As always, approaching a birthday tends to make one evaluate things. For quite some time I thought there were no benefits to aging. But recently I’ve developed a different point of view on a couple of topics.
First, driving. Yes, it seems an odd subject. But when I think back I am so pleased I got to enjoy driving as it was not as it is. Of all the cars I’ve ever owned this was my favorite. This is not mine but it is the same silver Alfa Romeo GTV6 that I once owned.
I was living in London at the time, working in Knightsbridge and living in Highgate. Google maps, today, says the trip from north London to my home town of Nottingham is 128 miles and takes two and half hours. I regularly used to do it in an hour and twenty minutes. Yes, that’s an average speed of 96. Given the city streets at either end, the middle bit was covered at over 100. No speed cameras, not much traffic (I often waited until the middle of the night to do the drive) and very, very few police cars. Those were the days. They are gone forever. But at least I knew them…and survived them! I realized today, looking at yet another prototype of a self-driving people carrier, that aerodynamics – once the guiding principal of all car design – no longer matters. Why? Because those damn things may be driverless but they will also be slow, with a capital S. We’ll be ferried from point A to point B in total safety, total comfort and it will be BORING.
I said two things. And the second has nothing to do with looking back but very much to do with the here and now. It’s something I never anticipated. Age brings freedom. Any work I do now, as a self-employed whatever-I-choose-to-call-myself, is work I want to do. Nobody is telling me I have to do it. Nobody tells me what hours to work (I have always preferred working late into the night, not conventional office hours). Nobody holds my “career” in their hands – I no longer have or need one. If I do freelance work for a company and they do not like what I create, I say, “Fine. I will keep these ideas for future use and you owe me nothing.” I can do what I want, when I want, how I want. And, not surprisingly, my ideas seem more in demand now than ever before. Because when I do something, it’s because I believe in it. And when you believe in an enterprise you give it your best. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time in advertising because, again, as with driving, I was lucky. I knew it when it was something exciting and creative. Much of what I do now is marketing, not advertising. I get involved at an earlier stage when creativity is still needed. Before the digital banality that is today’s ad world can kick in and make everything seem the same.
So my perfect world, it surprises me to realize, is not to go back in time. Its a weird blending of time periods. I’d like to be the age I am now, with the freedoms I enjoy, with the music in my head which I think is some of the best I’ve ever written, with the ideas in my head that I think are some of the best I’ve ever had…but to be sitting behind the wheel of that Alfa Romeo doing a 100mph down the M1 Motorway before it became an artery in a George Orwell novel, under constant surveillance. I’d have a smile on my face thinking about how much money has been wasted on those cameras that will be obsolete when the highway is full of perfectly behaved, self-driving boredom boxes.