Paul McCartney

Retro Tuesday: Looking Back To Look Forward

NEAR THE END of my busiest year in decades I find myself contemplating, again, the question I posed a year ago when I started this column: “Why begin a new blog?” After nine months of silence here (and sparse content appearing in my “legacy” column over the same period) I’m having another go at maintaining a forum looking at what makes our lives tick, and hitting “restart” today with the segment that was gaining traction before…well, before life intervened.

At first blush, the selections I’ve made for a “double shot” of video clips might seem unduly sombre, and we’ll get to those shortly; but rather than some introspective moment of insanity that’s seen me hit the keys for the first time in this column since March, let me assure readers that whilst Retro Tuesday is an ideal segment with which to launch back into this project, it is merely a moment to reflect that I am taking.

And then we will move on.

I sometimes think I must be a complete glutton for punishment, you know; my CV as it stands today boasts a full-time job, a part-time study load, a media production business I’ve occasionally picked at (despite having officially called a hiatus to), and two online opinion columns that have suffered great neglect. One, the political one we don’t talk about here, has had about a quarter of the attention it usually receives, whilst this one has had none at all in months.

But these early to middling years of my 40s are a time of change; like so many of my generation — sandwiched between our baby boomer parents to whom the world literally gave everything they ever wanted, and more, and the upstart Gen Y types some bitterly resent for their direction, drive and resolve — I turned 40 in 2012, not so much with an epiphany as with a wake-up call: if I didn’t fix things I might not just never achieve anything I wanted to achieve, but I might be dead before the penny dropped.

A stint in hospital with pancreatitis at 39, probably caused by a stone in my bile duct (visible on the first scan, but not the second) was nevertheless a clarion call to the fact I drank a bit more than I should, and that unless I reined that in, a second attack could be fatal: in the five and a half years since, I haven’t had enough “alcohol days” to even fill six months on a calendar. But even if you’re drinking below “problem” levels but still in excess of “safe” levels, and you stop, you suddenly find there’s an awful lot of things you can pack into the time you forgot existed every day — and that all of a sudden, your directions in life are that little bit divergent from the objectives you had thitherto been pursuing.

I was galvanised into action. Even if I have since packed a bit more into all that extra time than was ever realistically going to fit.

Either way, I have come a long way since the small child who, in 1980, listened to Paul McCartney’s childlike exhortations not to go jumping waterfalls: I have been doing a lot of looking backwards lately, just taking stock; that bonus track I’ve linked today is one that leapt out like a gleeful scrap of childhood when I went to find the McCartney track I actually wanted to feature, and it stopped me for a moment. It was a fleeting reminder of a time much simpler, less complicated, and more pure than the burdens we take on in adulthood will ever allow.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. I loved my childhood, but I love my adult life more. And as time-poor and compromised as we all get with the rigours of life, there’s only one thing more important than today — and that’s tomorrow.

Just in case anyone thinks I’m being too heavy on this subject, I should point out that I relish the workload I have taken on these past few years; they are my ticket to somewhere different — toward career paths that should have been pursued 20 years ago, but weren’t; toward the free indulgence of particular talents and passions that were stifled, when they shouldn’t have been. Despite being the most capable person I know (and I mean that objectively) I am also one of the least successful among that cohort, and the reason for the huge workload is to redirect myself along the paths I should always have walked, but until recently didn’t: for where ability and passion lie, so does success.

Even so, nobody tells a story in song like McCartney, and in turn, a flicker of childhood reminiscence over the Waterfalls song has elicited one from me.

But in looking back, it was the masterful work he released in 1987 that I really wanted to kick today’s retro set off with.

Why begin a new blog? The easiest answer — then as now — was the instinct to just write; it’s the one thing I have always been good at, and as 2017 largely replicates 2016 in terms of the volume and breadth of workload that has hobbled my online columns this year, it will surprise few to learn that by this time next year, I’ll be a qualified journalist and PR. I may not work as a journalist (although working as a public relations practitioner might be a different story), but the undergraduate degree I started in 1990 and stomped out of in 1992 with a little over half of it complete…to avoid being railroaded into a desperately unwanted career as a journalist or English teacher…will finally, belatedly, be mine.

And then we will see.

I’m only taking a week and a half off over Christmas; even to get that far, there’s some fun to navigate: tomorrow and Thursday in Canberra, two days in hospital on Friday and Saturday (nothing major — coughing too much from the bugs kids bring home from daycare causes hernias, you know), and then what might be an interesting week in my office recovering from it.

It’s embarrassing that readers won’t need to scroll too far back to hit the pieces I posted at and around Christmas last year: and any that choose to do so should go straight to the turkey recipe article and get ready for Boxing Day… 🙂

But what I am going to try to do — both over the festive season, and through the new year — is to not only maintain this column, but to set some balance between this and my political comment page, where I used to average six articles per week, week in, week out, attracting 100,000 visits per year in its peak years.

How long is a piece of string? If we can maintain Retro Tuesday, and perhaps an article or two per week beyond that, then hopefully this forum will grow into something that can really engage with and build audiences. Funnily enough, readership by the time I had to stop posting here had already built a head of steam, and took months to peter out even from the dozen or so articles I’d posted.

Let’s hope I can do a little better than that from here…and that brings up the second track in this week’s retro set.

If we’re having any kind of discussion involving looking back, reminiscing, or otherwise taking stock of years past, there’s a certain timeless track that simply must be included. Refreshingly, it hasn’t been as overplayed and/or abused as so many anthemic pieces of its kind. (It is also a sad reflection on the drug-fucked artist whose life and career spiralled out of control in later years beneath a chemically induced stupor, although that’s another story).

Anyhow, this is the first piece here in some time, and the flakes of rust are probably evident. I will be back, but if my little field trip to the Alfred Hospital knocks the wind out of my sails more than I expect (or am prepared to allow), it may be Retro Tuesday before I next have something to say.

In the meantime — enjoy. And remember…