Over the past few months, I’ve seen numerous comments on social media from people preparing for significant birthdays. I’ve also seen a few “30 / 40 / 50 things to do before you’re 30 / 40 / 50 (delete as applicable) type articles.
These articles follow a similar theme. They propose we should all be bungee jumping, visiting remote islands and skinny dipping in crazy locations before another decade passes.
Over time, fatherhood and age have made me more aware of my own mortality. I feel a sense of responsibility for my family and while bungee jumping and wing-walking may appeal to the wilder side of my personality, there is no way I will be undertaking such activities before my next significant birthday (which is almost 10 years away, so a long way off, but won’t begin with a three or a four).
I thought I’d have some fun with the “things to do before…..” concept. Instead of telling you what I’d like to achieve, here is a list of things I have failed at.
Essentially, there is a certain wisdom that comes with age. I want to celebrate that wisdom as there are certain aims and aspirations I had when younger that I am, with hindsight, very happy not to have fulfilled.
Don’t worry, I haven’t listed 40 things, it simply made for a good headline and in line with number three on this list, would have involved too many words. I hope you enjoy the list, all seven items that appear on it!
Completed a parachute jump
Since I was a teenager, it had been an ambition of mine to do a parachute jump. When in my thirties, I eventually got around to doing the training for a 3,000 foot static-line jump. Alas, before we could take off for the flight itself, the weather closed-in. I found the training so off-putting I’m not convinced I’d have gone through with it had the weather remained calm.
Now I’m a father I find the idea doubly unappealing. Adventurous activities appeal to me in a a big way, but I hadn’t appreciated that so much could go wrong with a parachute jump. I had to go through that training to realise what appealed to me as a 15-year-old did not appeal to me as a grown man.
Become a rock star
As a teenager, I was going to be the world’s greatest guitarist. Thankfully, I failed, largely down to my inability to practice my guitar playing often enough. While an unfulfilled dream, I am incredibly happy that I failed to become a rock star.
I’ve had many dealings with the music industry over the years, but never as a performer. Exploitation is rife, pay is poor and touring musicians live out of a suitcase. I’ll take the life of a dad blogger over that of a poorly paid, exploited, unsettled musician any time.
Read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, War and Peace or Crime and Punishment
I’m sorry, but if you can’t produce a work of fiction in 500 pages, you need to get better at honing your ideas and editing. I’ve never attempted to read theses books and never will.
Done crazy backpacking stuff
Okay, actually, I did some crazy backpacking stuff when younger. Top of the list would be almost getting myself arrested by a plain-clothed policeman in Egypt over a small misunderstanding regarding some vodka that was in my backpack (not in itself illegal, but this was Egypt, they arrest who they want).
I have, however, never partied in an illegally-operated Bolivian silver mine as the locals detonated high explosives. I’ve never been robbed by gun wielding narco-traffickers in Columbia or been stranded in Thailand with no travel insurance having had my arm bitten off in a random crocodile attack.
These are crazy backpacking exploits people I know have dealt with in one form or another. I live in fear of my kids wanting to go backpacking. It really does terrify me.
Saved sensible amounts of money
Before I became a dad, I put money in the bank almost every month. Fatherhood, more precisely stay at home fatherhood, has done nothing for my bank balance whatsoever.
Many “things you should do….” articles extol the virtues of saving cash. This a very laudable suggestion and one I wholeheartedly encourage, but these lists clearly don’t take account of the UK’s extortionate housing costs (be you renting or paying a mortgage), ridiculous higher education fees or how expensive family life is. I do my best, but I wish I could save more.
Got a tattoo
Oh I managed to get inked, but I failed at it spectacularly. I went under the needle during a boys’ trip to Blackpool at the age of 17 (classy).
The tattoo was badly done and while I thought I was incredibly cool and rebellious for getting a tattoo, I don’t think I’ve ever revealed it to anyone without being laughed at. It also went septic so for months after it was initially done, I had a huge septic spot over part of it.
As a young guy I was always keen to get more tattoos but with hindsight, I’ve very glad I didn’t. While I don’t wish to sound like some kind of disapproving aunt, they’ve become so commonplace and I remain to be convinced tattoos should be placed anywhere that can’t be hidden.
In 20 years’ time, I think our kids will look at the faded artwork on their heavily-inked parents and shun tattoos. That said, they’ll probably go even more extreme and take up branding and body modification or something!
What have you failed at?
I think the list above makes quite clear there are things I’m glad I failed at. I’m not sure I would be all that happy as a heavily tattooed rock star, doing parachute jumps for fun out of my own private jet and reading Tolkien while on tour with my band.
You’ve probably guessed, I’m a bit cynical about these “things to do….” lists. Rarely are they genuinely inspirational. They almost always seem to be written by people and for people who don’t have family responsibilities. It is, after all, a bit difficult to squeeze in a full moon party on the island of Ko Samui during half term.
I want to hear what you have failed at. Have you failed to become a film star? Have you failed to watch all the Star Wars films? Are you glad there are things you didn’t achieve? Do pop a comment below and the funnier the examples, the better.