers" who have been in the same job for decades, and called them dead-end-joe's. We were laughing at lots of "old" ideas at the time.

In time came my family, marriage and all the responsibilities that brings, but still making money was one of the most important things ever. I had a conversation at work with a colleague that said they never wanted to win millions on the lottery, and I was shocked. Why wouldn't anybody want tens of millions of Pounds?

I've always been a slow learner and eventually the penny dropped for me, too. See, the world isn't a pot of limitless wealth that anybody quick enough can help themselves from. Our actions have consequences and we are responsible for those (although not always in the eyes of the law).

My kids were old enough to learn to cycle, and I got myself a bike, so I could go cycling with them. I started out only cycling when it was dry and nice out, during the summer. The rest of the time my bike would sit and gather dust. Eventually I cycled more and further, until the day I started commuting by bike.

Later I sold my car, and pretty much cycled everywhere I needed to get.

And it's changed my entire outlook on life! I no longer chase dreams of fortunes gained regardless of cost to others. (To be fair, I've almost always thought about the cost to others). I changed where I shop based on the shop's philosophies to things like supporting Fairtrade. I changed how I live my life. Of course I'm far healthier and fitter, and I can feel  that.

My mental state is so much calmer and just the other day, while speaking to my father-in-law, I surprised myself by telling him I wouldn't want to win tens of millions on the lottery. Cycling must get the credit for (mostly) undoing the damage the mindset of the 80's has done to me.

I'm not out of the woods yet, but I'm getting there and I am no longer the prisoner of my possessions.

In monetary terms I'm not a rich man at all, but I am a very rich man in human terms - and that is far more important.