These last few years, I’ve come to a slightly unsettling realisation: there are changes happening in the world around me that I’m far from enthusiastic about. It’s not just “The Shattering” I wrote about recently. It’s also small things. A restaurant I liked that isn’t there anymore. Part of the ski resort I liked that has been closed. A holiday spot that is now damaged beyond repair. My GP retiring. There is a common thread: parts of my world that I appreciated, and relied on, often for years, and which are coming to an end before I am.
This has got me thinking about how we relate to the world, and how it has to do with the ages of life. Remember what Douglas Adams had to say about how we relate to technology, according to how old we were when the technology in question appeared? Something like that.
When we are children, and teenagers, and even young adults, we seem to be changing much more than the world around us. We’re growing up, one year after the other, learning things, earning freedoms and responsibilities, discovering how the wold is and works. We see ourselves as evolving, and the world as something rather stable, outside of us, which we are excitedly discovering and understanding better with each passing year.
At some point this shifts. We become adults, we’ve gained autonomy, we’ve pretty much figured things out. Of course, we never stop “growing up” and learning. But there comes a time when we start viewing ourselves as more stable and the world as more changing. As years turn into decades, we might even catch ourselves thinking “it didn’t change this much before, when I was a child/teenager!” But of course it did. We just didn’t see it, because what was moving in the world was drowned in our ever-moving perspective on the world, discovering and discovering and discovering.
It’s logical: there is less change in us between, say, ages 35 and 45, than between ages 15 and 25. At 35, we’re fully active participants in the world. As we are at 45. And that allows us to be hit head-on with “what has changed” in that decade.
So I think back to my childhood, teenage and young adult years. I remember everything I saw in the world that seemed normal, that was simply “the way the world was”. Sure, I was already seeing changes. The CD. The internet. TV remotes. Cars changed. Houses were built in the neighbourhood. A new ski run opened. The price of stamps went up. All those changes were astonishing and exciting: wow, things change in the world! There are new things, and I’m here to see them!
But my normal at the time was “oh gosh how the world has changed, how I regret xyz” for many people who had been around a few decades longer than I had. And now it’s catching up with me.
Also published on Medium.