Personal Best: It took me decades to learn that it’s never too late to reconnect
There’s nothing like a milestone birthday to give you the motivation to finally do something you’ve been putting off for years, as columnist Adam Hopkinson discovered.
I’m a 49-year-old man (this is pronounced ‘late forties’) and there’s a big birthday this year that I spent some time burying my head in the sand about. But seeing as its arrival is (hopefully) inevitable, I decided to embrace it and to use it as a catalyst to get some stuff done.
I’ve written a list: 50 things to do before 50. All things that I’ve expressed an interest in, accompanied by something along the lines of ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’. This felt like a good plan to lose the procrastination and, well, just fucking do it.
So, over the course of the year I’ll be heading to Nashville, Washington and Gothenburg, finishing The Walking Dead, listening to the top 100 albums of all time, and completing viewing of IMDb’s top 100 movies – along with tackling some of life’s more emotional challenges.
50 feels like a marker to me. It feels significant. It feels like something to celebrate and also something to mark and take time to think about how I got here. In doing this, I’ve done some (for me) deep thinking that has led me to a fulfilling new activity.
I’ve thought long and hard about who has had the most impact on my life. Who, at various points, has been really important to me and why. And who have I lost contact with along the way. I’m reaching out and getting together with people whom I really shouldn’t have let go. And it is doing me the world of good.
This includes having lunch in London with an old client. I haven’t spoken with her for more than 15 years but I have a message to deliver that I think will be appreciated. I’m not after her business but I do want to tell her a story about why she is important and why we’re meeting.
About 20 years ago, I got divorced. It was dark and nasty and messy and sad, and I struggled. During this time, I presented some industry news to this lady and her team. Doing a really good job of keeping tears at bay – I was pretty low – I delivered what I thought was a good meeting. In fact, it received an of out-of-nowhere round of applause and massive thanks. I bounced out of there.
A small gesture – one that was delivered without any knowledge of my situation but received with such gratitude and joy that it had an immediate and profound effect on me – halted a slide into misery and gave me the bump I needed to pull my socks up and get on with it. I’m looking forward to telling her that this was the biggest professional boost I’ve ever had.
I had a friend at university who became like my brother. We were inseparable. We were going to take over the world together and had plans of adventure and mischief. He was set to be part of everything in my life – at the wedding, godfather to the kids. Everything. But we had an argument about, of all things, money. And it wasn’t a lot. We effectively had our wires crossed but, being a pair of stubborn bastards, neither of us backed down. And we stopped talking. A week turned into a year, into a decade. A decade turned into – well, you can work it out.
So, last year, I was writing my list and was struck with the need to put it right.
It was definitely the best thing I’ve ever done to face the music, embracing a ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ attitude. We’ve since been to each other’s houses, met families, hung out, had fun and are rebuilding across the space that never should have appeared. I kept the T-shirt he gave me for my 20th birthday. He’s having it back, framed, for his big five-oh.
I drifted apart from another old pal from long ago and, more annoyingly than the one above, I actively let it happen. We would always have amazing evenings out, full of laughter and joy, but I felt that the drive was always in one direction, from me to him. So I stopped instigating and, being stubborn – well, here we are again.
My stake in the ground led me to have a word with myself and pick up the phone. It was his birthday recently and the celebration was epic – I was there and it was like no time had gone by at all. But it had, and we’ve missed out on the filling.
I think this list will be good for me. It is a form of box-ticking in part, but it’s a godsend to get me working harder at the things that are most important, but somehow easiest to screw up.
There are a few more people that will be hearing from me out of the blue because this feels like healing. And with each approach I’ve made, I think the other person feels the same way too.
Relationships are what hold everything together, and they should be cherished. When you find a good one – a friend, a wife, a partner, a colleague – don’t let anything get in the way of it. And for god’s sake, tell them what’s in your head. Your relationships are, after all, what makes you you. And I’ve been empty.
But the list goes on. And now I can tick off publishing my first column on dara & co.