I suspect I’m not alone, but as I get older I find myself increasingly worrying about the future while at the same time clinging ever more tightly to my past.
The first part of the equation is relatively easy to understand. My own declining health, expanding waistline and long-gone ability to party all night and then bounce into work on two hours’ sleep combined with a desire to secure my kids’ future mean that savings, investments, pensions, life assurance and wills are rarely far from my mind.
But the flip side of all that is a growing tendency to hang on to the relics of my past.
Take music for instance. I still listen to 80s music just as much as I do anything more recent. In our loft – which desperately needs clearing out so that I can refill it with different types of crap – I still have two large boxes of music cassettes dating between roughly 1982 and 1993. I haven’t listened to any of these in at least 15 years, have no burning desire to and, even if I did, I would probably find that most of them have long since deteriorated beyond repair.
The same applies to archived collections of books which I will never read again, which could easily be disposed of via charity shops, Amazon, eBay, Freecycle or any number of online sites dealing in buying second-hand books. Or to my old first and second-generation Playstation console and games – again, there is no shortage of websites who make it easy to find a new home for these and recoup some cash in the process.
There is no reason for me to hold on to any of these. Cassettes I will never listen to. Books I will never read. Games I will never play.
So why do I stubbornly hold on to all these things, resisting the obvious financial and space-saving benefits? It’s probably because they are in some way still a part of me. Giving away the physical objects will leave only unreliable and fading memories in their place. I may not ever want to use or even look at these items ever again, but it’s reassuring to know they are still there, just on the off-chance.
I guess that’s why so many of us have lofts and garages full of what our other halves and children call ‘clutter’. It’s probably also partly why we have seen such explosive growth in self-storage spaces such as Big Yellow in recent years.
Maybe I’m part of a dying breed, the last generation of analogue dinosaurs who grew up with physical possessions, who stubbornly refuse to let go of their past. Maybe my kids, who are growing up with YouTube and iTunes and Kindles and cloud storage rather than videotapes and CDs and books and filing cabinets, won’t ever have to deal with the trauma of sending an album they haven’t listened to for 30 years to a charity shop.
Are they the lucky ones, or are they missing out on something? Or is that like asking a Victorian adult whether they can imagine a future without gas-lights and horse-drawn carriages?
The world is moving on at an ever more rapid pace, and we are all moving with it in our own way. That’s progress. But at the same time I sometimes want to just sit down, maybe even take a step backwards, and just capture the view. Does that make me nostalgic? Sentimental? Out of touch? Or just human?