You can't go back...

Nick Jenkins - March 2000

Last weekend I spent a couple of hours in the company of a good friend at a museum I had last visited when I was twelve. At the age of twelve the dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and blue whales were mind blowing. I remember spending a full day in the museum with my father and ending up rounding off the experience with tea and scones on the fourth floor cafeteria. I couldn't have been more exhausted if I had gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson.

At the age of twenty-eight I spent a couple of fairly dull hours trudging around an endless series of unimaginative dioramas, looking at sadly forlorn stuffed animals and culminated the trip with a soggy tuna sandwich for lunch.

You can't go back.

At twelve everything was new and exciting and a trip to the dentist took on a level of excitement unimaginable to my twenty-eight year old brain. It's not that the world lacks things to stun me speechless with excitement, overwhelming beauty or soul tearing passion. It's just that I have to work harder to find them. Entropy increases. The ordinary things aren't exciting any more.

I've driven fast cars, ridden and fallen from a motorbike, climbed sheer rock faces and been skydiving. I've also seen some stunning sights around the world, both man made spectacles and natural wonders. But for each of these experiences, for each of these crystalline moments in my life I know there are a hundred I have yet to experience.

Each new year also opens up a new range of experiences and a whole new scope of exploration that I hadn't previously anticipated. As I grow older, the amazing variety and complexity of people becomes more intriguing and exciting. Every new relationship brings a new set of surprises and every new emotion that my friends bring to me enriches my life in ways I could never have expected.

My trip to the museum mirrored a larger trip I took home not so long ago. I winged my way across the world to spend a month catching up with friends and family shortly before the new millennium. I went back full of hope and with high expectations.

The city let me down. It had changed a little, a new round-a-bout there, a new set of traffic lights here, but essentially it was still my sleepy little home town.

My family and my old friends were different however.

Some of them had changed, some of them has stayed the same, but none of them had stood still. All of them had grown a little bit older and a little bit more interesting while I had been a way. They were still the same likeable, loveable people but now we had more to talk about. It was like coming home to Christmas.

I spent a lot of time with them. I kept catching glimpses of a reflection in their eyes. In it was a young man, twenty-eight years old who had travelled the world and done some pretty exciting things. He seemed to be interesting enough for these friends of mine to spend their time with. They seemed to like him and admire him, they seemed happy together. I'm still not sure who he was.

So while you can't go back, it's occasionally useful to look over you shoulder, to see where you've been.

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