If not now, when?

January, 1984. Calcot, Reading. 

I’m 8 years old walking home from school with my friend Jamie. 

We’re walking along a pathway that cuts through our housing estate. The sort of path that passes by everyone’s back fence. 

There is an open bit of scrubland along the path and I find a Tesco bag in the long grass.

I couldn’t tell you why I was looking, just the curious mind of a young boy idly walking home from school I guess – but inside the Tesco bag is something wrapped in a blood stained sheet.

Unravelling it I find what at first appears to be an uncooked roast chicken, pink flesh in a white sheet. Unwinding further I then see a head and umbilical cord and realise I’ve found a dead baby. 

I remember running home to tell my mum. She was busy doing something in the garden and didn’t believe me, blaming a vivid imagination or sick prank. So, my elder brother gets summoned to go and check out the Tesco bag. A few minutes later we are back on the scrubland, and the three of us look at each other like we’ve got ourselves into some serious deep water. 

I don’t recall much beyond that point except the Police coming around. The room was darkened by their large frames sitting on our sofa. 

Sadly the incident remains a mystery. I’m sorry for the poor soul who gave birth to the little girl and felt compelled to hide it for some reason. 

If not now, when?

If not now, when?
Reading Chronicle, February 1984

I’ve only lived one life so I can’t tell what impact this grim incident had on me. But I like to think it’s a positive one.

I like to think I have a good grip of my own mortality. Whatever we do with ourselves, if we’re lucky to have a family, whatever we acquire or build, it returns to dust. Nothing comes with you. We end up how we started, naked with nothing. 

Perhaps my outlook is a little morbid for some. I obviously don’t walk around in a hedonistic trance and as you can see from reading this blog I’ve clearly been preoccupied with work. But I think it’s healthy to remember that life is finite. It’s not that I worry about death, it’s just to know that life is short, and isn’t some dress rehearsal. Stop dawdling, get on with it. 

When thinking about pursuing what we’re passionate about,  I find it powerful to ask: 

What would happen if the finite nature of life was brought into sharp focus and you were told you only had six months to live? 

It then begs the question why aren’t you living that way now?

And if not now, when?

4 comments on “If not now, when?

That’s a sad story Martin but you are right; everything returns to dust.

If you haven’t read it already, I’d very much recommend Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey.

Thanks Dan, I’ll add your recommendation to my ever-growing to read list!

I think the reality is that whilst the ‘what if I have x left’ mentality is seriously the right one and most beneficial most people, aware that its not their reality, will ignore the potential benefits of the mindset change and stay in that rut.

The tragedy of this is that if it is suddenly forced upon them for real, the likelihood of being prepared enough to take full advantage of the remaining time is low. I have certainly experienced an eye opening variant of this marking the passing of my father two years ago on 17th November. I know that there were many unrealised dreams when he closed his eyes and that has brought my life into sharp focus across the board.

Sorry for your loss Chris and thanks for sharing your views. I hope the perspective gives you courage to go after what you want.

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